Written by Gregg Brekke
Humanitarian groups such as United Church of Christ mission partner Church World Service are the first to acknowledge that, six months after the devastating Jan. 12 Haiti earthquake, the road to recovery will be long and difficult.
"We are all frustrated by the apparent lack of speedy recovery for Haiti," said Aaron Tate, the Haiti earthquake response coordinator for Church World Service, on the half-year anniversary of the quake, which fell on July 12.
Tate, based in Port-au-Prince, noted that there "were a lot of dreams early on that this was an opportunity to build a 'new Haiti' better than the old Haiti."
"But the reality is that with such devastation, it is an incredible effort just to rebuild at all," he said. Still, on a smaller scale, "you do see successes."
In Port-au-Prince, Tate said, children are back in classes now, in a safe and standing building that Church World Service helped purchase; the community center is run by Fondation Oecumenique Pour La Paix et la Justice, a CWS partner. The new structure, which replaces a building destroyed in the quake, houses educational and vocational training programs, as well as programs that provide meals and health and psychosocial services.
"Despite the multiple challenges of implementing programs in the post-earthquake environment, CWS has accomplished much, and continues to work to address unmet needs," Tate said.
From the immediate hours after the quake and ongoing, in all, CWS efforts - including the distribution of hygiene, school and baby kits, tents, wheelchairs, medical kits and other supplies - have directly assisted at least 41,750 individuals so far; CWS is also working as a member of the global ACT Alliance, which has provided assistance to 341,000 Haitians.
Drawing on its long-time commitment to support and empower local partners, Church World Service continues to support work by both Haitian and Dominican organizations in their responses.
Early on in the response CWS began planning for longer-term rehabilitation projects, including supporting the expansion of existing, successful rural agricultural coops made up of over 3,000 families, so they can provide food security for earthquake victims outside of Port-au-Prince. The agency also is helping vulnerable children through emergency food and psychosocial support.
Future plans for Church World Service work in Haiti include supporting long-term and permanent housing for the displaced and vulnerable; participating in plans to move families from temporary camps to permanent solutions; providing tools and working capital to nearly 500 individuals to re-establish their micro-businesses; strengthening services for vulnerable children; providing counseling and case management to an additional 600 people with disabilities; and crafting long-term strategies for sustainable development in Haiti.
One of the most visible successes for CWS has been its work with long-time partner Service Chretien d'Haiti, to assist and empower people with disabilities. Six-hundred people are currently participating and another 600 will participate later in the year.
Participants receive a modest monthly stipend of $75 for six months to help them get through the current difficult times. Many of those in the program are using their grant to help restart businesses lost in the quake. Others are using it to buy food. Still others are using it to pay for their children-or for themselves-to go to school, to get education and improve their future.
Among those participating in the program is Marlene Derley, an amputee who lost her right arm after a building collapsed during the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake. Derley is using her CWS grant to restart her small restaurant business at home - a much-needed boost since she and her family are depending on the restaurant income. Derley's husband, a former factory worker, is at home to help her and raise the couple's 9-year-old daughter.
"We depend on the money from the restaurant," she said, explaining that the grant is helping restock supplies, all of which were destroyed in the quake.
In the U.S., Church World Service has also assisted badly injured quake victims to resettle at least temporarily in communities like Louisville, Ky., and Atlanta, Ga., after they were medivaced to the U.S. for special care and recovery.
And in cities across the U.S., Board of Immigration Appeals-accredited staff at CWS offices in Miami, Fla., New York City and Lancaster, Pa., and 15 CWS refugee resettlement affiliate agencies have been offering immigration legal services to assist eligible Haitians with Temporary Protection Status (TPS) applications, before the July 20 federal filing deadline.
The UCC's Disaster Ministries continues to maintain an information page and accept donations for Hatian earthquake assistance and recovery efforts.