Tag Archives: haiti earthquake

From tents to transitional shelters – things are improving in Haiti

From tent to transitional shelter - what a difference!

From tent to transitional shelter - what a difference!

One of the best parts of my job is the opportunity to return to disaster areas and see change. Yesterday I visited the Nazon neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I’m usually pretty good at recognizing landmarks and navigating in a place I’ve been before, but a lot has changed in the past three months – and that’s good to see. Countless times I stopped suddenly on our walk to exclaim, “This road was impassable before!” or “Where did that house come from?”

It’s interesting how, when you see the change gradually, like my Haitian colleagues, it seems unremarkable. For me, the difference was a pleasant surprise. Sure, you may hear that “little is being done” and “only 15% of the rubble has been removed,” but I can tell you, in the areas where World Concern works, the difference is huge.

Our walk was interrupted several times to stop and greet people. “This is one of our beneficiaries … this is one of our carpenters … this man is on the neighborhood committee.” I jokingly suggested that one of our community liaison officers should just move to Nazon, as she is more a member of this community than her own. Julie seemed to seriously consider the idea for a minute, before laughing and saying, “Only if I get a World Concern shelter to live in!”

Julie’s work, and that of the other liaison officers, is quite obvious. When I visited Nazon in the past, the community was distrustful of my motives. Yesterday, told me how great the work of our staff was, thanked me for our involvement in the community, and asked how World Concern will be involved in the next phase of reconstruction.

Another difference I noticed is the level of energy. Haitians have endured so much since the earthquake, with annual hurricanes, a deadly cholera outbreak, civil unrest and a disputed election process. Even so, streets that were formerly filled with rubble are now lined with merchants plying their trade, and people involved in the reconstruction process.

Serge and Sergio

Twin brothers Serge and Sergio helped World Concern rebuild their house.

I met Serge and Sergio, fraternal twin brothers in their mid-20s. These men were eager to have secure housing before the imminent hurricane season, but the narrow alley to their property was inaccessible to World Concern delivery trucks. Rather than waiting for staff to transport all the building materials by hand, Serge and Sergio donned gloves and hard hats and joined the work team, moving truckloads of sand, gravel and rocks by wheelbarrow load themselves.

This kind of enthusiasm is contagious. All over Nazon, you can see posters youth have created encouraging people to take an active role in rebuilding their own community.

Now that’s progress!

For more on World Concern’s work in Haiti, visit www.worldconcern.org/haiti.

Moved to respond: expertise in disasters

First responders in Japan.

Japan's first responders provide aid after the devastating earthquake on March 11, 2011. Reuters photo.

Watching the earthquake and tsunami disaster unfold in northeastern Japan this week has been painful for all of us. Hundreds of thousands of people have been impacted, and aftershocks continue on a daily basis, reminding the Japanese people that this tragedy is far from over.

World Concern, a member of the Global Relief Alliance, is responding by working through alliance partners that were already in place and at work in Japan prior to the disaster. Some may wonder why we’re not loading our staff onto a plane and heading into the disaster zone. Believe me, as a member of our disaster response team, it’s hard for us to “wait this one out,” but it’s important that we do so.

After the Haiti earthquake, we were able to respond immediately  because we have worked in that country for 30 years, had staff in place, and were able to make an immediate impact, utilizing resources and donation dollars in the best way possible. But the disaster in Japan is very different on a number of levels.

I have been encouraged by the response being undertaken in Japan. Countless lives have no doubt been spared by the efficiency of their mobilized volunteers, military, and emergency response teams. Rapid assessments, organized distribution lines for rations and water, and shelter provisions reduce uncertainty and anxiety.  Heavy equipment has been mobilized, clearing roads and restoring communications and transportation. Japan has very accurate national registries (hence their ability to report the numbers of those who are missing) and has reached out to contact everyone in the affected areas. The Japanese have been a model of disaster response, and we have lessons to learn about how we can improve our own system in North America to match theirs.

Contrast this with Haiti’s 2010 earthquake or Cyclone Nargis, which hit Myanmar in 2008, where the number of victims will never truly be known due to lack of census records in the affected areas. The needs in these countries overwhelmed the fragile states, and basic necessities were unattainable. They desperately needed international support, simply to get food, water, and basic medical attention. World Concern had offices and programs in these places prior to the disasters and responded directly. We have continued to work – and will continue – in these countries long after they have faded from the headlines.

