Four years ago this month, a powerful earthquake ripped through the tiny island nation of Haiti, killing approximately 300,000 people and leaving millions injured and homeless.
The crisis sparked a large outpouring of support from activists on the First Coast, including Loubens Jean Louis, a physician assistant who rushed to his native homeland days after the earthquake.
Louis brought along medical supplies, medication, knowledge and hope.
“I just wanted to be there as quickly as I could to be able to provide whatever hope and resources that I could,” he said.
Once he arrived in Haiti, he quickly realized how devastating the situation was.
“Being there, it was just surreal,” he said. “Nothing is worse than a war zone. We see a war zone on TV, but being there in real time really brought it back to perspective.”
Dorothy Pearce, missionary and founder of Faith Hope Love Infant Rescue, was on her way to a local hospital in Haiti to visit one of the small infants from her rescue home on the day of the earthquake.
“As I was going down the street, almost to the hospital, all of a sudden the car almost toppled over on the right side, and before I figured that out, it was going over to the left side,” she said. “That must have been the earthquake wave.”
Confused, Pearce pulled to a stop in the hospital parking lot.
“As I rolled to a stop, watched walls fall down and heard the explosion of buildings crashing, I figured it was an earthquake,” she said.
Prior to the earthquake, Pearce had 20 children in her rescue home. Shortly following the earthquake, Pearce gained 22 more children.
Four years later, the recovery is still underway.
“The problems in Haiti are so deep that it’s going to take so many layers to help,” Louis said.
“From the socioeconomic structure and everything else, they are starting to uncover bits and pieces of resources to get people to come in and invest in the small island.”
Pearce has some ideas as to what the country still needs to improve in order for it to be rebuilt.
“In order for Haiti to grow in infrastructure, they need electricity,” she said. “People can’t keep jobs and they can’t run a business without electricity. They also need education. Half of my staff can barely write their own name.”
However, Louis believes that with the help of others, Haiti can turn around for the better.
“Being in Jacksonville for 11 years, I have met some beautiful souls,” he said. “These people have given so much in order to help my homeland.”
“I’m humbled to say that not only in the medical field, but also from churches, community organizations and so many others, people are willing to help and pray for Haiti.”
You can follow Melissa Ross on Twitter @MelissainJax.
WJCT News intern Emily Long (@EMchanted_) contributed to this report.