May 20, 2010 | Borough of Manhattan Community College
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxqxRglgZW0[/youtube]Somehow, it’s not a surprise that Isaac Logan spent his spring break as an earthquake relief volunteer in Haiti.
Born in Russia, the BMCC Liberal Arts major spent his first 10 years in an orphanage before being adopted by an American aid volunteer and brought to live with her in Texas. Clashing repeatedly with his adoptive mother—“she was very religious and we had disagreements over how I should live my life,” he says—he left home at 17 and made his way to New York, where he supported himself as a restaurant server and earned a GED. “Then I found out about BMCC and immediately applied,” he says. “I was attracted by the location and low cost—and the opportunity to start somewhere.”
This year, as spring break approached, Logan decided the only place he wanted to be was Haiti. “I grew up in poverty and understand some of the struggles poor people deal with,” he says. “But I also had supports and never went through anything on the magnitude of what the Haitians have faced over the past three months. I just wanted to go there to help—to reach out and let them know there are people who care.”
First impressions of a ravaged city
Through a friend, Logan connected with Hands-On, a disaster relief organization and flew to Port au Prince under its auspices, paying his own airfare. “As we landed, I couldn’t help noticing all the resources just sitting in the airport—mostly food and heavy equipment—and wondering if it was actually going to be distributed,” he recalls. Logan and his fellow volunteers were driven by truck to Léogâne, about 90 minutes west of the Haitian capital, past collapsed buildings, children and animals digging for food from the same trash piles, and mountains of sewage. “It looked as if the earthquake had happened the day before,” he says.
That night, Logan was asleep in a bunk bed at the Hands-On campsite when a 6.0 aftershock rattled the building and threw him to the floor. His injuries were limited to bad scrapes on his knee. “But it was hard to get back to sleep knowing there were huge concrete slabs just above my head,” he says.
Working alongside Haitians and foreign volunteers, Logan spent the next few days dismantling the walls of a collapsed building with sledgehammers and clearing the debris with shovels and wheelbarrows. “We went at it from morning till night in 95 degree heat,” he recalls. Later, he was assigned to assemble tents, “more satisfying work because it involved creating something of value rather than taking down what was left of a destroyed house and winding up with an empty field.”
At the end of the week, Logan departed Port au Prince, landing in Miami two hours later. “It was overwhelming to think that this tragedy had taken place so close to the U.S.,” he says. “I left wishing I could have done more.”
Logan describes his week in Haiti, as “a step out of my own reality and my own world.” It gave him his first real exposure to life in a Third-World country, he says, and to the reality that there are simply some things beyond human control.
“I know that I tend to get stressed over things in my life that I can’t control,” he says. “Spending a week with people who have no control whatsoever over the destructive power of nature made me realize that I need to take life a bit easier.”
No one would accuse Logan of having had an easy ride in life, but his Haitian sojourn “has made me grateful for the opportunities that have been given to me—to go to school, further myself, and be in the right place at the right time.” He is set to graduate this May, Logan hopes to continue his education at a senior college, majoring in international affairs—ideally at Columbia or the University of Pennsylvania. Whatever struggles he has faced, he says, “they’re nothing compared to what some people deal with day in and day out.”