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Damage to one of the buildings in Pestel, Haiti. Photo courtesy of Church World Service, via Episcopal Relief & Development

[The Episcopal News] A 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti’s southern peninsula on Aug. 14, causing some 2,000 deaths, 9,000 injuries and destroying homes, businesses and infrastructure. The nation was already reeling from the assassination of its president, Jovenel Moïse, on July 7 and continuing economic and political crises, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as heavy winds and rains from Tropical Storm Grace.

Many Episcopalians have asked what can be done to assist the people of Haiti in this crisis. Relief organizations need continued support, as food and other supplies are running low and many Haitians are in desperate circumstances.

Episcopal Relief & Development, the primary relief organization of The Episcopal Church, has reported that it is supporting the Diocese of Haiti and other partners in response to the earthquake.

Thousands of families are in need of humanitarian assistance, Episcopal Relief & Development reports. The Haitian Civil Protection General Directorate says 137,000 families have been affected in the Sud, Grand’Anse and Nippes departments. About 500,000 people – 40 percent of the total population in the affected departments – are in need of emergency humanitarian assistance. Rescue efforts have been hampered by Tropical Storm Grace, and the full extent of the damage has yet to be determined.

The Diocese of Haiti, in collaboration with its congregations on the southern peninsula, quickly assessed the most urgent needs of vulnerable groups such as pregnant women, mothers with young children, the elderly and people whose homes were damaged or destroyed. The diocese selected 400 families in hard-to-reach areas that have been affected by the earthquake and Tropical Storm Grace. With Episcopal Relief & Development’s support, these families will receive direct assistance so that they can meet basic needs such as food, medicine and housing.

Episcopal Relief & Development remains in close contact with the diocese and other partner organizations on the ground in Haiti as leaders assess needs in their communities. Donations to the Haiti Fund will help the organization to continue to respond to this disaster.

Other ways to help

Canon Serena Beeks, commissioner of schools for the Diocese of Los Angeles, is a longtime advocate for Haiti and has coordinated many partnerships between schools in the United States and schools in Haiti. Her criteria for appropriate relief and development organizations include:

  • Increasing Haitians’ capacities for managing their own future
  • Haitians involved in the management of the agency
  • Moving toward sustainability
  • Low or zero fundraising administrative overhead
  • Providing employment for Haitians
  • Driven by needs and goals of Haitians, not by donors’ wishes.

“This is a very idiosyncratic list of agencies with which I have had direct personal experience, a lot of them connected to the Episcopal Church, but some not at all,” Beeks wrote in an email after the recent earthquake. The most important aspect, she said, is direct involvement by locals. “Haitians are smart, capable, and know what they need,” she wrote, “and an agency running without Haitian input isn’t behaving appropriately.”

Her recommendations include the following. (Click the names for more information.)

Immediate relief

Partners in Health
This organization is involved in evacuating and caring for patients in hospitals away from the disaster area. “Read Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains for a great description of the founding of Partners in Health,” Beeks says. “Their most recent venture is a state-of-the-art teaching hospital located in the town of Mirebalais. The community health model they developed is in use in the United States and around the world.”

Food for the Poor
This interdenominational Christian ministry serves in 17 countries throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. It already has a presence in Haiti, and has partnerships with locals to get food where it needs to go.

Healthcare/Health Education

Haiti Nursing School
The nursing school of the Episcopal University of Haiti, Faculté des Sciences Infirmières de l’Université Episcopale d’Haïti, the first BA nursing program in Haiti, now including family nurse practitioner and OT/PT training and certification. Support from the U.S. is through HNF, Haiti Nursing Foundation.

Children’s Medical Mission of Haiti
Provides support for St. Vincent’s Center, Port-au-Prince,  the first residential school for deaf, blind, or orthopedically handicapped children in Haiti. St. Vincent’s has a surgical center, brace shop, appropriate instructional techniques, and an inspiring handbell choir consisting of blind and visually impaired students.

Maison de Naissance
A modest building but a hugely effective healthy moms/healthy babies birthing center including high-quality pre-and post-natal care programs.

Agronomy and Reforestation
(Agronomy is a branch of agriculture dealing with field-crop production and soil management)

CODEP
CODEP plants more than 900,000 trees per year in the area around Leogane. Works through local farmers with incentive programs for planting and not cutting trees. It is nvolved in related sustainable agriculture projects such as tilapia farming.

Centre d’Agriculture Saint Barnabas
Agronomy community college located in the far north of Haiti near Cap Haitien. Joint ventures with partners such as SOIL (see listing below).

Zanmi Agrikol (Partners in Agriculture)
Zanmi Agrikol, in addition to using sustainable farming techniques to produce the ingredients for Nouri-Mamba (enriched peanut butter given therapeutically to malnourished children), runs an agronomy school along with courses in related disciplines such as construction, and provides innovative programs for supporting family financial security through improved agricultural practices.

Education

Partnership Program, Episcopal Diocese of Haiti
(contact Serena Beeks, serenabeeks@cs.com)
The Episcopal Diocese of Haiti – part of the U.S.-based Episcopal Church – is the second-largest provider of elementary education in Haiti, with more than 250 schools, mostly rural. The Partnership Program primarily pairs Episcopal schools in the U.S. with Episcopal schools in Haiti. Donors are welcome to support the work of an already-existing partnership or to provide funds for a school without partners. Typically the greatest immediate need is support for teacher salaries, usually in rural schools; around $75 per month. Long term, community development projects helping to move the school toward sustainability are encouraged. The aim is for a true partnership and friendship.

FAR: For A Reason
FAR provides tuition and accompaniment for motivated Haitian students, with a commitment to seeing them through to the end of their education.

Bishop Tharp Institute
Training students for careers in business, IT and management.

Sanitation, Recycling

SOIL
Helping communities develop composting toilets and other sanitary and even beneficial ways of dealing with waste.

Thread International
Turning plastic bottles into fabric, setting up Haitian entrepreneurs to manage the recycling, with a goal of moving the entire recycling process to Haiti. Thread’s charitable arm, Work, provides education, health care, and job training to families living in extreme conditions at the Port-au-Prince northern landfill. Also sponsors annual “Run Across Haiti,” Cap Haitien to Jacmel.

Coffee

Singing Rooster
Support for coffee growers, importing coffee and chocolate to the U.S.

Prayer for Haiti

Eternal God, send forth your Sprit to encourage and strengthen the people of Haiti in these difficult times. We pray especially for those impacted by the recent earthquake. Encourage and strengthen those who help and support others. In your mercy, receive the souls of those who have died; comfort their families and loved ones. Surround with your presence the sick and suffering. Aid the work of those who still search and rescue. Empower the medical and aid workers and all who labor to heal.

Likewise, inspire and empower the resolve of the nations and peoples of the world to be your instruments of help and healing. Stir up the might of your love and compassion among the nations to rally resources and stay the course until the humanitarian job is accomplished.

Lastly, enfold and uphold the people of Haiti—from the youngest newly born to the oldest among us—in the arms of your love and the strength of your might. This we pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

The Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church