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Richmonders reflect on progress, need for help on Haiti quake anniversary

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RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - Haiti is still limping along, trying to recover two years after an earthquake slammed the country, killing hundreds of thousands.

However, with the help of a small group Richmonders -- and others -- the Haitians are slowly putting their country back together.

On most days, you’ll find bartender James Talley tending bar at the Commercial Taphouse in the Fan, but his heart and mind lie 1300 miles away.

“It’s tough. It’s very tough. We just can’t comprehend the suffering that they go through,” said Talley.

Talley was volunteering at an elementary school just outside the nation’s capital, Port Au Prince, when the quake struck.

The devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake killed 316,000 people, left millions homeless and shattered the country's infrastructure.

Talley said there are many obstacles that lie ahead.

"One of the problems with looking at tomorrow in Haiti is that they only see today. They have a hard time looking ahead," said Talley.

Mike DeRiso was working alongside Talley the day when he felt the earth move.

“The city was flat. It was total chaos. It’s amazing how resilient they are. They have very little but they persevere,” said DeRiso.

Two years later, both men fear the plight of the Haitian people has become a distant memory.

"The world has forgotten about Haiti," said DeRiso. "They’ve moved on to the next calamity in the world, but people are still suffering down there."

As members of Richmond’s Vineyard Church, Talley and DeRiso return to Haiti as often as possible.

"Hopefully through education the next generation will have a better life,” said Talley.

A long road lies ahead for the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Mike and James will do whatever they can to help.

"There was a lot of money allocated to help, but there is so much corruption, it’s not getting through,” said DeRiso.

Both Talley and DeRiso hope to return to Haiti this year to lend a helping hand.

The K-6 school they've worked on has grown from 600 to more than 800 students since the earthquake. And DeRiso said one of their next goals is to build a clinic at the school.

Click here to help the Richmond Vineyard Church in their efforts.