Christian World Service remembers the people of Haiti on the anniversary of one of the world’s deadliest earthquakes.
Four years ago New Zealanders responded with generosity to the plight of Haitians devastated by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake on January 12, 2010. It left 1.5 million people homeless, many of them already bitterly poor, and more than 200,000 dead. Donations helped tens of thousands of Haitians with food, water, shelter and other relief assistance. Overall the record is not so good. Hopes that Haiti would be rebuilt better have been dashed.
Christian World Service partner Karl Lévêque Cultural Institute (ICKL) part of a network of local nongovernmental organisations continues to be critical of much of the aid response. On the anniversary NGOs remember the peasant groups who immediately sent help to those in the city, giving up food they desperately needed for their own families.
The promises of international assistance raised hopes but while much of the rubble has gone and many (but not all) of those in tents moved on, Haitians have created new slums. ICKL is also critical of international NGOs that have built new homes but without drinking water and services or respect for the dignity of beneficiaries. “Haiti is not getting better,” says ICKL’s Muller Pierre-Louis.
However there are pockets of hope where people are proud of what they have achieved with outside assistance. For badly hit Petit Goâve, 68 kilometres southwest of Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince, this means locals can walk down the street to buy bread instead of facing an hour’s trip into the city. The new bakery employs five women and more importantly for the local community, funds the running of the local school including teacher salaries. With little support from government, this funding means their children completed the school year.
ICKL’s model is different from most. Once they agree to help a community they immerse themselves in its life. Together they work out what the community wants given the situation, and then how to make it happen. To their surprise, ICKL has found the highest priority in rural communities is the local school – parents want education for their children.
In Petit Goâve, they have also rebuilt or repaired 42 homes, providing 35 short term jobs, and made small grants of around US$200 to 98 people for economic activity. The extra income meant that the families had more food through the drought struck. Best of all the community has been strengthened and is prepared for the next disaster. In a country sitting on horizontal and vertical faults, this is reality.
ICKL is very much aware of the Christchurch earthquakes. “We have heard what is going on in New Zealand and our heart goes to the people,” Muller Pierre-Louis.
CWS wants to help rebuild another school in Dauphine and establish a grain mill to fund operations. Donations can be sent to CWS, PO Box 22652, Christchurch 8140.
12 January 2014