During the half-year since an earthquake unleashed massive destruction in Haiti, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has been devoted to both providing immediate assistance to survivors and laying the groundwork for a large-scale, long-term recovery effort.
Haiti is not out of the woods yet, not by a long shot. But over the past six months, the Haitian people have begun to mobilize for their recovery. UMCOR is there and digging in for the long haul.
UMCOR’s chief partner in both immediate relief and long-range recovery in Haiti is L’Eglise Methodiste d’Haiti (EMH), the Methodist Church of Haiti.
Just days after the disaster, when UMCOR staff arrived in Haiti and proposed a distribution of food and clean water among earthquake survivors, EMH personnel identified the neediest people from among an ocean of needy people to receive the aid. EMH volunteers then carried out the distribution.
UMCOR has since reopened a field office in Port-au-Prince (the original office closed in 2008) and is collaborating with EMH in the development of cash-for-work programs for survivors, demolition and debris removal, and strengthening and developing the church’s human resources.
With thousands of US-based volunteers anxious to lend a hand in Haiti, UMCOR worked with EMH and United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) to establish an arrangement whereby US volunteers could serve in Haiti without displacing Haitian workers in need of a recovery job. Under the arrangement, for every US volunteer on a project, two Haitians are at work.
From the start of the disaster, UMCOR has made grants to other partners already on the ground in Haiti. Collaborations include provision of clean water and emergency medical supplies with Global Medic, livelihoods support via Haitian Artisans for Peace International; medicine and emergency health interventions via Grace Children’s Hospital; and community health support via Global Health Action.
UMCOR is also an active partner in Action by Churches Together (ACT) Alliance and is supporting ACT sister organizations with grants for projects meant to enhance the living conditions of the most vulnerable Haitians affected by the earthquake.
Immediate assistance to those affected by the quake also has been made available to Haitians living in the United States by way of UMCOR’s Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON) program, US Annual Conferences, and Refugee Ministry.
JFON set up a series of immigration clinics to help Haitian immigrants take advantage of the US government’s offer of temporary protected status (TPS), while Refugee Ministry collaborated with partner Church World Service to support Haitian medical evacuees, and their families, in the US for treatment. The Florida Annual Conference is providing support services for Haitian evacuees, their families and communities through the South Florida Urban Ministries program.
The UMCOR Haiti field office, which was reestablished in February, is digging in its heels for long-term recovery, just as other UMCOR field offices have done in Indonesia (following the 2004 tsunami), Sudan, Sri Lanka, and other emergency situations.
EMH assistance was invaluable in locating and leasing an office for the mission in Port-au-Prince. Staff, including an operations coordinator, a finance director, a shelter and reconstruction coordinator, and a church liaison, have since been hired. Soon, a livelihoods coordinator and a water, sanitation and hygiene coordinator will round out the team.
Field office staff participate in United Nations-coordinated cluster meetings, which organize nongovernmental relief groups into specific focus areas. UMCOR Haiti has defined three areas of focus for its recovery work: shelter, livelihoods, and water/sanitation/hygiene. It is also working with the education cluster to set up school tents, so that children can return to classes.
At this writing, a shipping container filled with health kits and school kits is on its way to the UMCOR field office in Haiti. Kits have been prepared in the hundreds of thousands by United Methodists in the US who are eager to help.
Although UMCOR managed to send kits to Haiti over the past several months via relief partners such as Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach, Bahamas Habitat, and Catholic Medical Mission Board, this is the first container to be sent directly from UMCOR Sager Brown depot to the UMCOR Haiti field office. More will follow.
In addition to the work of the field office, the UMCOR Health unit is preparing to address health concerns as part of the recovery effort. In April, the unit met with health and hospital partners active in Haiti and in the Methodist Hospital network in the United States, to assess needs.
A follow-up visit to Haiti determined that the most pressing health needs are the building and assembling of a physical therapy unit, which is planned for Grace Children’s Hospital, and the funding of an Individual Mission Volunteer health coordinator to organize medical volunteers who have offered their services in large numbers.
In mid-June, UMCOR executives met in Haiti with 25 leaders of EMH and collaborators from the Methodist Church of Great Britain and the United Church of Canada to envision a future for Haiti beyond the earthquake and the many years of recovery to come.
They drew the broad strokes of a development plan that would focus on health, education, microenterprise, and agriculture. The details of a framework for moving the plan forward will be filled in over the next six months.
UMCOR will partner with the people of Haiti for years to come. Gifts to support UMCOR's work can be made online by visiting www.umcorhaiti.org.
Hoosier United Methodists have given more than $800,000 to Haiti recovery efforts. One-hundred percent of these funds will be used in Haiti for relief and recovery.
For gifts by mail, please make checks payable to Indiana Conference UMC, and mail to Indiana Conference Center, 301 Pennsylvania Parkway, Suite 300, Indianapolis, IN 46280. Please indicate Haiti Emergency, UMCOR Advance #418325 on the memo line of your check. One hundred percent of gifts made to this advance will help the people of Haiti. Thank you for your contribution.
A young woman is at her chores outside a makeshift home, on a rubble-strewn street.