Haiti response update from Alex Morse in the Dominican Republic

"It has been almost two months now since the 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, and since I arrived here to work with Social Services of the Dominican Churches," begins Alex Morse in his recent update.

Alex Morse

It has been almost two months now since the 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, and since I arrived here to work with Social Services of the Dominican Churches.

The last month has been interesting getting to see how different non-governmental organizations are responding to the needs, and learning about all the different parts that go into responding to a massive disaster. I have also been involved in working with SSID's new project that they have with Church World Service and Christian Aid, where we are providing food, water, and shelter to 2,000 people. That is in addition to the other 23,000 people that we are supporting in five other camps.

On top of all the demands of feeding and helping shelter 2,000 people we are also trying to meet SPHERE standards in the process. SPHERE is a set of minimum standards that humanitarian groups try to meet in response to disasters or refugee situations, so for example with food we are trying to have 2,100 calories of food per person per day, three liters of drinking water per day, adequate shelter from the rain, and mattresses for sleeping. The idea is that by following these standards risk of disease and malnutrition is reduced, and it also helps to protect the people living in the emergency camps dignity. When there is not adequate food or water people can be forced into desperate situations, and are prone to abuse from those with resources.

More about SPHERE and our project can be found here and pictures from the camps can be found here.

The last time I was in Jimani working on our project I was surprised to run into two Disciples pastors who were working on organizing a mission trip, and was grateful to hear that they had been advised not to come by Disciples’ Global Ministries. First, the situation in Haiti for now has been incredibly peaceful, but it is not stable and could quickly change. Second, much of the work that needs to be done in the rebuilding of Haiti at this point requires either very experienced specialists working on infrastructure projects, or physical labor, which can and should be done by the Haitians as they should be as involved as possible in the rebuilding of their country. Mission groups responding to emergencies, often do not have unique skills (unless it is a team of doctors or civil engineers), and are often less able to do construction or clean up projects as they aren't used to building with local materials or speak the language, and so they only distract organizations from the work that they have at hand.

After meeting with the pastors I began to wonder what it would cost to send down a mission group, and what those resources would be able to buy if put into the hands of a responsible organization like SSID. Having worked on the budget for our camps that feed 2,000 people every day, I have a good estimate of the costs of supplying an emergency camp, and after a little research I was able to put together an estimate of the costs for a a group of 12 people to come from Chicago and work for one week in Haiti. Assuming that they stay in the cheapest hotels a no frills mission trip to Haiti would cost around $10,986.60 without covering any budget for projects. that means that for the cost of a group of 12 to visit we could:

  • Feed 2,000 people for 6 days.
  • Feed 13,200 people for 1 day.
  • Provide shelter for 1,569 families (about 5,000 people).
  • Provide clean drinking water for one month to 4,171 people. OR
  • Provide sheets and mattresses for 304 people.

As satisfying as it is to work alongside our Haitian brothers and sisters, at this point the money is more urgently needed, as supplies can be purchased easily here in the Dominican Republic. I hope those considering mission trips right now to Haiti or Chile will take these numbers into consideration, and decide whether their projects that they have planned are more valuable than the resources that they would spend on their trip. I think my opinion which is more important is fairly clear.

Please continue to lift up Haiti in prayer as the rainy season begins, and for those suffering right now in Chile.

Alex Morse
Church World Service Volunteer in the Dominican Republic

How to help

Contributions may be made at www.churchworldservice.org/haiti or by phoning 800-297-1516 or by mailing to Church World Service, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515 (please indicate Haiti Earthquake).

ACT Alliance Church World Service is member of the ACT Alliance, an international coalition of churches and related organizations, responding to emergencies and collaborating in development work.

Media Contact:
Lesley Crosson, 212-870-2676, lcrosson@churchworldservice.org
Jan Dragin, 781-925-1526, jdragin@gis.net


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