A sister’s struggle

Haitian native Eden Jean Jacques traveled earlier this month from San Luis Obispo to her homeland and found it still in tatters — and she worries for her family.

Not much seems to have improved since the magnitude-7.0 earthquake devastated her country six months ago, Jacques said.

She traveled to Haiti on July 2 and found her homeland significantly worse off than it was when she came to the United States four years ago.

“The people in Haiti are very discouraged,” Jacques said. “Things aren’t improving. I think it may take five to seven years for things to get better.”

Jacques, 24, works at the Mission View nursing center in San Luis Obispo and will take classes at Cuesta College in the fall.

The quake that struck Haiti in January caused widespread destruction of buildings and homes, reducing some to rubble.

Jacques’ three sisters — two 19-year-old twins and a 17-year-old — had been living with their uncle in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, before the temblor. Now the home is a pile of broken concrete.

Jacques’ sisters now share one room with six others in that city.

“I worry about my sisters,” Jacques said. “I hope they don’t get sick living with all those people in one place. It’s something that weighs on me.”

She has 12 cousins, three sisters and seven uncles and aunts in Haiti. People’s personal items are stacked against the wall inside or stored outside the home.

Thousands sleep in tents or wander the streets of Port-au-Prince homeless, making for a dismal way of life.

Missionaries and non-governmental organizations are trying to help in Haiti. But Jacques believes a combination of corruption in the Haitian government and well-intentioned but sometimes misdirected efforts of charities get in the way of improvement.

In some towns, for example, residents have been fed by charities for years but not taught skills that will help them to become self-sustaining.

Jacques said she feels fortunate to have legal residency in the United States, and like many here from Haiti, she sends money home to support her family.

Jacques’ fiance, Haitian Alcenat Honorat, 26, is a Cal Poly civil engineering student. He sends money to family in Haiti as well.

Jacques’ mother died in 2004 of unknown health complications, and her father died from Parkinson’s disease in 2000.

Her sisters take English and computer classes at a school near where they live.

She has a brother who lives in Florida and works to help support the family.

“It’s just so, so hard to see them in the situation they’re in,” Jacques said. “I just wanted to take them with me.”