In Japan, after the immediate search and rescue and medical emergency needs are met, Japan’s disaster response teams will determine their need for additional help. Meanwhile, we are standing by, ready to deploy if needed in the field. Until that time, we will provide technical assistance and support to our partners on the ground, maximizing our team’s expertise and your donations.

Please join us in praying for the victims of this tragedy and their families, for the government of Japan as it coordinates the response, and for Christian partners and the church in Japan, as they work to support the local authorities and care for their neighbors.

For more information, visit www.worldconcern.org/disasters.

Crafter turns passion into action

Here’s the truth: the work of World Concern will not happen without the support of others who get behind it. The more people engage with us and what we’re doing, the bigger difference we’re able to make. It’s that simple.

Minneapolis resident Diana Neidecker came up with a very cool idea. She’s donating a percentage of the February sales from her Etsy site to World Concern. Here’s why, in her own words:

After work, Blake and I spent over an hour on World Concern’s Facebook page, looking at all the incredible photos. We love the mission, the idea of empowerment and the way you are lifting all of these wonderful countries up.

Back in first grade, I had an assignment asking me my three wishes for the world. I answered with 1) enough money for the poor; 2) to save the environment; and 3) to have all kids be safe at night.
That paper is hung up in our craft room. I love it. Not much has changed in my since 1991. Blake and I are super conscious about the products, companies and practices that we use/utilize in our lives.

The day of the Haiti earthquake, the two of us were out to eat and couldn’t stop talking about the quake and what we could do to help. I immediately donated my paycheck, but still didn’t feel satisfied. A few days later, I just knew I had to be there. After talking and planning, we decided to spend the month of July there, helping to deconstruct a five-story boys’ home that fell.

Diana and Blake with Haitian workers.

Diana and Blake working in Haiti, July 2010.

I get chills just thinking about how this trip impacted us. We worked with a crew of 14 Haitian guys clearing rubble by bucket line. Blake and I live a pretty modest lifestyle, but showering with a bucket and eating two small meals a day really made us think. We were able to tour a tent city and so many people trusted us enough to answer tough and honest questions about money, lifestyle and what they really need.

We are very interested in making Haiti a part of our lives. We would love to go back at least once a year. Also, learning fluent Creole has been a goal of ours. In the next two to three years, we would actually like to start the adoption process and adopt one or two orphans.

I do photography and I also knit. In the past few months, I have realized that I am meant to create for a living. It’s been a hobby for years, but I am now ready to make a life of creating.

For the month of February, I have decided to give 35-40% of all earnings from my business to World Concern to use for microloans or goats in Haiti – I love the idea of giving goats! I know that the more ways I can reach people and help, everybody will benefit.”

Wow! Thanks Diana and Blake for all you’re doing for the people of Haiti.

Diana's knitting.

Diana wearing a few of her cozy, hand-knitted items.

Check out Diana’s Etsy at http://dianapantz.etsy.com

You can also read her blog post announcing this project at http://flytothewall.blogspot.com/2011/02/big-news.html

Spreading the truth about cholera

Sugar, salt and water make oral rehydration solution

Participants in a cholera prevention outreach learn to make oral rehydration solution from sugar, salt and purified water.

I’m sitting in a packed church in Port-au-Prince, with 500 people filling every row, the concrete stairs, and the balcony. The sermon today is not delivered by a pastor. Instead on this hot Thursday, health workers are delivering the vital message about cholera: how to prevent it, how to treat it, how to survive an illness that can kill within hours.

World Concern’s work here at Eglise de Dieu Jean 3:16 is likely saving lives. People in the audience are learing a health message that they have not heard before. The interactive lesson allows questions from the audience, and people do have questions.

Though you may know cholera is spread with contaminated water, feces and unsanitary conditions – many people in Haiti don’t know. Superstition often precedes knowledge. In the past few weeks, dozens of people involved in voodoo have been lynched for the baseless belief they are spreading cholera. Without good information, people come to their own conclusions. We’re making sure they know the truth – and get basic supplies to prevent cholera’s deadly spread.

For more information, please visit www.worldconcern.org/haiti

cholera information on a chalk board

Life-saving cholera information is presented to community members at a church in Port-au-Prince Haiti by World Concern.

Thank you for making 2010 amazing!

Children in Haiti received "Kids' Healing Kits," one part of a large response that has helped more than 100,000 people after the earthquake.

This past year was a mixture of tragedy and triumph in the world of humanitarian aid. It began with one of the worst disasters of our time. As eyes were glued to the news coverage of the massive earthquake in Haiti, hearts were moved to help. Donations came pouring in. The response was overwhelming, and it renewed our faith in the amazing generosity of people.

