Annual Review of 2010

“God knows our situation; He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties to overcome. What matters is the sincerity and perseverance of our will to overcome them.” C.S Lewis

The year 2010 began with an earthquake that decimated most of Port-au-Prince and killed more than 220,000 people. To be honest, we did not know if we could start all over again after seeing most of our schools and programs destroyed and many friends and staff killed. But God placed this situation in our hands and gave us the energy and inspiration to begin again, and sent us the support and fellowship we needed to bring mercy and love to tens of thousands of desperate souls.

The 38 second 7.2 magnitude earthquake destroyed most of Port-au-Prince and surrounding towns. The quake destroyed 190,000 homes and left 1.5 million homeless – these people moved into the 1,100 tent camps or returned to the provinces. More than 5,000 schools were destroyed and thousands of teachers and educational workers were killed. There are 19 million cubic meters of rubble clogging the city and most of the major government buildings and records were destroyed. It was as if a nuclear bomb hit Port-au-Prince.

The horror of that January 12 afternoon and days immediately following it will stay with us forever. The dust everywhere, the cries of people trapped under rubble, the confusion and despair, the people sleeping in the roads, the blood, the fear, the aftershocks and the funerals, the tents, the mothers searching for lost children, the covered corpses lining the streets, the bathing in buckets, the fighting over food and water. All of these things continue to haunt us. We can never forget Rochelnor Registre and Innocent Lusson, the two young Haitian volunteers who perished under the rubble of our collapsed volunteer residence, and the exhausting hours of trying to reach them through tons of immovable cement and iron and dust and how we could find nobody to help us save them.

One of the first things we pulled from the rubble was a large cross that belonged to Fr. Tom’s father and mother. “That cross hung above my parent’s bed and after we pulled it from the wreckage it was all cracked and broken and damaged,” said Fr. Tom. “I cleaned it off and immediately hung it in our makeshift chapel at our base camp. When I look at it each day I am reminded that all of us are broken in some way – with missing pieces -- and that Jesus comes to us even if everything around is damaged or destroyed. That cross reminds me that God mysteriously takes what is broken and knits it together and fills it with love and goodness. I know that we are loved infinitely by God and that God will never abandon us!”

Everybody in the Hands Together family in Haiti lost something or someone. This shared loss united our staff and students and with very little outside help, we started rebuilding what was destroyed and replacing what was lost.

The fact that we’ve nearly rebuilt all of our schools and our volunteer residence and that our programs are fully operational is a testimony to the toughness and resiliency of the Haitian people. Our outreach and response to this earthquake was led and implemented by Haitians.  It was a wonderful collaboration between the compassion and generosity of Hands Together supporters in the U.S. and elsewhere, and the energy, perseverance, toughness and faith of the Haitian people who face one hardship after another.

We sincerely thank everyone who prayed for us this year. We thank every school, parish, family, business and organization that raised funds without solicitation thought of us and the needs of our children and families in Haiti.

Humility of Action

Several days after the earthquake Fr. Tom drove to the Dominican Republic with Doug Campbell to return to the U.S. to refill his medications and flew back into Haiti the next day on January 17. The only way back was on a small airplane carrying several Missionary Sisters of Charity who were returning to help the sisters in Port-au-Prince. The flight took nearly 12 hours as it made frequent refueling stops and waited for permission to land. During the long flight back, while feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of facing the destruction caused by the earthquake, Fr. Tom read the sisters simple pamphlet on “humility of action” and responding to crisis.

 “I read this simple booklet on ‘humility of action’ and realized that is exactly what Hands Together needed at that moment,” said Fr. Tom. “My mind was reeling and I had no idea where to begin, who to help – everything was destroyed and so many people had died. I was very intimidated by what was waiting for me back in Haiti.”

