Samantha Burnside

After the earthquake hit, child sponsorship numbers in Haiti increased significantly. Currently, over 650 children are sponsored in Port-au-Prince.

Ruins, rubble and chaos—this was the reality of Haiti after a massive earthquake struck the country on January 12, 2010. More than 200,000 people were killed, much of the capital city was destroyed, and 2.3 million individuals were left homeless. Through the faithful support of the PAOC Fellowship, ERDO was able to respond strategically and promptly to the disaster. What originally began as crisis response soon transformed into long-term community development to help Haitians rebuild their communities.

Since the 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit in 2010, ERDO has been engaging in three key areas of intervention to empower and transform communities: WASH (Water and Sanitation, Hygiene and Disease control), livelihoods, and education (through ChildCARE Plus sponsorship). Immediately after the disaster, ERDO responded in Duchity, Fon Batis, St. Marc, Ivoire and Lafiteau, focusing on small-scale agricultural, health-care and other community development projects. In Duchity, long-term community development and food security were at the forefront as ERDO supported agricultural co-operatives that focused on sustainable food production and literacy training for adults. Similarly, ERDO supported farmers co-ops and the construction of food and water storage in Fon Batis, as well as a large water cistern construction project in Ivoire, and provided resources for a community health project to treat and prevent cholera in St. Marc.

While working in Lafiteau, ERDO conducted a solar-powered street light project due to the lack of hydro and street lights in the community. This project was very significant because the only place you would find light at night was at the basketball court. Every night, you would find children reading and studying there because there was nowhere else to go. After installing eight solar-powered street lights near pumps and wells, children had a variety of places to study in the community. This also provided a sense of security for women who collected water at night because they no longer had to travel in the pitch dark.

Children are among the most vulnerable when disasters strike, so ERDO is very grateful for PAOC global workers like Michel and Louise Charbonneau, who for many years worked to develop a strong ChildCARE Plus program and ministry centre in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. After the earthquake hit, child sponsorship numbers in Haiti increased significantly. Currently, over 650 children are sponsored in Port-au-Prince. The Charbonneaus also operate a feeding program that feeds over 1,200 children twice a week.

In addition to the ongoing work with sponsored children, ERDO has been focusing on community participation projects. In November 2016, a water cistern rehabilitation project was completed in Gwo Jan. The project was led by a team of local engineers and construction workers who saw the project through from concept to completion. The goal was not only to provide a clean drinking water source, but also to engage the local community and empower them to complete the project from start to finish. It is normal for international NGOs (non-governmental organizations) to employ foreign engineers and construction workers to come in and complete projects in these communities. However, ERDO’s approach is to empower local communities to drive their own projects.

ERDO is taking the same approach in a current food security project in Marmont. A small Haitian group of engineers, agronomists and community planners are seeing the development through to completion. The vision and realization of this project are completely community driven. Its goal is to teach farmers the proper practices of goat husbandry in order for families to better care for their animals and produce offspring, which will increase food security at the family level.

Despite the ongoing developmental work of ERDO and other international organizations in Haiti, it is a country that is susceptible to natural disasters. On October 4, 2016, Hurricane Matthew, a Category 4 storm, hit the southern peninsula of the country, killing over 1,000 people. Hurricane Matthew is the third strongest hurricane on record, and Haiti’s strongest hurricane in 52 years. The extreme rains, flooding and winds resulted in significant damage, leaving hundreds of thousands of homes, schools and hospitals destroyed.

Earlier in 2016, Haiti was also facing the worst drought they have experienced in 50 years. Any crops that were struggling to grow were wiped out as a consequence of the storm. With the destruction of crops, both food and income were lost, which has resulted in great need. In response to the devastation in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, ERDO supported an immediate crisis response program by distributing food parcels and hygiene kits to vulnerable families in two rural communities. Following the immediate crisis response, ERDO is currently supporting a one-year agricultural recovery project to help farmers rebuild their livelihoods and recover damaged crops. Farmers are being provided with tools, seeds and training to assist them in developing a means of income generation for their families.

Although Haitians are very resilient, their extensive needs cannot be met by their own hard work alone. With the continued support of the PAOC Fellowship, ERDO is able to reach this country which has already suffered so much.  Please continue to pray for Haiti as they once again rebuild everything that was recently lost.

Natural disasters, political conflict, and chronic poverty threaten the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable families in developing countries in times of crisis. ERDO reaches out by providing timely relief through economic aid, disaster restoration, and training that builds the capacity of communities to guard against future crises. As families struggle to rebuild their lives, we also offer spiritual and emotional support. To learn more about ERDO’s crisis response, visit Samantha Burnside is ERDO’s communications officer.

This article appeared in the January/February 2017 issue of testimonythe bimonthly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada

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