World Concern, being on the front lines in Haiti, went to work. There was food and water to be distributed, tarps to be hung, and medical supplies to be delivered. Then, there were, and still are, lives to be rebuilt.

The response in Haiti was a huge part of 2010, both in terms of donations and accomplishments. But it wasn’t everything World Concern did with your help. There were projects completed in numerous impoverished countries, and new ones started. There were children educated and protected, wells dug, fields planted, houses built and jobs created. In all, we’ve reached nearly 6 million people with assistance.

We praise God for all that has been accomplished. As we reflect on 2010 and look ahead to 2011, we also want to thank you. Without our donors, none of this would be possible. You are truly partners in this work.

Here’s a look back at just a few of the amazing, creative ways people gave in 2010:

  • A kindergartner raised $3,641 for Haiti earthquake relief.
  • A group of inner-city children sold lemonade and cookies to build a house in Haiti.
  • A teenager gave up his birthday to help others in need.
  • Families decided to forego more “stuff” for Christmas and gave meaningful, life-changing gifts.
  • Bloggers dedicated space to making a difference in the world.
  • A young donor sends a beautiful letter with her donation, entrusting us to help others with it.

In all of this, please take joy in what you’ve done with us. You played an essential role in 2010, and we pray you join us in our quest to ease suffering in the coming year.

Thank you and happy New Year!

– The World Concern Team

Inner City Kids Donate to Build House in Haiti

World Concern recently received a check for $1,313 to build a house for a family in Haiti left homeless after the earthquake. Receiving donations of this size is always a joy, but what makes this donation extraordinary is that the kids who sent it come from poverty themselves. The check came from a group of about 40 children, ranging from preschool through fifth grade, who attended East End Fellowship’s Vacation Bible School in an inner city neighborhood of Richmond, Virginia.

East End Fellowship meets in an old theater in Church Hill, a neighborhood where 82 percent of families are single parent households, and 37 percent live below the federal poverty line ($17,600 for a family of four). Half of the population is unemployed, and 50 percent of high school freshmen will not graduate.

Despite the impoverished state of the community, church members and parents decided the children would benefit from a mission project—something to allow them the chance to help others who are less fortunate than them. They decided to donate enough money to World Concern to help build a house in Haiti. Their goal was $1,200.

VBS kids baking cookies.

All of the children from the VBS class helped bake cookies.

“We knew the kids couldn’t bring the money in themselves,” said Ashley Hall, a church member and mother of three who participated in Vacation Bible School.

They decided to sell cookies and lemonade—each child having a hand in baking the cookies and manning the lemonade stand.  They set up two stands—one on a busy corridor and another near an abandoned building. And the community came out in droves to support them.

Each afternoon, they brought in their collection boxes and tallied up donations. The kids were amazed to learn that by Friday, they had exceeded their goal.

“It was really, truly amazing,” said Ashley. “It was great for the kids to see that they can make a difference. The whole goal was to have them look outside themselves.”

VBS kids sell lemonade.

Kids from East End Fellowship's VBS class sold lemonade and cookies at two stands, raising enough money for a house in Haiti.

East End Fellowship partnered in this endeavor with another community group called CHAT, which stands for Church Hill Activities and Tutoring, and was started by Angie and Percy Strickland, who moved to the neighborhood in 2002 with a mission to connect with the community’s youth. CHAT and other ministries in the area are influenced by the principles of the Christian Community Development Association, which promotes a development model that encourages people like themselves to become a part of a community to help it heal, rather than lofting in resources and people from the outside.

This model matches that of World Concern, which strives to lift the world’s poorest communities in places like Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia out of poverty with holistic, long term development. World Concern engages community members in their own growth through education programs, vocational and agricultural training, water and sanitation projects, healthcare programs and employment opportunities. In Haiti, for example, the house East End Fellowship’s children paid for will be built by Haitian workers hired through World Concern’s Cash for Work program. The program not only teaches marketable skills, such as construction, but helps boost Haiti’s economy by employing local workers.

To learn more about World Concern’s model for community development, visit www.worldconcern.org/whatwedo.

To learn more about East End Fellowship, visit www.eastendfellowship.org.

