Frantzy avek ti Z'ange Jennifer anba bwa'lFirst Christmas in Canada is bittersweet for Haiti immigrant
Earthquake crushed man's apartment while he was out running an errand
BY CINDY E. HARNETT, POSTMEDIA NEWSDECEMBER 26, 2010
Postmedia News / Frantzy Badio survived the devastating Haiti earthquake. He'd married Jennifer Rekis of Victoria three months prior but was awaiting immigration papers. Photograph by: Adrian Lam, Postmedia News
A survivor of the Haiti earthquake who married a Victoria woman a year ago is experiencing a bittersweet joy during his first Canadian Christmas. For while Frantzy Badio is starting a new life, his birthplace remains in ruins. Badio, 29, came to Canada from Haiti in February. Last month, he experienced his first snowfall.
I was jumping in the snow like a kid," Badio said. "Everyone was laughing at me. I was running in the street and screaming. It was fun."
But all the excitement of his first year in Canada is tinged with a profound sadness over the state of his home country.
"I love Haiti so much, it's my country," Badio said. "When you see so many things happen there -- cholera and the election problems -- it just breaks your heart. It makes you crazy. It's like watching Haiti crumble and this is my home." Badio married Jennifer Rekis in November 2009 in Haiti. The couple met at the Christian-based Youth with a Mission camp in Panama about two years earlier.
After the wedding, Rekis, 22, returned to Canada. Badio stayed in Haiti until his immigration paperwork was finalized. Three months later, on Jan. 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated poverty-plagued Haiti killing as many as 300,000 people and leaving more than one million homeless. Badio was running an errand when the earthquake struck. His apartment was crushed.
Badio was left with nothing except his immigration papers and marriage licence. It was all he needed to get to Canada. He arrived here on Feb. 7 this year. Badio hoped that the millions of dollars in financial aid pouring into the country would help rebuild Haiti.
Instead, more than 100,000 Haitians have become ill and more than 2,500 have died in a subsequent cholera epidemic. In addition, a rigged election has caused more political instability.
Someone needs to grab hold of the country, Badio said, in a phone interview.
"It's clear the (aid) money is not getting to the people and, I don't know, I think the international community needs to put pressure on the Haitian government."
Rather than complain about the state of affairs, the couple has decided to act.
"We don't want to be helpless anymore," Rekis said. "We know we need the educational background to support us ... in being able to make a difference." This month, with just four suitcases, the couple relocated to a tiny apartment in Montreal where they will attend university in January to study international development, with a goal of helping people in Haiti help themselves.
Before the couple left Victoria, they celebrated Christmas with Rekis's three younger sisters and her parents, Jack and Sandi. "When the earthquake hit I had to face that I had lost him," Rekis said.
"That memory will stay with me the rest of my life -- of what my life could be like without him and how devastating that would be."
Rekis said meeting Badio and falling in love with him challenged her values and focused her on the person she wants to become.
"He grew up in Cite Soleil so he's seen a lot," Rekis said. "You think that would be so jading to a person but he just carries such a light, maybe because he's seen so many things he carries a very bright perspective."
Cite Soleil, in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, is one of the most crime-ridden, densely populated and impoverished slums in the Northern Hemisphere. To escape that life, Badio's mother dropped him off at an all-boys orphanage when he was 14 so he was guaranteed to have shelter, food, education -- the things she could not give her eldest child and only son.
"The first year was very hard because I was attached to my mom," Badio said. "When she left me I felt so sad, and I was crying. I could not eat, and I felt very lost. It was a very hard time for me."
Once he adjusted to life at the orphanage, his mother visited him every couple of months. Now in Canada, Badio has frequent contact with his mother, who is living in a UNICEF camp while houses are being built.
Looking back, Badio realizes "it was the best decision she made for me." He went to school and church, and had food and shelter -- even shoes,
He now speaks Haitian Creole, French, Spanish and English and was attending law school before he left Haiti.
Badio said his mom is "so proud of me."
"She always tells me she prays for me and always keeps me in her heart," Badio said.
Sandi Rekis is equally proud of her daughter.
"I am excited to see where it will all go. She's done so much in her 22 years," she said. "I'm not worried about them. She has that tenacity that will drive her to become a CEO one day ... leading a group down to Haiti."
The couple said their home will always be split between Victoria and Haiti.
Asked what people can do for people there this Christmas, Badio said: "Pray for Haiti. We don't want Haiti to be forgotten.
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