A year later in Haiti 'we see people trying to move on with their lives'
CWS-supported farming co-ops in northern Haiti are
enabling families to grow food. “It means life to us,” says member
Elvius St. Fulis, who displays recently harvested cassava.
Photo: Chris Herlinger/CWS
See also: Profile: Haiti Recovery and Rehabilitation Programs and "Haiti: One Year Later" and other videos at www.youtube.com/churchworldservice
By Chris Herlinger/CWS
-- Media coverage of the first year since the devastating January 12,
2010, earthquake is focused on government inaction, the slow pace of
recovery and the seeming inability of Haiti to recover.
story has another side: Haitians helping Haitians, say Church World
Service staff and CWS partners in anticipation of this week’s
“One year after the earthquake, the situation in
Haiti remains extremely grave and extremely serious. Overall
reconstruction of the country has been much slower than anyone would
have liked,” said Aaron Tate, Church World Service’s Haiti earthquake
response coordinator. “Haitians are frustrated, and I’m frustrated.”
a country with so many problems, Tate said, “it’s easy to blame the
government, the international humanitarian organizations and even the
Haitian people for the problems of the last year.”
ultimately more useful, he said, is to continue work on “positive things
that can multiply and build a new kind of Haiti.”
“In the communities where we work, we see people trying to move on with their lives.”
Joseph, Haiti project manager, added that while criticism of
humanitarian organizations is understandable in the current Haitian
context, it deserves repeating that thousands of Haitians are alive
today because of the initial and ongoing response of both Haitian and
non-Haitian aid workers and the agencies they work for.
“Many people would have died without such assistance,” he said.
World Service partners in Haiti also acknowledge problems in the last
year. Polycarp Joseph, head of CWS partner FOPJ said top-heavy and
top-down assistance without Haitian participation helps explain the
current “frustration in the country.” He and representatives from other
CWS partners say the world has forgotten that Haiti needs sustainable
development -- development that helps as many as possible and gives
Haitians a voice in their future.
“Ultimately, people from
outside can’t do that,” said Herode Guillomettre, president of the
Christian Center for Integrated Development, a CWS partner known by the
Haitian Creole acronym SKDE.
Guillomettre said 13 food
cooperatives in Haiti's Northwest and Artibonite regions -- which
receive support from SKDE and Church World Service -- are proof that
Haitians are living lives of quiet dignity, working together toward the
common good. The co-ops pool resources, raise and harvest crops, and
provide agricultural credit to members.
They have also provided
assistance to earthquake survivors of Port-au-Prince who have fled the
Haitian capital to begin new lives. “It’s the co-op that has helped us
since we’ve returned from Port-au-Prince,” Ophliase Joseph, 55, the
mother of seven children and whose home was destroyed in the earthquake,
said recently. While Joseph said she misses the family home in the
Haitian capital, life in the “Hand in Hand” co-op, in Mayombe,
Artibonite, has made her realize that she and the family need to put
life in Port-au-Prince behind them. “We’re all staying here,” she said.
food co-ops are also meeting the challenge of providing food for their
members and their families. “It means life to us,” said Elvius St. Fulis
a member of the “Hand in Hand” co-op.
The initial response by
CWS included providing emergency assistance, such as hygiene kits,
blankets, tarps, school kits and baby kits -- valued at more than
$600,000 -- to more than 200,000 persons.
Now CWS is focused on several priorities as the response in Haiti continues. These include:
- Continued support and expansion for the 13 food cooperatives, which have more than 3,000 members.
- Ongoing support for programs run by FOPJ for vulnerable Haitian children in Port-au-Prince, including restavek children (domestic servants), former gang members and teenage mothers.
- Continued support for 1,200 persons with disabilities and their
families in metropolitan Port-au-Prince. Six-hundred persons have
received six-month, $75 per-month grants and 30 families have received
assistance in repairing damaged housing.
Among those receiving assistance is Anouk Noel, 30. Noel’s family has
used the cash grant to purchase cosmetic items that family members have
re-sold in order to support the family. The home Noel shares with her
family has also been repaired, and Noel said the family is relieved to
have returned to the home in November following nine months in one of
Port-au-Prince’s tent cities. “I didn’t think we’d be able to come
back,” she said.
How to help
Contributions to support recovery work in Haiti may be made online or by phone
(800.297.1516), or may be sent to your denomination or to Church World
Service, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515.
World Service is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of
churches and agencies engaged in development, humanitarian assistance
Lesley Crosson, 212-870-2676, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jan Dragin, 781-925-1526, email@example.com