Tangible ways to change lives in the poorest places on earth

A few months back I saw a photograph of a boy sifting through garbage in a dump in Bangladesh, looking for something that wasn’t rotten to eat. My heart ached for him, and I felt compelled to help this young victim of extreme poverty in some way.  Short of praying for him to receive help, there didn’t seem much I could do for that particular boy. But I can help others just like him, in some very tangible ways. And so can you.

Think about how buying a farm animal for a family goes so far beyond a temporary fix – it’s a source of lasting income and nutrition. Or, how sending a child like that boy in the dump to school for a year, or purchasing a uniform and school supplies, offer hope for a better future beyond a single meal or hand out.

World Concern’s Global Gift Guide literally allows you to “shop” for ways to transform lives with powerfully meaningful gifts. At the same time, you’re solving the dilemma of what to get friends and family members this holiday season.

The 2011 Global Gift Guide is hot off the press and in the mail this week, or you can also easily order online. Here’s what’s new this year:

solar cooker

A solar cooker saves money normally spent on cooking fuel in Chad.

A solar cooker for a Darfur war refugee in Chad. Imagine cooking in a crock pot, heated by the sun’s energy. But its benefits go far beyond a warm meal. A solar cooker means that women who usually gather firewood will no longer have to risk her safety gathering sticks – or spend her family’s meager income on fuel for cooking. Plus, her children can’t burn themselves on the solar cooker, and the family’s hut is safe from fire.

A profitable pig for a family in Myanmar. One sow can produce 20 piglets a year, and in six months, each piglet grows to 200 pounds. Pigs produce pigs – and in turn – help make an income. They also provide protein for undernourished girls and boys in this country recovering from a devastating cyclone.

Farm tools to share. A donkey or horse plow, automatic seeder, horse cart or peanut huller helps up to 25 families.  This gear, including a horse plow, is shared or rented – making higher-yield production. The farm tools benefit families in Chad who are refugees or displaced because of the Darfur war.

haiti earthquake damage

A gift of "disaster response" from the Global Gift Guide helps communities rebuild after a disaster.

Disaster recovery for a community. With the one-year anniversary of the massive earthquake in Haiti approaching on Jan. 12, and an estimated one million people still homeless, your Christmas shopping money could mean  a family is equipped to start their live over in a disaster-torn community. What could have more impact than shelter from a storm or being able to restart a business that was destroyed?

In addition to these new items, the guide is full of life-changing gifts: wells for villages in Kenya, schooling for a deaf child in Bangladesh, plus vegetable gardens, orchards, immunizations and business loans.

Please join us and share this with your friends. You can make a lasting difference in the lives of others – including your loved ones in whose names the gifts are given.

Merry Christmas!

Building Homes, Empowering Haitians

We’ve had many delays as we rebuild in Haiti, but we’ve heard some great news. Our new Haitian staff are getting the hang of home construction and are taking on more responsibilities. This is exactly what we want to happen and truly an answer to prayer.

Since the earthquake, Humanitarian Aid organization World Concern has employed thousands of Haitians to clear rubble and repair or replace houses that were damaged or destroyed. More than 600 homes have already been repaired, and crews continue to complete approximately 80 homes per week. Now, we’re on to a new phase: assembling 500 “house-in-a-box” kits.

The following entry is from Scott Mitchell, who is from Seattle and overseeing the construction. The homes were in shipping containers, but the containers were held up in customs in Port-au-Prince for several weeks. It was a big frustration and delayed the unloading and construction schedule.

Here’s some of what Scott said on his blog:

I have been in Haiti 52 days. I was brought down here to build shelters I remember thinking before I left I had to put up 7 shelters a day to make it work. This is shelter number 1 of 500. By the grace of God He had different plans!

The team assembling 500 kit houses.

The team of workers hired to construct 500 "kit" houses in Haiti.

The picture here is the shelter team that will be doing the work. We all were pretty happy that this one shelter is put up. We took time at the end of the day to just thank Jesus and ask for more grace. We all need it. I don’t know where I would be without it.  We should be putting one up in the field next week. I am excited to see what God is doing with this team.

There are those that are here to learn, and learn they did. The difference between Monday and Friday was huge—going from never using a drill to now building a complete structure using nothing but screws to hold it together. They went from moving individual pieces of metal out of a container to putting roof structures that they build onto a shelter. They went from bug-eyed wonder to wonderful smiles of joy and a sense of competence. They went from not knowing a thing about metal to teaching others about metal.

A team from Steel Elements that was brought in to build the jigs (jigs are templates to build the building by) was amazed at the progress. They even went from a “good luck” mindset to an attitude of “they are really going to get this and do well.” They worked very closely with our foreman and despite the language barrier, by the end of the week they were communicating fairly effectively. Our guys learned a lot from them and I am pretty sure they learned a lot from our guys.

