Haiti Rebuilds with Hope, Love

4 02 2012

by Andrea Read
Haiti relief coordinator, Community of Christ and Field Operations, Outreach International

Solid roofs have replaced tarpaulins in many structures as the church and Outreach international continue to work in Haiti.

The catastrophic earthquake that rocked Haiti on January 12, 2010, toppled buildings, claimed lives, and brought misery.

But it didn’t destroy hope, love, and generosity.

Nearly 1½ years after the earthquake jolted the already-impoverished nation, I visited Cite Soleil, one of the poorest slums in the Western Hemisphere. There, I met the pastor of a Community of Christ congregation who also served as director of a school.

He no longer had a building to house the church and school. All gatherings and classes took place under a temporary shelter with wooden poles and tarpaulins. We had come to discuss his needs.

But when we met, his first words weren’t about the desolation and poverty that surrounded him. They were of concern for the people of another tragedy that had happened just days earlier—the life-taking tornado in Joplin, Missouri.

“My prayers are with your family and people in Joplin. I am sorry to hear of the sadness there.”

His generosity of spirit and love deeply touched me, especially when I reflected on his loss and the heart-breaking conditions of his own community.

That sense of generosity and love is lifting Haiti. And the partnership of Community of Christ and Outreach International is playing a key role in rebuilding congregations and schools.

The impact goes beyond mere buildings and the initial disaster response. That’s because in Haiti many congregations offer schooling to their communities at little or no cost. Some of these schools receive funding from Outreach International for academics and meal programs.

So the generosity of finance and heart has touched lives in many ways. I returned again from this impoverished island just a few weeks ago. I am proud of the many victories at our schools and churches.

Outreach International, partnering with the Digicel Foundation, a Haiti-based group, coordinated the first school reconstruction finished in Croix des Bouquets, a suburb of Port-Au-Prince. Also, we’ve repaired three school/church buildings and finished two water and sanitation projects with many more projects ahead—thanks to the generosity of our congregations and Outreach International supporters.

Even so, more challenges have complicated the situation. Difficulties with land ownership have been significant roadblocks to reconstruction. With the influx of foreign organizations following the earthquake, costs skyrocketed for building, transportation, and local professional consultation.

Transportation in particular is difficult in Port-au-Prince and regionally. In some places, where there are no roads, the only way to churches and sponsored schools is to walk—sometimes as much as eight hours on rough mountain paths. But other hardships—a cholera outbreak, tropical storms, hurricanes, and political unrest—have sapped the attention of community leaders.

Hand-washing stations are helping provide good hygiene in new buildings.

But while responding to these challenges and focusing on rebuilding efforts, we still have accomplished much!

Outreach International has maximized the impact of gifts by partnering with other groups committed to rebuilding Haiti. They have offered monetary and in-kind support. Article 25, Digicel Foundation, Jubilee Action, Just a Drop, HELP, and UNICEF are among our new partners.

All 16 church/school sites in the earthquake area have undergone rigorous structural and engineering assessments. Besides the reconstruction and repairs, we have demolished and cleared two sites. We’ve finished water and sanitation upgrades at three schools, and rebuilt the school at Croix des Bouquets better than it was before. Six more building projects are in the planning stages.

Outreach International, with consultation from Community of Christ, also increased the number of schools in the meal program (15 now offer hot, nutritious lunches for malnourished students). Other improvements include cholera-prevention seminars and kits for schools in Cite Soleil, hand-washing seminars to promote good personal hygiene, and thousands of dollars in school supplies and uniforms.

The generous response of Community of Christ members and Outreach International contributors has played a key role in helping to rebuild Haiti. It’s an uplifting example of living out the peace and mission of Jesus Christ. Through that mission, there is hope. Hope lifts us up, comforts us in struggles, and inspires us in ways we never thought possible.

It hasn’t been easy. In Haiti, I quickly learned that if I expected things to look the same, cost the same, or move at a similar pace to my own culture, I would live in constant frustration. Personal prayer and reflection changed that.

Now, with every visit to Haiti, I find restored hope—hope for today, and hope for what is to come.



2 responses

4 02 2012

It’s heartwarming to be a part of a family of faith that reaches out to those in need. It is the mission of Christ Jesus.

4 02 2012
RAISER William

Thanks for the up-date. Good work.

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