Sometimes it is hard to visualize how humanitarian aid works. We want to see empirical data that represents value for dollars. As Deputy Director of Disaster Response, I am often asked the question, “What is World Concern doing to help Haiti?”
I can respond with facts and figures from the first year post earthquake: 7,091 Haitians have been given temporary employment, 1,284 houses have been repaired, 530 transitional shelters have been constructed, 989 grants have enabled Haitian business owners to get back to work, 32 churches were repaired or rebuilt; but those figures don’t tell the entire story.
World Concern has served in Haiti for more than 30 years, and some of our staff have worked for us more than 20 of those years. When the earthquake struck on January 12, 2010, every one of our more than 90 staff was directly affected.
The past year has indeed been a difficult one for Haiti, with political struggles, natural disasters and the outbreak of a disease not seen for decades. Again, the World Concern Haitian staff has endured these trials and not given up their work.
Some of our staff live in transitional housing, in camps, or in houses that need structural repair, yet they continue to meet the needs of more vulnerable people in their community. In the past year, these employees have learned many new skills, as we implement programs to get Haitians back on their feet. Some have learned to coordinate and run community gatherings, or participate in meetings with international agencies. Some have developed peacemaking skills, as they talk with disgruntled and frustrated people.
The World Concern staff is recognized in several communities for their knowledge of cholera treatment and promotion of good hygiene. They have gained respect among their neighbors, and set an example on our work sites. Many have improved their English skills, and are much more confident speaking in their third language.
Engineer Michel Miliri says, “[World Concern] has allowed me to help communities where I have lived.” And community liaison Belony Dorilien said, “The emergency program has allowed me to help people through activities I believe in.”
This is really how humanitarian aid works. Up to 90% of the work is done by disaster victims. Many staff told me World Concern programs solve problems that communities would not be able to address on their own, but this is not entirely true. Our World Concern Haiti team is solving problems in their own communities. They have been battle-tested, and have come through the past year better equipped to bring life, opportunity and hope to the poorest of the poor in their country.
To learn more about how World Concern is helping in Haiti, visit www.HaitiOneYear.org.
Chris Sheach is World Concern’s Deputy Director of Disaster Response.