“But I was just so amazed at the sisters who were on that plane with me. Here were women, gathered from all over the world, flying back to Haiti to help those in greatest need, and they organized this in just a few days. Their clarity, focus and humility really helped to shape our Hands Together response,” Fr. Tom said. “They way that they mobilized and moved into action was remarkable. We learned a lot from their example and philosophy”

"We are at Jesus' disposal. If he wants you to be sick in bed, if he wants you to proclaim His work in the street, if he wants you to clean the toilets all day, that's all right, everything is all right. We must say, "I belong to you. You can do whatever you like." And this is our strength, and this is the joy of the Lord." -- Mother Teresa

Hands Together’s “Humility of Action” approach involved the following components:

  • Ask God for help. Do not allow the situation, the chaos, the destruction, the huge influx of people, and the changing dynamics to control us.
  • Through prayer, understand our true size, ability and place. Determine who we are and what we can do. For example, we realized that we are not equipped or trained to launch search and rescue operations, or to coordinate large scale medical outreach to tent cities, or to liaison with vast numbers of UN and large-scale relief operation that flooded into Haiti. We simply needed to place ourselves in God’s Hands and ask for the grace to know God’s will for us in this situation. Trust that God will use us better than any plan we come up with on our own.
  • See the work immediately before us and determine the “universe” we can best help, list the basic needs, identify whatever resources we have, and organize those who can help into outreach teams.
  • Act. Proceed with a spontaneous charity that begins with those closest to us, and radiates outward in proportion to our resources.

“A few days after the quake we gathered our staff people together at our makeshift base camp and we prayed for the grace to cope with the fact that almost everything we built in the past 20 years was destroyed,” recalls Doug Campbell.  “Sometimes you have to lose everything material before you realize that all we really have is one another and that God works through each of us in the present moment. In a few short hours we came up with a very simple plan – dividing the staff into teams led by neighborhood captains and we immediately began outreach to zones in Cite Soleil --,making repairs, giving out water, food and clothing.”

From this “Pray – Assess – Act” philosophy we created our very simple recovery plan and targeted our “Port-au-Prince Universe” – essentially the 25,000 people associated with our Becky DeWine school and the families of our primary staff. We launched into a vigorous action plan with the following priorities:

  • Water, shelter, food, and basic needs;
  • Charity Recovery grants to families and staff;
  • Providing work through clearing rubble and rebuilding;
  • Securing our base and schools;
  • Opening schools using temporary shelters and providing nutrition;
  • Health care outreach;
  • Rebuilding schools;
  • Rebuilding our headquarters.

Courage, Perseverance and Strength to Rebuild

On January 20th, Fr. Tom wrote a short email to the editor of the NCR sharing his reflections on the earthquake. Fr. Tom’s note – found in its entirety here – (Fr Tom's NCR reflection) truly captures the struggles and the wonderful spirit of the Haitian people. It speaks to wonderful mission of the church and selfless love demonstrated by sisters, priests and Catholic lay people, and it reminds us all that the world needs us and we must do our part.  

We began our recovery two days after the earthquake by digging out the two young Haitian seminarians who were crushed to death when our residence collapsed. From that moment on we worked tirelessly to help as many families as possible and to restore the Hands Together the schools and outreach programs.

“To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting  concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence. More than that it is cooperation in violence.”- Thomas Merton

“When I think of those first few weeks after the earthquake,” recalls Doug Campbell, “I still can’t believe how much progress we’ve made. The entire city was in chaos and for many months we lived in tents and had to scrounge for materials, gasoline, water and food. I can say that there are many problems in Haiti and even in the best of times it is very difficult to accomplish things.  But I will never forget the courage, perseverance and strength of our small band of workers who did so much with so little during those months immediately following that horrific day. In less than a year, we’ve not only rebuilt our schools and headquarters, but we’ve expanded and improved our programs and buildings.”

