Haiti rebuilding two years after quake

By Alicja Pozywio | Staff writer
Sunday, January 29, 2012

It is now more than two years since the 35-second, 7.0-magnitude earthquake in Haiti took the lives of roughly 230,000 people and left about 2 million homeless.

The stories of suffering, death and destroyed health, accompanied by photos and videos of buildings, houses and churches turned into piles of rubble shook the hearts of many around the world.

“Immediately after the earthquake, Catholic Relief Services responded with food, shelter, water, latrines, medical care and registering children who were misplaced in the immediate aftermath,” said Kim Lamberty, senior program advisor at Catholic Relief Services Haiti Partnership Unit, based in Baltimore, during her visit to the Cardinal Meyer Center, 3525 S. Lake Park Ave., on Jan. 13.

CRS reported that it has received $198 million for Haiti relief and rebuilding. Of this, $130 million came from private donors, including $50 million received from special collections for Haiti in Catholic dioceses across the United States.

The aid helped build 10,600 transitional shelters, provide 10 million meals to more than 1 million people, hired more than 12,000 people in temporary cashfor- work programs, organized medical teams that performed more than 1,000 emergency surgeries and conducted 71,000 outpatient consultations.

Even though a lot has been done, Haitians still need help, she said.

“Now we look at how we can work toward the recovery and rebuilding of Haiti as a longterm strategy beyond just emergency relief” said Lamberty.

“In Port-au-Prince we do things like looking at the houses that don’t need to be destroyed, but need some additional repair or construction. We have a pilot program with Haitian families where they get vouchers for rent so they can move out of the camps and rent a house in Portau- Prince,” said Lamberty.

Among programs generating jobs is Rubble to Reconstruction, a program in which Haitians use hand-cranked crushers to grind rubble into a material used for new construction.

Lamberty believes that one of the keys to the recovery is helping the rural areas.

“We want the country to feed itself and the farmers to sustain themselves,” she said. One of the programs helping to accomplish this is called Mountains to Market. “It supports the rural farmers in regenerating the coffee and mango business,” said Lamberty.

How can Catholics get involved in helping Haiti?

“One of the ways is to contribute to the work of CRS, because we will be in Haiti for many years to come,” said Lamberty.

Another way is to do what many American parishes are already doing, she said. “Some parishes have their own partnership projects in Haiti. CRS works to strengthen those projects because we believe that those mission- based projects are hope for Haiti’s future.”

She added that some of the parishes with existing partnership projects are in the Archdiocese of Chicago.