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Haiti: Earthquake’s aftermath
NewsNotes, March-April 2010
Vol. 35 No. 2

In response to the disastrous earthquake that struck his native country on January 12, Haiti-born Maryknoller Fr. Romane St. Vil travelled to Haiti Feb. 15-23 along with Maryknoll Fr. Dennis Moorman and a delegation of doctors, nurses and therapists. Fr. St. Vil wrote, “… the Haitians are a resilient people. They never give up. Just as they had decided to fight slavery with every bit of their beings, they continue to be resolute in fighting poverty and hopelessness. With tooth and nail, they are determined to rebuild their country…

“Maryknoll missionaries stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Haiti. We will work with the Haitian community in the Diaspora and all people of good will to offer a helping hand to our brothers and sisters in Haiti. We will bring the love and compassion of God and the hope of the resurrection in a very concrete way to their lives.”

In response to the earthquake, Maryknoll Affiliate Renate Schneider co-founded Kay Pou Fanm Ayisyen as a project of the NGO Haitian Connection. Working with Asosyasyon Peyizan Fondwa (APF) and the Trou Kofi Women’s Organization of Fondwa, Kay Puo Fanm Ayisyen will help build inexpensive homes for women, especially single parents and heads of households, in Fondwa and Jeremie. Fondwa, a rural community about an hour’s drive from Port au Prince, suffered 90 percent devastation of its schools, homes, and infrastructure.

Claudette Werleigh, secretary general of Pax Christi International, is a Haitian who has served her country in many capacities and at different levels, including as Haiti’s Minister of Social Affairs, Foreign Affairs and Prime Minister. In a letter to President Obama, she wrote: “Allow me, first, to thank you Mr. President, also the First Lady and the American people, for providing us with much needed help at such a crucial moment. It is a fact that without external assistance, we are in no position to handle the magnitude of problems that we are now facing.”

In addition to the need to demilitarize aid delivery, Claudette went on to emphasize the importance of “inclusion and participation of the Haitian people in every step toward recovery,” with particular concern for “those traditionally excluded (the victims and the poor)” and for “women because they are the backbone of our economy and also because they have traditionally been in charge of the family needs: nutrition, health, education, care of the sick, the infants and the elderly.”

As the initial rescue operation ends, the next steps toward reconstruction are crucial; present an opportunity to end once and for all the centuries of injustice and racism suffered by the people of Haiti; and make possible the building of right relationships between Haiti and the rest of the world.

To that end, the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns is advocating:

  • for the immediate demilitarization of aid. Much effort and good will in response to the great suffering of the Haitian people has been accompanied by an unnecessary display of weapons. Insecurity is not the issue in Haiti -- hunger, thirst and survival are. If our only “tool” for relief is a military one, it is high time to rethink U.S. priorities and invest in tools for life, not death.
  • that the U.S. follow the lead of the Haitian government, civil society, religious organizations and businesses. Do not supplant, but strengthen the Haitian government’s capacity to respond well to this extremely difficult situation.
  • for cooperation with other countries and organizations with deep experience in Haiti, including Cuba and Venezuela. Use this tragedy as an opportunity to work toward the common good in Haiti and greater understanding in the world, not for political gain
  • that donors reach out to and empower women and marginalized communities and create good jobs for Haitians
  • that all donors provide help for Haiti through grants not loans, cancel all of Haiti’s external debt, provide financial support without controlling Haiti’s future; and support community-led and sustainable development projects; and
  • for just and sustained international support for recovery that is without ulterior motives; deeply respectful of Haiti’s rich culture; and genuinely beneficial for the long term and sustainable improvement in quality of life for all Haitians, especially the most vulnerable and excluded.

Faith in action:
Write to your Congressional representative and senators in support of generous aid to Haiti; advocate for the points mentioned above.

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