Major Earthquake Response Activities

  • Ongoing daily water truck distributions in slum areas;
  • Distributed over 220 tents to those who lost their homes;
  • Ongoing mobile clinic to 5 different areas in Cite Soleil providing free medicines and health care;
  • Purchase of a 3 room mobile medical unit that will bring urgent care to those who most need it;
  • Ongoing food kit distributions of rice, beans, oil and canned fish to thousands of elderly, residents living in the Delmas and Leogone tent cities, and residents in Cite Soleil;
  • Built temporary classrooms and made major repairs at 4 main campuses and reopened our schools on March 3rd – providing 4,000 students with daily meal and schooling;
  • Cleared away rubble from fallen residences, constructed new offices and storage depot;
  • Provided 300 HT staff with charity grants to help them with housing and other personal needs;
  • Provided construction jobs to more than 100 people in Cite Soleil;
  • Drilled 16 water wells.

“We took an inventory of our losses and then we got right to work. Everything was coordinated by our Haitian staff and I think that is big reason why got things done. Of course, we accepted supplies, food, tents from the U.S. military, from other agencies and from donors, but the actual hands-on work was carried out by our Haitian staff and family,” recalls Doug Campbell. “Our doctor lived with his family in our bus for 4 months and circulated among our school campuses treating the sick and injured, our school principals and teachers organized the clean up and rubble removal, our administrative organized food and water distributions, our drivers circulated among the neighborhoods with our water truck. We did our own building, and with help from engineers in the U.S., we created a well trained team that could rebuild our schools, offices and residence using earthquake resistant techniques.”

Cholera and tropical storm Tomas

In late September we opened our schools and felt a deep satisfaction at seeing more than 5,000 children return to rebuilt classrooms, new kitchens and improved recreation areas. But the sense of accomplishment was short-lived as Haiti was hit by an October outbreak of cholera that killed thousands and overwhelmed a strained health system. Then on November 4, tropical storm Tomas pounded Port-au-Prince and forced us to evacuate many elderly people from the slums and help thousands of displaced families with food and blankets.

We responded to the Cholera outbreak by implementing a preventative program in our schools in the Artibonite region of northern Haiti and in Cite Soleil.

Summary of Cholera Prevention Program (click here to see a copy of our Cholera Prevention Booklet)

  • Educational and training on Cholera prevention in 12 schools in the Artibonite and 8 schools in Cite Soleil;
  • Construction of water cisterns at all schools for delivery of clean, uncontaminated water for all students and staff;
  •  Implementation of a decontamination program  -- distributing booklets and Clorox to staff, students and parents -- to clean all schools and prevent the spread of cholera;
  • Treatment of those infected with Cholera by our staff doctor and health care team.

Thankfully, tropical storm Tomas hit Haiti with much less force than predicted. We used our bus and other vehicles to temporarily locate elderly and families displaced by flooding. We distributed 748 food kits and 478 blanket & hygiene kits. Two days after the storm we repaired several small bridges near our schools and fixed the homes of several of our teachers and students. 

Summary of Gifts - 2010

Hands Together has never received the kind of support that we did in 2010. Of course the earthquake ignited the goodness and generosity of our friends, but it still touches us deeply that so many offered to help without being asked. More than 4,000 people and groups donated just over $3,000,000 to Hands Together to help the victims of the Haiti earthquake. We were humbled by the unsolicited outreach and continued support from so many of our friends and we will never forget all of those who helped us during such a difficult time.

Our total revenue for 2010 totaled more than $7million dollars, nearly double the 2009 total.

A salute to Mary’s Meals

We humbly recognize and thank our dear friends from Mary’s Meals who donated more than $1,000,000 toward our earthquake recovery and rebuilding. These funds provided ongoing elderly food distributions, purchased a 3 room mobile medical facility, allowed school feeding from March through July, funded reconstruction of our office base, created temporary classrooms for our schools, funded the new school in Warf Jeremy, and provided medical supplies to our clinics and partners. Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, Mary’s Meals CEO, was one of the first ones on the ground to help us and made many return trips to give encouragement and financial support. We thank God for our special Mary’s Meals blessings.

