Earthquake Recovery Plan

Dear Friends of Hands Together,

I just returned from a short “post-earthquake” work trip to assess the loss and damage to Hands Together. I was accompanied by Magnus McFarlane-Barrow, the CEO of Mary’s Meals, a Scottish charity providing funding for our school feeding and now pledging relief and rebuilding support for our recovery. Simply put, we face a long and difficult recovery, and we need your continued prayers and support.

Our hearts are broken for the Haitian people and we are reeling from the destruction of our projects. The damage is so overwhelming that it is hard to get any traction, and of course we are still working through the trauma of the last two weeks. The truth is that we are unsure of what will happen in Cite Soleil and Port-au-Prince and how it will affect our work there. Through prayer we realize that the best we can do now is to embrace a spirit of “humility of action.” This means that we must be honest about who we are and what we can do, and know clearly what we cannot do. We are very limited in our ability to deliver large scale, immediate relief or emergency medical services. We cannot host volunteers or teams. We have no large depot or security force from which to launch huge food distributions. But we can, through our relationship with community leaders in Cite Soleil, organize and empower local leaders to begin rebuilding and channel assistance in small, surgical doses. Through this “humility of action” we drop any ego and we do not care whether or not we receive credit for the work. We seek only to use what we have in a realistic, thoughtful and effective way to help those in most need.

Right now the people of Haiti need hope. Even though our headquarters was destroyed, Fr. Tom chose to stay in Port-au-Prince and demonstrate our solidarity by sleeping on the ground with the people. We have created a base of operations at our storage depot, setting up tents and a makeshift office.  We include in this report a number of photos from a January 23-25 visit to Port-au-Prince so you may get a sense of the scale of this disaster.

The recovery plan explained below focuses on outreach to the Hands Together “Port-au-Prince Universe” – essentially all those associated with our Becky DeWine school population that number more than 25,000 people.  Because we need to focus on recovery, we are suspending all volunteer and parish delegations for a three-month period.

We will continue to keep you updated as best we can.  Thank you for the many offers of help. We honestly do not know what the long term future holds for us, but for now, the best way to help is to pray for us.

Should you wish to give a gift, below is the link for a credit card gift, or you can mail a check to Hands Together, P.O. Box 80985, Springfield, MA 01138.

Hands Together Donations

The earthquake destroyed or damaged every facet of life in Port-au-Prince, wiping out everything we built over the past 15 years. In many ways, we are starting over.

Doug and Fr. Tom


Our damage and loss assessment is ongoing and with each new day we are learn of the dead, injured, and homeless among the Hands Together students, staff and family. Many families have left Port-au-Prince to stay with relatives in the provinces and others migrated to nearby tent cities.  Already, we’ve learned that several students and staff perished.  Our Phase 1 (1-3 months) recovery activities include:

  • Remove the debris from our destroyed headquarters on Delmas 31, locate the two Oblate seminarians who died underneath the rubble, and bury them behind our house.
  • Salvage anything usable including food, furniture, office equipment and files and establish a safe base for storage and operations.
  • Establish communications (phone and internet), repair vehicles, secure diesel fuel, and stockpile drinking water at our base.
  • Secure storage at a local depot for food, donated goods, and supplies.
  • Deliver water daily to the people at all school campus locations.
  • On January 22nd we created “leadership teams”– led by captains and utilizing the staff and workers from our schools and the surrounding communities. These teams oversee outreach activities such as water and food distribution, clean up and rebuilding and community work, at each 8 zones in Cite Soleil and Delmas.
  • Build temporary walls around our campuses and conduct food and supply distributions.
  • Partner with Mary’s Meals from Scotland to provide food, shelter, and emergency cash grants to families in greatest need.
  • Assess the physical condition of our eight Becky DeWine school campus buildings and create a demolition and rebuilding plan.
  • Provide small grants for home repair or rebuilding.


Through our Phase 1 recover plan we hope to instill hope and encouragement and demonstrate our commitment to help our students, staff, and the communities of Cite Soleil.  Phase 2 is a work in progress. Much depends upon the large scale rebuilding plans of the big agencies. We want to inject some normalcy into the community by restoring some of our education and nutrition programs.  Rebuilding our school campuses and providing homes for people will be a high priority, as these activities will also produce jobs for many Cite Soleil residents.  Our Phase 2 (3-12 months) activities include:

  • Continue to provide medical services, food, and water to those in need.
  • Construct temporary classrooms with corrugated tin or tents and begin a “barefoot school” program, providing food and 1-2 hours of instruction.
  • Build and repair homes for all HT staff needing assistance.
  • Construct new HT headquarters.
  • Create plans and identify resources for permanent classrooms to replace those that were destroyed in the earthquake.
  • Develop a longer-term project priority list to help us identify how resources can be used most effectively to provide food, shelter, water, and medical care to those in most desperate need.