I feel blessed by God with the quality of foremen that we have found. Honestly, I don’t know where we found all of them but I am impressed. By the end of the week they were coming up with solutions to problems that we faced, they were pushing the Steel Element guys aside and doing the work themselves. They were eager and willing to do the work. It was evident that some of them took home a set of plans and studied them. They want to do a good job, and by God’s grace they will. I think it might take a few shelters for them to really get the hang of it, but they will get it down and they will produce a great finished product.

Learn and act.

We Love You, Haiti! Sincerely, Washington State


A school desk bound for Haiti

World Concern Haiti Country Director Christon Domond inspects desks with Susan Talbot during a visit to our headquarters last month. The desk is one of dozens being loaded today into a shipping container bound for Haiti.

It’s like an enormous care package for Haiti from all across Washington.

Today, just south of Seattle, a 40’ shipping container is being packed with a variety of supplies to help children in Haiti, just in time for the new school year. We’re loading up dozens of desks, uniforms and school supplies for more than 1,300 kids. All of the items were donated – most by donors in Washington.

Eighty-seven desks from a Washington State University dorm in Pullman will be put to use in classrooms in Haiti, and a Port-au-Prince hospital will receive 25 patient tables and cabinets from an assisted living home in Bellevue.

Imagine the delighted smiles when 1,320 kids open packages filled with school supplies, hand packed with love by donors and churches around the Puget Sound region. The Kids’ Healing Kits also include soap, toothpaste and other hygiene items, as well as stuffed animals and other toys to help the youngest earthquake victims heal from emotional trauma.

Volunteers and homeless men hired for the day are helping World Concern pack the 40’ shipping container inside of a warehouse in Sumner. From there, the container will be trucked to a rail yard, then loaded on a train bound for New York. The final leg of the trip will be on a ship, the MSC Austria, which is scheduled to arrive in Port-au-Prince on Aug. 29.

We’ve put some thought into what we’re shipping. Our staff in Haiti has either requested these items, or has found areas where these items will fill a critical need – an important piece in making sure humanitarian aid helps communities, rather than hindering the healing process.

Thank you, donors and volunteers, for making this giant care package possible!

To read more about what we’re doing in Haiti, click here.

What looks different in Haiti now

The following is a report from World Concern’s Jacinta Tegman, who is in Haiti this week with a team from the Seattle area:

A Hatian boy outisde his newly repaired home.

A smiling young boy outside his newly repaired home in Port-au-Prince.

It has been almost four months since I was last in Haiti. When I was here in early March the city of Port au Prince was just ending a critical response phase. Some streets were impassable because of rubble. Very little business had started up. Schools were not in session and the normal hustle and bustle of the city was missing. I think the Haitians were still in a state of shock. As a part of World Concern, I was able to see the transition from phase one — meeting the immediate needs of water, food, shelter, and family reunification — to the road ahead of rebuilding lives

I can really tell a difference in the city since March. Much of the rubble has been cleared and there are signs of construction everywhere. Lots of street vendors are out, school children in their uniforms rush to class, and the remaining piles of rubble have become part of the city landscape.

As difficult a time as the people have had, there is little room for prolonged grief as little ones still need to be fed, work must be sought out, and the very real need of adequate housing is reaching a critical stage. We drove by camp after camp of tents, and the tents look like they can’t survive much longer.

The road ahead to sustainable recovery is a long one. Yet, even now I see signs of progress and for these people progress is made one small step at a time. When I was here in March, World Concern’s Cash for Work program was in a pilot stage. A few small groups were clearing the rubble of where they once lived, earning a salary to provide for their families and gaining hope that they would be able to leave the tent camps. Now World Concern employs 2,100 workers. Not only have massive amounts of rubble been cleared but homes have been made habitable and new, safer homes are being built.

Is there more to do? Absolutely! But I am so thankful for what has already been accomplished. When I looked into the eyes of a little boy standing outside of his newly repaired home, I know that there is hope in Haiti. In the middle of all this tragedy hope shines brightly. It takes so many to make this possible and I am profoundly grateful that I can say to these people that despite all the challenges they face, people are praying for them, people are giving to help them, and we will walk with them all the way through to full recovery. Isn’t that what Jesus sent us to do? I am so privileged to represent so many that have given to relieve their suffering. God bless you for your compassion.