Our Friends from Holy Family in South Pasadena

The wonderful people of Holy Family Parish and their Mission Haiti committee continue to support us through prayer, supplies and volunteer help. Each year they fill containers with supplies for our schools, office base and agricultural projects. We are grateful to them for their extraordinary financial support and we are honored by their commitment to help Haiti.

Oblates of St. Francis de Sales Wilmington, Switzerland and Germany

We gratefully acknowledge the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales for their outpouring of love and support to us during this difficult year and humbly recognize their tremendous generosity.

Fran and Mike DeWine and Family

The operations of our Becky DeWine School are funded largely through the contributions and fund raising efforts of the DeWine family. The students and parents are indebted to them for their love and support.

Summary of Earthquake Recovery & Haiti Projects

Donations after the earthquake were far greater than anything we might have predicted. We received far more than we needed in the short term, and for this reason, we created a comprehensive, earthquake recovery spending plan to help us use these donations wisely and for their intended purpose. During 2010 we received 4.1 million dollars specifically for earthquake recovery and as of December 31, 2010 we spent 2.76 million.

Rebuilding and recovery from this earthquake takes time and our recovery plan extends for 3 years. There is an appalling lack of heavy duty equipment and rebuilding resources, but probably too many “volunteers on the ground” to make rapid progress. We have dedicated ourselves to using our Haitian staff to do the work. Most of the demolition and removal of rumble was done by hand, using wheelbarrows, picks, and saws. The Haitian people desperately want and need jobs and employment creation is a key to solving many of the problems in Haiti today.

The tables below summarize spending on our major programs and on earthquake recovery.

Rebuilding & Operating the Becky Dewine School

Before the earthquake, the Becky DeWine School contained 6400 students in a 7 campus structure that was spread among 5 major zones of Cite Soleil. Two of these campus locations were completely destroyed and the 5 others suffered severe structural damages. By using temporary classrooms we opened schools in March and worked tirelessly to repair the damaged buildings. As of December 31, 2010 we completed 70% of total reconstruction.

Charity Jezi Recovery Grants & Emergency Intervention

Everyone who worked for Hands Together continued to receive a salary and we gave special recovery grants for housing and emergency needs on an individual basis. We focused our charity on the HT Universe – essentially 20,000 people – and helped many students and parents with housing, clothes and base necessities.

“There was not time to organize complicated projects, or to oversee large scale rebuilding or housing projects. People needed help now, and we felt that the folks who worked for us and whose children went to our school, would know how to use any cash grant better than we did,” said Doug Campbell when explaining the Charity Jezi program. “All we really did was create a one page explanation of the program that explained why we were giving this grant and suggested ways in which they might want to consider spending in wisely, but after that, the money went into the hands of the people who worked for us and it was up to them decide how to spend it.”

Nutrition - School & Elderly Feeding, Food Distributions

With donations from Mary’s Meals and food kits from BND we distributed more than 10,000 food kits of rice, beans, oil and salmon. Student and Elderly daily meals began in late February and continued throughout the year. We feed 1,200 elderly and 8,700 students per day.

“The elderly really suffer – they get pushed aside when large aid groups give out food. They just aren’t strong enough to wait in huge lines of people and sometimes if they do receive a package it is often stolen from them. So from January – June we gave them a daily meal and every two weeks sent them home with a care package of rice, beans, oil and salmon. Seeing their faces as they leave with their food kits is one of the indescribable gifts God provides to help us carry on.” – Doug Campbell

Headquarters, Supplies and Logistics, Staff & Salaries, Vehicles

The earthquake destroyed our offices and damaged our vehicles. We converted our storage and parking area into a makeshift headquarters and ran everything from small shacks of tin and plywood while we worked to construct new offices and storage areas. We purchased a used dump truck to help with rubble removal and rebuilding. Each week our water truck fills our school cisterns, brings water to constructions sites and delivers drinking water to several tent cities. Increased donations of goods and supplies prompted us to lease warehouse space and enlist the services of a customs clearance broker – greatly facilitating our ability to receive containers, boxes of medical and schools supplies, and vehicles.

