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Read the Forward by Edwidge Danticat:


By Edwidge Danticat:

I am a huge fan of Skyler Badenoch’s photographs. The picture-filled e-mails he sends to family and friends after each of his trips abroad often make my day. The care he shows in his choice of subjects and the grace, dignity, (and humor) he allows the people in his photographs often moves me to the point that I want to share these images with others. One never senses looking at Skyler’s photographs that one is looking at strangers. That is perhaps because they are not strangers to him, as his touching diary shows. These images, and words, from Haiti, especially move me.

After the January 12, 2010 earthquake that destroyed most of Haiti’s capital and the surrounding areas, the world’s eyes suddenly turned to Haiti. But Skyler’s had been focused on the country for years. He had traveled to towns and hamlets in nearly all ten of Haiti’s regional departments, working for an organization (buildOn) that builds schools in developing countries. He had seen both Haiti’s urban and rural landscape and had lived among some of the country’s poorest people. And he had been moved by Haiti’s children, who make up more than a third of the country’s ten million-plus population.

This staggering population toll is why you see children everywhere in Haiti: on rooftops flying kites, in small huddles playing marbles, on their parents’ backs crossing rivers while wearing striking uniforms which make it seem as though they are sporting their Sunday best in the middle of the week.

These days you might also see many of Haiti’s children living in temporary shelters, a large number of them in tents made of sticks and bed sheets -- and if they’re lucky, a tarp or plastic sheet. The January 12, 2010, earthquake drastically changed the lives of Haiti’s children. Many watched loved ones die, lost family members and other caretakers, one or both of their parents, and siblings. Many were stuck in the rubble of their homes only to be rescued several days later. Skyler Badenoch was there before, during, and after the earthquake. And at a time when Haiti’s people—and most poignantly, Haiti’s children—had lost so much, he gives them (and us) a great gift in taking us back to what life was like before and reminding us not to forget what life is like after. The contrast is heart rendering, especially given how difficult life was like before. Still then and now, in spite of everything, Haiti’s children still dream. They laugh. They live. They love.

Ti moun se riches, says the Haitian proverb. Our children are our treasures. Some of them are diamonds in the rough. Some of them are brilliant, nearly illuminated beings. Haiti’s children have suffered more than any child or adult, should have to, yet they still represent the best that Haiti has to offer. The potential for a better country rests on their shoulders. The survival of Haiti’s children means the survival of Haiti. Their success guarantees the country’s future. Like children all over the world, Haiti’s children are resilient and brave, but they are also children. Worn out perhaps, but not totally defeated, dreaming, laughing, playing, living with a glint of hope and promise in their eyes.

This allows us to also dream of a better future for the children and their families and for Haiti itself. Emblematic of this is the cover image of this book, in which a child living in a tent made of a flowered bed sheet is seen in silhouette. Her little face shows a deep tenderness and vulnerability. Her inquisitive eyes somehow manage to spark even in the dark and her small index finger point towards something that could either be close or far away. I love this image and the others in this book, because they manage to find beauty and hope in what are sometimes both literally and figuratively, the darkest places.

A few days after the January 12, 2010 earthquake, I heard through Skyler’s aunt, my dear friend Suzanne, that Skyler was volunteering in a hospital clinic in Carrefour, the neighborhood where my husband grew up and where my husband’s two uncles still live. My husband had not heard from his uncles for days and feared that they had not made it. I was miraculously able to get an e-mail to Skyler and asked if he could check on them. He replied with a photograph of my husband’s uncle Joseph, smiling peacefully back at us. That picture was, I think, one of the pictures I was most happy to see in my life. It made the rounds of family and friends across the globe, the way Skyler’s other photographs often do. For similar reasons, these too are among the most moving images I have seen both before and after the earthquake. I hope they move you too.

Edwidge Danticat
Miami, Florida