On January 12, 2010, the impoverished country of Haiti was struck by an earthquake that left much of the capital city destroyed. Over the past three years, Haiti has struggled to rebuild, while most of the world has forgotten this terrible tragedy. Ricot St Paulin, a Compassion Haiti staffer and life-long resident of Port-au-Prince, shares the struggles and triumphs of his home country.
The scale and magnitude of the earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010 shocked, saddened and horrified everyone. The tragedy, which has been considered the most catastrophic natural disaster that Haiti has ever experienced, left an estimated three million people affected. The Haitian government reported that an estimated 316,000 people died, 300,000 were injured and about 1.5 million made homeless. But out of all this unprecedented tragedy, there is a silver lining.
Looking back in history, great natural disasters in the world are often a catalyst for huge, positive change. In Haiti, the impact of the earthquake is leading to a massive rebuilding effort, better building regulations and, in the end, safer, cleaner cities.
Three years later, there has been some positive progress made on reconstruction. Almost all earthquake rubble has been removed. Roads, airports and hotels have been constructed or rehabilitated, providing vital infrastructure for economic upswing.
Despite some progress, thousands of people still live in tents without access to basic services or opportunities for a secure future. But in contrast to this picture, there are a few reasons to say that Haiti is definitely in the process of getting back to its feet, yet the process needs to be sped up, because this impoverished nation cannot move backward anymore but must forward.
Contribution of Compassion into the rebuilding of Haiti
From Compassion’s perspective, the rebuilding of Haiti is not only physical but also economic, mental and spiritual. Besides the long-term reconstruction effort, which includes rebuilding more than 30 schools that were totally destroyed or severely damaged in the earthquake, Compassion has also launched a series of campaigns to mobilize the church to fight against extreme poverty.
“We have taken every single opportunity that comes up with the earthquake and other natural disasters during the last two years to bring about appropriate responses to our beneficiaries and to contribute to the development of communities,” said Compassion Haiti country director, Guilbaud Saint-Cyr.
After the earthquake, in addition to deploying efforts to make the Compassion projects operational again, Compassion helped provide small business loans to more than 300 families.
The mobilization of the Church in Haiti is a strategy put in place where several Christian leaders and institutions in Haiti have joined their efforts to challenge the church on its mission of bringing hope and transformation to the world. Through the movement, leaders seek to understand some of the social ills that have plagued Haitian society for decades, and to challenge Haitian Christians to repentance and to take bold moves toward changing the society.
“It is not acceptable that in a country where 35 to 40 percent of the population claim to be Protestant Christians, for corruption to be so widespread. The church has tolerated this for too long; the church has participated in this for too long,” said Edouard Lassegue, regional vice-president. “Therefore, a group of Haitian Christians want to rise up and proclaim the biblical prophetic message about the importance of these values in our lives and in our society in general. We need our brothers and sisters around the world to stand with us. It is a spiritual battle and it requires spiritual ammunition.”
In terms of financial cost, the long-term school rebuilding project, which aims to rebuild more than 30 schools that will meet international building standards codes, is the biggest part of the many strategies Compassion has put in place after the earthquake. It has required a lot of time, negotiations and expertise prior to its implementation. So far, Compassion has rebuilt about nine earthquake and hurricane resistant schools. Teachers, parents and children claim that they are the best schools they have ever seen.
Wilmiya Richard, 11, is so thankful for the new two-story school construction Compassion has just inaugurated in the area of Carrefour-Feuilles. Wilmiya, who is now in grade 6, has been registered with Compassion for more than four years and experienced the destruction of the former school premises in the earthquake. She did not know if she would have a chance to go back to school at the same place until a nice colorful new school building was constructed.
“The school is so nice and seems to be so strong. We are not afraid of natural disasters here. I am so happy that Compassion, in partnership the church, has provided us a school where we can reach our full capacity of learning,” said Wilmiya, who hopes to major in management when she grows up.