“I lived in a tent until September. There were about 14 people living in tents in our compound, with very little water or bathroom facilities. There was so much going on all the time, our offices were crammed with workers trying to get everything done, trying to rebuild schools, outfit classrooms, get our kitchens up and running, and clear an area to start building our volunteer residents. It really seems miraculous when I consider how much we progress we’ve made already.” – Fr. Tom Hagan

Rebuilding & Expanding our Volunteer Compound

One of the things we learned from this past year was that we need outside help to improve our schools and other programs. The last project in our rebuilding plan was the creation of a volunteer compound that would house our long term community and short term helpers. We purchased the plot adjacent to our original volunteer house that collapsed in the earthquake and designed a compound with dormitories, apartments, kitchen, dining area, lecture and conference rooms, parking and garage and bath house facilities. Construction began in September and we hope to complete the compound by May, 2011.

Health & Medical Outreach

Dr. Fanfan Blookington ran daily mobile clinics, circulating among our damaged school campuses – treating hundreds of sick and injured. During the Cholera outbreak Dr. Fanfan and our health workers treated hundreds of infected people and implemented a comprehensive cholera prevention program at all our school campuses. In the Gonaives area we built clean water distribution cisterns at 12 rural schools and taught cholera prevention to 2800 students, 113 staff and hundreds of parents & local residents. Because of violence and the volatile nature of our clinic in the Boston section of Cite Soleil, we purchased a 3-room mobile medical RV clinic that can travel directly to where it is needed, and return to safety of our HQ in Port-au-Prince. During 2011 we will create a mobile clinic team, comprised of U.S. medical volunteers and our existing Haitian health team and the mobile clinic will follow circulate among poor areas in the  tent cities and slums of P-au-P and the remote, rarely serviced villages in the Artibonite.

Dr. Jim Dellavalle, Hands Together’s primary medical advisor spearheaded this project. “I was honored to be part of the planning and the design of this vehicle,” said Dr. Dellavalle. “The HT Mobile Clinic was designed to be the cutting edge/state of the art medical clinic for the Republic of Haiti. This sturdy, self contained unit has everything you need to bring quality health care to the very sick: exam rooms, power, water, x-ray ready, air conditioning and toilet facilities. There are 3 air-conditioned rooms and plenty of storage for meds and records. It is a very sturdy chassis and can reach remote areas. I know that once we have our team trained and operational we will help thousand of people.”  

HTG Office, Rural Schools and Rural Development Projects

The Hands Together Gonaives office (HTG) focuses on helping the poorest of the poor outside of Port-au-Prince and executes the mission of Hands Together through 5 areas of assistance: 1) Education, 2) Agriculture, 3) Environment, 4) Water-Irrigation, and 5) Emergency Intervention. Fr. Gerard Dormevil, director of HTG, says, “We share in the Church’s mission to bring God’s love to the poor and share our lives with the poor. Dignity comes to the Haitian people living in the rural areas when they realize their dreams, when they use the land to be free of outside help and keep them from migrating to Port-au-Prince, when the children take care of their environment and cherish what God has given them. This is the mission behind our agricultural and environmental outreach.”

HTG provides special feeding and operating assistance to 8 of the poorest diocesan schools and salary support and we provide teacher’s salary supplements, benches and school repairs to the 98 diocesan schools.

Spiritual & Emotional Counseling to 450 Orphaned Children

More than 3,000 orphaned children arrived in Gonaives immediately after the earthquake. Most of them were absorbed by the Catholic schools in Gonaives and lived in the homes of other students or relatives. But we quickly learned that they suffered greatly from post-earthquake trauma; they lacked concentration in school, did not eat or sleep well and had trouble interacting with other students. “We targeted 450 of the most affected children and provided ongoing counseling to help them with their fears, adoption issues, and emotional problems,” said Fr. Gerard. “After six months we saw great improvement in their ability to cope with life, and this liberated the students and helped them not close their hearts to God’s love.”

