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True hope will never be found in stable and financially secure governments, sophisticated technology, academic achievements, good jobs or happy families. While these are blessings from God and are noble ambitions to work toward, they will take you only so far.
No one in their right mind would call the earthquake that hit Haiti a good thing. It was utterly devastating. And yet still there is good.
Because of the earthquake’s destruction, Haiti is now having to start with what feels like a nearly clean slate. The [corrupt and inefficient] government was toppled. The [inadequate] school system was destroyed. Proof of [unjust] land ownership is now virtually impossible. The [enormous and unbridgeable] gap in economic status was decimated, putting government officials in tents next to poor slum-dwellers.
This was written earlier in the week by Ken Laura, a member of our Haiti Relief Team. He has been in Port-au-Prince working with our Haitian staff since shortly after the earthquake.
Five-thirty comes early most days, but especially on a Sunday morning when you hope to get some extra sleep before church. Not this week, however. I was wide awake at 5. I forced myself to stay in the sack for another 30 minutes despite the rooster’s consistent crowing.
The high-pitched chirp of some baby doves asking for food and the soft cooing of their parents as they brought another tasty morsel to them brought back memories of 30 years ago when I was living in Limbe’ at the hospital where I worked. One of the other missionaries at that time was raising a pair of turtle doves for the eggs.
Calling my tent a sack is an exaggeration of for what I’ve been sleeping in the last three months. My tent living is nothing like what the vast majority of Port-au-Prince residents are living in at the moment.
As you’ve no doubt seen on the news, tent cities are all over town. More than 300 camps are registered in the city and more than 19 of them have 5,000-plus people living in them. The families are crammed together in muddy lots with only a sheet between them and the next family. Privacy is not a word in their vocabulary right now.
The rainy season is starting soon in Haiti. This period generally lasts from March to May, and then hurricane season runs from June to November. Most of the people who live in the streets and in tent cities as a result of the earthquake will be exposed to the heavy rains.
We don’t have accurate information on how many of those living outside are in shelters that can withstand the rainy season, but it’s clear that a large number of them don’t have rainproof materials. The materials most commonly used now for shelter are bedsheets. These provide a bit of privacy as well as protection from the sun, cold and dust, but not from rain and wind.
We are focusing our efforts on addressing temporary and transitional shelter needs by providing tarps as well as materials for transitional shelters. We will not be able to assist everyone in need. We will focus on those who are most in need and who have not received shelter assistance from other organizations.
How do you say goodbye to a sponsored child who has died? Have you ever had to do that, or to say goodbye to another child in your life?
While we continue delivering food and supply kits to our church partners for the immediate relief of the families they serve, we are beginning to shift our focus from short-term relief to longer-term solutions.
One possible component of a larger strategic approach includes working with other organizations in Haiti to implement income-generating activities for those who have lost homes, property and the means to provide for themselves.
Beginning in March and continuing every three months, we will begin hosting conferences and workshops for key church leaders in Haiti. We not only want to encourage them, but we also want to challenge them to be a prophetic voice during this time.
Edouard Lassegue, Vice President of the Central America and Caribbean Region says,
“Compassion has earned respect in Haiti and we are uniquely positioned to leverage that respect and the strong relationships we have developed with church leaders. We want to use our credibility to encourage them to be a voice for what is right, for service, for responsibility — that is what is required in a time like this.”
As far as the children themselves, safety is our top priority. Until children and their families can move back into permanent dwellings, protecting them in the tent cities is essential.
Compassion Canada CEO Barry Slauenwhite and a group of fellow Canadians were met at the Port-au-Prince airport on Jan. 12 with an unexpected diplomatic reception. It lasted only 15 or 20 minutes, but it was long enough to possibly save their lives.
Barry was leading a weeklong vision trip for six Canadian pastors and their wives. Their home for the week was to be the Hotel Montana. But less than an hour after landing in Haiti, it became clear that this trip would take a very different turn.
The critical need the poor always have for water has been heightened in Haiti after the earthquake. We’ve used various ways to distribute water to our church partners, and we’re looking to our strategic partnerships to continue to meet the short- and long-term needs.
We have a long-standing relationship with Healing Waters International, providing water systems to church partners in Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.
In response to the immense need in Haiti, Healing Waters International has provided 2,500 one-gallon jugs of water at no cost to Compassion Haiti. The water was bottled at the Healing Waters projects at our Dominican Republic church partner sites. If there is continued need, they are equipped to begin bottling on a daily basis.
The water will be trucked to Haiti along with the family food kits being assembled at our warehouse on the Dominican Republic/Haiti border.
We will also investigate several long-term solutions, such as building water systems at church partner sites in Haiti.
According to Gregg Keen, our Complementary Interventions Director,
“Healing Waters International and Compassion have been good partners for several years. When the disaster hit Haiti, Healing Waters was among the first organizations we called to ask what their response would be. They went to heroic efforts to find available water bottles in the DR when none could be found there. Bottled water will help people to avoid drinking and using contaminated water and the related diseases they can cause, especially in a disaster situation like this one. The impact of this can’t even be measured.”
Healing Waters’ mission is to empower local ministry partners to bring physical, social and spiritual transformation to poor communities, a mission that makes them an excellent partner for us.
Read more about our partnership with Healing Waters International.
We’ve been helping Haiti for more than 40 years — teaching, feeding, educating, loving, mentoring, caring and most importantly, sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Will you join us in helping Haiti rebuild?
Received from Scott Todd, our Senior Ministry Advisor, who is leading our medical team in Port-au-Prince.
Saturday, Jan. 30 – We had the chance to meet eight leadership students today. We sat in a circle in the parking lot listening to their stories as ashes drifted like snow upon us and the smell of burning plastics scorched the air.
They spoke of how important Compassion’s work has been in their lives. Some shared with tears about being selected for the Leadership Development Program. I don’t know whether the tears flowed from joy, gratitude or something sad.
Like the dream that almost came true. They had climbed so high. From the slums to the universities. But when we asked how many went to schools which had been damaged in the earthquake all of them raised their hands.
We asked how many had lost friends or loved ones and all raised their hands again.
At one school 90 percent (180 out of 200) of the students were killed. With buildings collapsed, professors and administrators dead, its hard to imagine how those dreams can come true now.
May God have mercy on us if we fail to find a way forward for them. They are Haiti’s future.