By Jill C. Lafferty
The earthquake in Haiti mobilized relief efforts from around the world to respond to a disaster measured in many thousands of lives. In the end, however, it is a continuing story about the plight of individuals and the companies that are making a difference in their lives.
Although born into poverty and blind since infancy, violinist Romel Joseph is one of Haiti’s pre-eminent musicians. Having trained at the Juilliard School in New York City and become a U.S. citizen, Joseph returned to Haiti and founded a children’s music school in 1991, already rebuilt once due to fire.
Joseph was on the school’s third floor when the Jan. 12 earthquake hit and was trapped in the rubble for 18 hours. With crushed legs and a broken left hand, he says that he rehearsed concertos in his mind to withstand the pain. His wife and unborn child were killed, and his school lay in ruins.
When he was rescued, he was taken to the U.S. embassy and flown to Miami for surgery. The BBC began documenting his story and connected the musician with Economy Tent International. Joseph returned to Haiti in April, where a shelter from Economy Tent was provided for him to use in his personal recovery and as he rebuilds his school.
Many units of the disaster relief shelter manufactured by Economy Tent International, Miami, Fla., have made their way to Haiti through individuals and organizations involved in humanitarian aid. The shelter’s design includes wheelchair accessibility, which has proven especially important for Joseph.