Agricultural & Environmental Development, Water Resources

The Clarke Family Farm and CCFP (Catholic Agriculture & Environment Center) are the primary conduits for our development work in rural Haiti. Both projects proceed from the Catholic Social teaching that centers on the dignity of human life. “A farm or agricultural system that ignores economic realities is in financial trouble. An agricultural system that ignores or neglects moral principles is in ethical trouble.” (U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops) We wish to emphasize the basic tenets of the Catholic faith and Agriculture: I. The right to food, II. The call to family, community, and participation, III. Option for the poor and vulnerable, IV. Dignity of Work, V. Solidarity, VI. Respect for Creation. Our goal is infuse participating farmers with spiritual tools to cope with the difficulties of life in the rural areas of Haiti

The CCFP recently completed a 2 year “Ecological Weekend Workshop” program for 98 schools and provided training on composting, tree planting, waste disposal and general environmental protection to thousands of students and teachers. These students have already planted more than 40,000 small trees in and around Gonaives and started garbage clean up and recycling programs in their schools. “There is a remarkable difference between the schools that participated in the weekend workshop and those that did not. If you visit an ecologically trained school, you will find garbage cans, clean playgrounds and trees that are planted on the grounds – you won’t find that at a school that did not participate.” says Rony Charles, program coordinator of the CCFP. The CCFP is home to a 350 member peasant cooperative, PRODIB, and helps them with introducing high yield cash crops and efficient irrigation water systems. PRODIB is quickly moving toward self-sufficiency and they run an effective credit bank that maintains a balance of nearly $70,000 from which members may take low interest loans to help them advance small business and farms.

The Clarke Farm project is a 60 acre plot of crop land located 5 miles southeast of Gonaives, Haiti. Its primary purpose is to help the poor by addressing root causes of poverty and empower peasant farmers to best use their own resources, and to provide training for students who wish to pursue a vocation in agriculture.

“Our vision is to help farmers become better farmers and improve their quality of life. We can do this by using all that is available to us on the land. With good irrigation, seeds, tools, and techniques, farmers can produce not only enough produce to take care of one’s family, but create a good business and make a profit. Early on, we see the value of providing a stipend to “work” the land on the project and learn by doing. What we need most right now, are some well-trained people to help us manage and advance the projects,” says John Clarke, Hands Together trustee.

Two agricultural technicians work with a 18 young students who graduated from local Gonaives schools, and 20 young farmers from several villages near Gonaives. We are also working with a group of 10 older farmers from the Trou Sable area, who left their rural villages years ago looking for work in Gonaives but now wish to return to farming.

The technicians teach theory and practical strategies to help farmers improve productions and manage their resources better. This is difficult and slow moving work. There is a “mentality of resistance to new ideas” that seems to dominate the average peasant farmer, and only persistent and repetitive teaching seems to penetrate this resistance to change.

We place a great emphasis on experimental farming – encouraging the participants to try different variations of crops to see what grows best and yields highest cash value crops. Already we’ve succeeded with crops of Papaya, hot peppers, spinach, eggplant, banana, garlic, onions, oranges and melons. Fertilizers from on-site composts greatly increase crop yields. Participants can keep 80% of the crop profits and 20% are reinvested into the farm to repay seeds and fuel and development costs. The goal is train young people to be real Agronomists and help them form small business farms and also help rural villages. Another goal is to bring existing rural farmers onto the farm for 2 year training periods and help them develop high cash crop yields and form community cooperatives that will better organize the farmers to increase profits.

We continue experimenting with the Mandalla project (a special design for small subsistence plots that strategically lays out a personal garden around a fish farm basin) and we will introduce this model to rural families so that they can feed their families, even if their cash crops do not produce high yields.