Catching a Glimpse of a Bright Future
Bill Glass, Haiti Outreach Ministries president, journeys to Haiti to capture a sense of the rebuilding process
- Bill Glass // March 8, 2010
The sense of eagerness to get life back going was evident in just about everyone I spoke to. The people here don’t want a hand out…they want to work with the organizations and their government to lead their families, neighborhoods and country into the future. Haiti Outreach Ministries, is one of those partners we have a vested interest rebuilding process here. Such is why I came to Haiti in the middle of February, to do an assessment as the country transitions from immediate relief to restoring life there and making a path for the future.
Haiti, nearly two months after the earthquake [at the time of my visit], is still very much hard hit. On my drive out from the airport to Blanchard, the headquarters of our operations out there, we passed countless homeless tent encampments [there are reportedly over 1 million new homeless in Haiti, with the majority of them in the Port-au-Prince area.] Despite the sense of devastation in the vast homelessness, the scene is one in motion , as earth movers are at work in several areas, creating both new military camps (for American troops) and new semi-permanent tent cities. The roadways are abuzz with humvees and other military transport vehicles competing with taptaps and private cars for space on the roads. In Cite Soleil, one of the primary places that HOM [Haiti Outreach Ministries] ministers to, the new damage caused by the earthquake is not as jarring only because the old damage from the civil disorder period and general economic problems was so severe to begin with. However, the makeshift tents in the middle of the main roads and the side roads blocked with tents reveal the new problems. Even people with undamaged homes are fearful of sleeping in them and spend their nights under tarps on the streets. Driving toward uptown and downtown Port au Prince, out of the slum area, shows the scale of the disaster. Large buildings have collapsed, most remaining in their condition as of the evening of January 12th. Many businesses have been closed, particularly grocery stores which collapsed, and others have relocated to what had been warehouse facilities outside of downtown. Yet, even while so much remains in ruins, signs of hope are close by. In the areas served by Haiti Outreach Ministries, there is reconstruction and relief work going on. Daily medical clinics are being run both by permanent Haitian staff in Cite Soleil and by visiting American teams in Repatriote and Cite Soleil. The scale of this medical attention has more than quintupled since the earthquake. While some of the problems seen are a result of the quake, much is simply the kinds of medical problems which poor people in the Third World have, brought on by bacteria-infused drinking and living conditions. The huge medical response may, paradoxically, serve to improve the medical conditions and health of the very poor. Food relief is ongoing, with fortified rations and other food being provided regularly to the people of Cite Soleil, Repatriote and Blanchard. HOM’s long standing partnerships with Stop Hunger Now and Mission of Hope have been the lifelines that have ensured reliable food supplies. HOM has begun the first four prototypes of a simple replacement home for families who lost their homes in the earthquake. Once these are complete and reviewed, HOM will build more – with a goal for 2010 of at least 100 such homes. HOM has resumed repairs of homes – both those damaged in the quake and those which needed new roofs before – with a goal of 100 such repairs in 2010. Finally, HOM is working on repairs and reconstruction of the damaged facilities in the communities. The wall in Cite Soleil now is reconstructed around over 50% of the perimeter – important in also acting as a levee against floods from the neighboring drainage canal. Repairs are being completed to the school buildings in Cite Soleil and Blanchard in order to support school resumption (whenever the government authorizes it). We have resumed building of the 3rd floor expansion of our school we sponsor in Blanchard in order to provide increased capacity for what may be new students who lost their schools. Repairs are needed to several other facilities and complete rebuilding will be required of the Cite Soleil clinic and the buildings at Repatriote. Dozens of Haitians are at work in various tasks relating to reconstruction and all of the permanent HOM staff is involved in their jobs. We re-launched sewing classes on March 1st. Primary school students and teachers have met to prepare to resume classes. Local roads are being improved as holes are filled with earthquake rubble. Families have new hope as their communities take new shape and the crisis of enough food and what the future holds subside. I spent I lot of my trip talking with the Haitian citizens, hearing their stories, hearing their needs, and hearing their thoughts. It was a fruitful process, at least for me, to hear the voice of the people and fully comprehend their desire to move forward and establish a better life. While we all grieve for the 300,000 who died in the earthquake, the future actually appears to hold substantial promise. The road ahead is not going to be easy but the outlook here is that Haiti may actually be a better place than it was before Jan. 12. Soli Deo gloria! --- Haiti Outreach Ministries (HOM) is a Christian ministry principally to the people of Port au Prince, Haiti through the Christian Churches (Les Eglises Chretien) at Cite Soleil, Terre Noire (Blanchard) and Repatriote. 5th-6th Grade ClassThe ministry also includes the village of Ibo Beach (Source Matelas), about 25km northwest of Port au Prince on the bay. The organization is currently working to rebuild facilities devastated by the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti. It is hosting medical teams in Cite Soleil and rebuilding homes in both Cite Soleil and Blanchard. For more info, please visit www.haitioutreachministries.org.