Hope for Haiti
By Judith Santiago*
November 20, 2008—In the August and September months of 2008, Hurricanes Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike all took their turn striking Haiti by force. The storms damaged or destroyed several hundred homes, displaced 5,000 citizens and killed over 60 people. Several communities throughout Gonave Island and Cabaret, north of Port au Prince were severely affected.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) working with its office in Cap Haitian, helped provide assistance to those left vulnerable by the destructive storms. Food packages, hygiene kits and toys were distributed by UMCOR Haiti staff and volunteers to about 547 children and their families-benefiting more than 3,800 people in Haiti.
"Despite the number of challenges, I am proud to say that we did it," said UMCOR Haiti Head of Mission Dellaphine B. Rauch-Houekpon in a report to UMCOR. "It felt very, very good to see UMCOR Haiti at work like this in Port au Prince... to deliver the love expressed by UMCOR to children and others in great need in Cabaret."
Preparing the "Gift from UMCOR"
Following the devastating storms, UMCOR Haiti, under the supervision of Ms. Rauch-Houekpon, worked with local authorities to address the specific needs for storm-damaged regions. UMCOR Haiti visited affected orphanages, began a plan of action to transport supplies and coordinated relief supply distribution to those most in need.
With an emergency grant provided by UMCOR, UMCOR staff and volunteers purchased and prepared enough relief supplies, bulk food items and hygiene kits to accommodate an average-size Haitian family of seven. The relief effort would also include toys for 500 children living in temporary shelters and later provide psycho-social support to address the trauma felt by the storm-affected children.
During planning, UMCOR Haiti staff faced several challenges including lack of communication due to frequent power outages, transporting supplies where roads were impassible, securing and maintaining bulk food items safely, as well as performing multiple roles in carrying out various details of the distribution. UMCOR personnel visited with the Mayor of Cabaret, worked the office of Civil Action and other local officials to secure locations for the distribution as well as other logistics.
As details were being worked out, UMCOR staff and volunteers worked together stuffing and packing each kit that contained 10 pounds of rice, five pounds of sugar, eight cans of milk, a half liter of oil and one toy per child in each family. The food kits were secured in plastic bags and tied with a ribbon that read "Gift from UMCOR."
Day of Hope
On Sept. 26 in Cabaret, UMCOR Haiti staff and volunteers went to five designated temporary shelters for the first day of distribution where over 540 children and their families received hope. Beneficiaries included Real Hope of Haiti Orphanage, an evangelical non-profit organization committed to reaching Haitian people, which received UMCOR supplies via donkey because roads were impassible. Real Hope of Haiti helped secure mention of the event over the radio which cited a tribute to the excellent work conducted by the UMCOR staff. The next day, UMCOR Haiti staff was back to work distributing another 148 kits to needy children in Ecole Nationale de Foveau center, another temporary shelter in Cabaret.
How You Can Help
The work in Haiti continues. UMCOR is providing families and displaced individuals in Haiti with a variety of assistance packages such as long-term access to potable water, cash for work activities to help clean up the affected areas, school kits for school age children, cook stoves and building materials to help families rebuild.
You can support this work by giving generously to Haiti Emergency, UMCOR Advance #418325. /a> a="">/> a="">/>>/> a="">/>>/>>/>>/> a="">/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/> a="">/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/> a="">/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>>/>
*Santiago is a Program Coordinator for UMCOR Communications.