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.

The Roof-top View On Haiti

A girl I met today who lives in a damaged home in Haiti.
A girl I met today who lives in a damaged home in Haiti.

I feel like I am roughing it, as I camp on a roof in Haiti. New York City has nothing on Port-au-Prince when it comes to the idea of a city that never sleeps. Chattering neighborhood dogs never quite rest, and when it seems they might be taking a break, the crow of roosters pierces through the sticky heat and blackness.

A few big differences here are apparent:

1.      This is a short-term deal for me. One week. And I do have a home.

2.      About 1 million people still need homes.

3.      Most of them still don’t have a clear next step.

I’m here in Haiti to see what humanitarian aid organization World Concern is doing to rebuild lives. So far I have met a man named Widzer who has received a home, but elects not to live in it yet, as he wants to use it as a staging area for the construction of his neighbors’ homes. Though he is homeless, he wants to support his neighbors, though it comes at a personal inconvenience.

I’ve met women doing hard manual labor, moving rubble, to support their families. They fill buckets with chunks of concrete and put them on top of their heads. They walk them through alleys and dump them near the street for pick-up. By clearing the rubble, they are making space to rebuild.

I met many young men who were learning a skill as part of the rebuilding process. A couple of these guys are now trained as masons, building walls. Another group of guys are now carpenters. They have a skill. As the country rebuilds, I see that it is possible – even likely – that it will be rebuilt to higher standards than before. This can be a lifesaver in another earthquake or hurricane.

Pain is a way of life here – but it seems like most people just face it head-on. They are content with what they have today, as they know rebuilding lives does take time. It’s a reminder that frustrations I have today are small, given the rich blessings with which I have been entrusted. That’s also not to say that contentment with a tough situation should drive us toward apathy. They still need a partner in this world to believe in them and offer opportunities to help raise them up out of their current state.

Today I also met entrepreneurs and saw them receiving grants from World Concern to restart their businesses. After they get going their shop running again, they can apply for mircoloans to grow them further. We also met people who are affected by HIV and AIDS. The food, hygiene and emotional support they receive help get them through this difficult time.

Rebuilding from a disaster does not take one aspect, like homes, though shelter is a critical component. Instead, disaster recovery takes a community approach so that people can meet their own needs once we are called to do other work in the future.

Learn more

The Kind Gift Of Humanitarian Aid

World Concern's Susan Talbot recently traveled to Haiti to help bring in donated items for families suffering after the earthquake.
World Concern's Susan Talbot recently traveled to Haiti to help bring in donated items for families suffering after the earthquake.

A lot can be done with a phone, email and good relationships. In the case of World Concern’s Susan Talbot, she’s been able to use her skills to generate $61 million worth of humanitarian aid for the poor in the last year. That’s $61,000,000 worth of in Gift-In-Kind (GIK) donations, which is anything donated that is not money.

$61 million is tough to put into perspective. But consider that this is helping nearly 5 million people. It’s 5 million people who have received a variety of resources, including medication for intestinal worms, a wheelchair to find mobility again, or a computer to become connected to the digital age for the very first time.

“All of our GIK is field driven,” Susan told me. “I don’t start collecting items until our staff tells me they need items. We don’t just hand out stuff in the field. It all has to have a function or collaborate with what we are doing. It needs to have a purpose rather than just giving out commodities.”

Where does Susan get these GIK humanitarian donations? They come from many sources, including schools, farmers, businesses – and medical supply companies.

Bringing in commodities is a tricky business, though, because when you are trying to help a community, you could end up hurting it instead. The way Susan and the rest of the World Concern team does it, though, is carefully considered.

“We provide supplies in a crisis, like food, when the marketplace is not functioning,” Susan says. “When commodities are available locally, we try to avoid giving away those things. It works against what we are doing. It makes no sense to support women in a microfinance shoe business, and then bring in a shipment of shoes.”

Building relationships with the people we serve is important. Skill-building is important. Teaching people is important. World Concern does that, equipping people to know how to stand on their own two feet once we are finished working with their community. Susan knows though that coming alongside people in need with a tangible good, though, can help change – or even save – a life.

Learn more about our Haiti response.

Contact Susan.

World Concern’s Haiti Director: We Need Help Now

Children are vulnerable after the Haiti earthquake. World Concern humanitarians are trying to reconnect them with living family members.
Children are vulnerable after the Haiti earthquake. World Concern humanitarians are trying to reconnect them with living family members.

The director of World Concern’s humanitarian operations in Haiti called this morning, after a mobile phone network was repaired. Christon Domond said they need our support immediately. The city of Port Au Prince is overwhelmed by dead bodies, and the critical needs for survivors include clean water, medicine, blankets, plastic sheeting – and now – food.

World Concern’s Senior Director of Technical Support (the disaster lady) Merry Fitzpatrick, expects she will be able to fly out of Miami today to assist with the logistics. If a hurricane, civil war or earthquake hit your community, she’s the person you’d want with you, guiding you through the process.

Christon has been able to contact most of the staff, but not all. His family survived. We are also hearing about relatives of staff members who were killed in the earthquake. The primary World Concern building in Haiti remains standing and it is likely that the staff and their families who have lost their homes will live there for the foreseeable future.

World Concern employs more than 100 people in Haiti, a staff of people native to the country, who are trained and ready to respond. Though they may have lost their own homes, and even relatives, they have begun their critical, life-saving work. In the past, they have successfully responded to many disasters, including three 2008 hurricanes.

Seattle-based World Concern has worked in Haiti since 1978 and currently provides hope to 125,000 people. Our work with the poor includes microfinance, agriculture, disaster response and small business development. World Concern works with the poor in 24 countries, with the goal of transforming the lives of those we touch, leading them on a path to self-sustainability.

Worldwide, World Concern offers life, opportunity and hope to more than six million people.

Give online: www.worldconcern.org, or call 1-866-530-5433

Average Cost of Disaster Supplies:

Blankets: $50 for a family of five

Plastic Sheeting: $20 per family. Good for shelter, lining latrines, other uses

Water purification: $10 for 100 gallons

Food: $1 per meal