Marin woman recalls unrest in Haiti

November 27, 2010 12:17:09 AM PST
A Marin County woman is relieved to be home after being trapped in Haiti. A cholera outbreak there led to rioting earlier this month which in turn caused the shutdown of roads and airports for days.

Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak of Nicasio happens to be in Haiti at the wrong times. She was there during the earthquake and this time she witnessed rioting. She is home now but her commitment to Haiti is as strong as ever.

Kaplan-Pasternak was in Haiti for three weeks during the country's cholera outbreak and the riots that followed. Video she shot from inside her hotel sows the anger and frustration over the outbreak of cholera led to several days of unrest all throughout Haiti.

"It was definitely uncomfortable at times, it was stressful, but I never felt like I had to worry where I was that I would get caught by a stray bullet or get hit by rocks or anything like that," she said. "If I had left the hotel, then yes."

This was Kaplan-Pasternak's eleventh trip to Haiti in the past four years. She teaches Haitians how to become self-sustainable by growing livestock. Her first trip of the year coincided with the earthquake in January.

Kaplan-Pasternak says the fact that the country was forced to deal with cholera in the same year was heartbreaking.

Her still photos show the aftermath of the hurricane that caused the cholera to spread. The mucky roads became major contamination points.

"They were comparing it to January where we saw 230,000 people die in 35 seconds," she said. "I mean I was there for that so that really impacted, I felt that impact. I felt that was where they were really coming from."

Kaplan-Pasternak is thankful she is now home, but she certainly plans to return to Haiti. She says her volunteer work has led to much progress.

"I'm not really sure why have this knack for being right smack in the middle of the worst of it; I'd like to find a way to avoid that," she said. "But other than that I never felt my life was really in jeopardy and I should just not go."

Kaplan-Pasternak has not booked her next trip to Haiti, but next month she heads to Washington where she will receive a presidential service award for her volunteer work.


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