By DAVID MUIR (@DavidMuirABC) and MICHAEL MURRAY
May 17, 2011
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A year and a half later, Haiti is still reeling from the devastation caused by the earthquake that struck the country in the late afternoon on January 12, 2010. ABC News has followed up repeatedly with the still-ravaged country, this week traveling to Port au Prince, the capital of Haiti, with supermodel Petra Nemcova to find out how her charity, the Happy Hearts Fund, is helping to bring education to Haitian children.
Gone are the military planes, the crates of food and medicine flown to Haiti, but rubble can still be found on the streets. Tent cities house the homeless. Just as staggering is the fact that 50 percent of school-aged children in Haiti are not getting to school.
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Nemcova was in Thailand in December 2004 when the Tsunami hit. She and her fiancé were swept away by the powerful wall of water. Her pelvis was crushed to pieces, but she managed to clutch onto a tree and hold on for 8 hours until help came. Her fiancé was swept into the ocean and perished.
During those eight hours, she could only listen as children begged for help. She was powerless to come to their aid.
“I was not able to help those children,” Nemcova told ABC News. “You heard them screaming for help and after some time you couldn’t hear their voices anymore.”
Today, ABC News was there as Nemcova’s Happy Hearts Fund opened their first school in Haiti. It’s the 51st school the organization has built in disaster zones all over the world.
Immediately, a wave of local residents came to see the new school, eager for a moment of joy in a bleak landscape. The old school was a shabby tent that barely protected students from the elements.
Kindergarteners filled the classroom; most of them have tragic stories.
Five-year-old Stayshama told us her mother died in the earthquake. Another young boy told us he lost his father.
Nemcova knows that her school is just the beginning of the massive effort needed to rebuild schools in Haiti so that the country can have a future, but every story needs a beginning.