Rebuilding, Rains, Hope

Fr. Tom views the cleared away rubble from the residence. 

After one month since the earthquake struck, we find ourselves living in tents and still shaky from the ongoing powerful aftershocks. Even though there are no bathrooms or showers or a kitchen, there is a spirit of hope among the small band of Hands Together people who are working together to help the people in Delmas and Cite Soleil.

Several weeks of demolition and cleanup work cleared away the rubble of our fallen headquarters and we can now begin construction of a new residence and volunteer center. Our temporary operations base is crowded with vehicles, equipment and supplies. But there is a lot of activity as we prepare food and hygiene kits, send our water truck to several sites per day, run two mobile clinics each day, and work to reopen our school campuses. By March 15 we hope to open some of our schools provide a much needed structure and a daily meal for the children and the elderly.

The people are still very much afraid to live in buildings, so you will find them all over living in tent cities, using cardboard, sheets, tin and whatever they can to build some shelter. These areas are so crowded that people are practicing “peel sou peel” – a Haitian term describing many people sleeping with limbs intertwined. Fr. Tom and I visited several of these areas and could hardly breathe because of the stench of human waste and garbage. It rained for the first time since the major quake on February 13 – signaling the beginning of Haiti’s rainy season where it can downpour every night for weeks.  We need to work feverishly to create better shelter and sanitation before the heavy rains come.

The January 30th structural assessment report conducted by the Army provided us with the foundation for our school rebuilding plan. Four school buildings need demolishing and the remaining ones need serious repair and reinforcement. The school rebuilding will take many months and during reconstruction we will use temporary classrooms and provide as much education as possible. Whenever we can, we will employ the parents and community members to provide some much needed income. The biggest obstacle to all of this is the instability created after the Port-au-Prince prison collapsed and many of 4,000 escaped inmates returned to their Cite Soleil homes. Fighting between different neighborhoods has started up again and some of the escapees have made threats to our staff.

What we need most right now is hope and perseverance. St. Francis de Sales tells us that “Hope is the opposite of fear.” He counsels us to “serve God well today; God will provide for tomorrow. Each day has its own burden to bear; do not worry about tomorrow, for the same God who reigns today will reign tomorrow. And if in God’s goodness he had thought, or even known, that you needed more assistance than was readily available, he would have given it to you.”

Below is a list of accomplishments and ongoing outreach activities.

Initial and Ongoing Activities as of February 20, 2010

Here is the current summary of our initial response and our ongoing outreach:

  • Created temporary operations base– set up portable office and powered equipment with our Diesel generator. Provide housing and meals to Dr. FanFan and his family and 5 street boys. Secured the perimeter using corrugated tin and block. Purchased walkie talkies, t mobile cell phones and a satellite phone.  Gunshots and fighting break out frequently during the night. We assigned the Thomas security guard to our new base. - $15,000
  • Organized 10 leadership teams to conduct recovery activities in Cite Soleil and Delmas (8 in Cite Soleil & 2 in the Delmas area near our base). Each team is led by a Captain – a proven neighborhood leader – who implements various outreach activities. Our campus locations become outreach centers the local residents, parents of school children and students help clean up the area and build make-shift walls around the base. We coordinate distribution of water, food, and hygiene kits from these bases. Workers received stipends and certain families received charity. - $9,600
  • Logistic and base operations. Daily functions include diesel fuel for generator, food for 20 people, water, small charity gifts to most desperate families – funds to work teams to remove debris, maintenance on 4 vehicles, pay for internet hookup and use. - $32,000 for 1.5 months
  • We deliver 4-5 truckloads of fresh water daily to the outreach zones of Cite Soleil and Delmas. - $150/week
  • Negotiated with the UN and for 6 large drums of diesel fuel. - $650
  • Secured all school campus locations using wood and corrugated tin walls. - $31,000
  • On February 2nd the U.S. military began a 2 week food distribution campaign for 42 tons of food a day in Cite Soleil – they collaborate with us and use several of  our Cite Soleil schools. To us directly they gave 250 , 50lb sacks of rice. - donated
  • Distributing family food packages donated by BND – each containing 25 kilos of rice, bean, sardines and oil. On January 29 we gave out 1000 packages (5,000 meals) and will continue this project twice a week. BND is working to provide hygiene kits and child care kits as well. - donated
  • Removed debris from our collapsed residence utilizing our back hoe loader , dump truck and local labor. Starting plan to rebuild the HQ. - $7,500
  • On January 30 the U.S. Military engineers inspected our school campuses and submitted their repair, demolition and rebuilding recommendation to us. - donated
  • We conduct daily medical clinics – 2 zones per day – using medicines on hand and donated from the U.S. Military – several times we collaborate with U.S. volunteer doctors in these areas. Treat an average of 300-500 per day - $500/month
  • Created 150 bucket kits with food, clothes, sheets, and soaps and other materials from our storage containers – gave them to local neighborhood leaders for distribution. - Existing goods
  • Distributed 65 tent survival kits with tools, stoves, tents etc. donated by Rotary - Donated
  • February 24 – chose 150 people on delmas and gave 75 sacs of rice, 12 sacs of beans, 12 case of oil 12 of fish. - $7,800
  • Delivered $92,000 worth of donated medicines - donated