Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Relief Efforts

First, a disclaimer: I don't claim to know everything going on in Haiti. All I can testify to is what I saw and what I heard from the people who live there.

One thing for sure and that is, we don't see much about Haiti on the news anymore. It's almost like we have forgotten about them.

The Haitians I spoke with on the ground there also think we have forgotten about them.

The earthquake was in January. Organizations came flooding into the country to help. Make shift homes were set up for those who lost their homes in the earthquake. Some of these homes have been a stick in the ground with a sheet draped over the stick. Many of these homes have been built with tarps.

On some of these tarps, I saw the words, "US AID" or "Samaritan's Purse" or "UN" or "Unicef". This is just a sample of the organizations who helped the Haitians get into temporary housing until they could rebuild again. I also saw a large tent Doctors Without Boarders set up as a makeshift hospital.

We spent our week in a suburb of Port au Prince, called Carrfour. We learned that Carrfour is the most densely populated city in Haiti. Many homes, orphanages, schools, churches were destroyed or damaged by the quake. Most buildings still standing lost their second stories and higher. It was a rare thing to see a second story building and when we did, the second story looked unsafe and had many visible large cracks.

 Looking around, I could not identify one rebuilding project. I confirmed this with our translators as well. People are conducting school in makeshift schools and running orphanages with roof tops missing. For example, the orphanage we visited did not have a roof over their kitchen. I saw many tents that were built for temporary homes, weather worn and tattered. Some 1 million people still remain homeless.

I asked a lot of questions to our English speaking Haitian translators. What they told me is that the money pouring into the country is not getting to the people who need it the most. I was disappointed to also hear from them that some large organizations who mean well have the wrong priorities. Our translators' perspective is that these organization representatives are drive expensive vehicles, eat at the high end restaurants and stay at the 5 star hotels, all while many are starving and homeless.

I emailed one of these organizations expressing my concerns and sharing the perspective of some Haitians and will share their response in another post.

When we arrived at the airport in Port au Prince, we saw this:

This is freight that, from what I understand, has been seized by the Haitian government. The freight includes much needed supplies and food for victims of the earthquake.

There is an election coming up the end of November. There has already been rioting in the capital city. The Haitians are growing tired and weary of waiting. They feel forgotten. They think nobody cares that they are homeless, starving, disease stricken and dieing. When we asked about the elections, the Haitians didn't seem to be hopeful for any candidate. In fact, I did not talk to one person who plans to vote. They don't have any hope in their government.

I left Haiti with a judging heart. Judging the organizations who didn't carry through with their promises; judging the US government for not spending one dime on the relief efforts (check out this link). It seems like we have forgotten them.
Then God told me to look at myself. He asked me what have you done Tammy to help the Haitians? I have done nothing! And I drive an expensive vehicle and I live in a mansion. But now I have seen and God knows my heart, so I cannot pretend that I don't know. God will hold me accountable. I know I can't solve all of Haiti's problems. Any work I do will be insignificant to the overall picture but I still want to do something, even if it makes a difference for one person.

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