Progress in Haiti
*by Melissa Hinnen
October 25, 2010—“UMCOR is in Haiti on behalf of the United Methodist Church, but more importantly, we are there for the people of Haiti,” said The Rev. Cynthia Fierro Harvey at the General Board of Global Ministries’ board meeting in Stamford, CT on October 11. Harvey is the head of The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), which is part of Global Ministries.
She continued, “The question we ask in our work is ‘how do we build the capacity of communities and give the Haitian people ownership?’ It is not about us.”
During these nine months since the devastating earthquake in Haiti, UMCOR provided assistance to survivors and built a foundation for a large-scale, long-term recovery effort. UMCOR is carefully distributing the more than $40 million donated by United Methodists and other faithful supporters in ways that will empower the Haitian people and build a sustainable infrastructure.
During the meeting, Melissa Crutchfield, head of UMCOR’s international disaster response, outlined the work that has been accomplished and laid out a plan for moving forward. She also addressed and explained some unique challenges facing relief organizations that are responding to the Haiti earthquake.
UMCOR is building a team of people by working with the church and other partners to implement in a multi-faceted approach for long-term development. The office in Haiti is engaged in a three- to five-year plan and is hiring people to manage livelihoods, shelter, water and sanitation programs. They are also participating in UN meetings to coordinate efforts in each of those areas. Working with the Methodist Church of Haiti (EMH), UMCOR is helping to strengthen the church’s disaster response infrastructure by providing training and support to those who are managing EMH’s response to the earthquake and who will help with long -term development in the areas of agriculture, microenterprise, education, and health.
In some areas, UMCOR is working through existing programs like the Haiti Hot Lunch program. This program has provided EMH schools with nutritious meals for more than 10 years. UMCOR is continuing this partnership and is working with EMH to evaluate and strengthen the program. Through other UMCOR partners, EMH schools are also receiving clean drinking water. This is an especially important measure for preventing cholera.
The flagship school of EMH, College Bird, was completely destroyed in the earthquake. At College Bird’s 50th Anniversary celebration, UMCOR reiterated its commitment to reconstructing the school saying, “UMCOR pledges to be a major direct contributor to the fund to build back College Bird better. Together, with the former students of College Bird, and other U.S. partner churches, UMCOR will remain a partner to insure that College Bird has even greater capacity to provide excellent education to students in Haiti.”
In addition to the work with EMH schools, UMCOR has built nine transitional schools for students living in Corail and Tabarre resettlement camps and equipped them with furniture and supplies.
Crutchfield noted that work in Haiti presented a host of challenges prior to the January earthquake. She explained a number of additional complications that organizations now face, including logistics and identifying a stable supply chain; recruiting and retaining effective personnel; resolving issues of land tenure so that rebuilding can begin; and managing the expectations of the church, donors, volunteers, and partners.
“In spite of these challenges we have opportunities that help us meet the challenges in creative ways,” says Crutchfield, indicating UMCOR’s connection through the church.
“The Methodist Church of Haiti knows what the needs are, who can help, where to get supplies. They have lived with some of these challenges for years and are guiding us to be effective in our efforts.”
Investing in Haiti
As initial needs are met, opportunities for long term development such as sustainable agriculture are being addressed. At the October 12 board meeting, UMCOR directors approved a $293,540 proposal to implement a project that will help farming families who were affected by the earthquake. This will help the families generate income as well as support the market with local livestock, eggs, and produce.
The Rev. Jim Gulley, UMCOR’s agricultural consultant in Haiti, explains that the project is modeled after the Heifer International “passing on the gift” model. “Farmers, working in community, will receive a gift of an animal. The offspring of the animal, as well as the skills and resources from the training, are shared with other farmers. This builds community as farmers share the benefits of the gifts they have received and the joy of helping their neighbors,” he says.
The board also committed to supporting a $3,094,500 three-year Haiti Response Plan that was proposed by Volunteers in Mission (VIM). Based on a successful first six months of programming, the board affirmed the VIM work in Haiti and approved the second six months of funding. The remainder will be released contingent on the program’s continued success and accountability. It is expected that by the end of 2010, the Haiti Response Plan will have had 82 teams serve in Haiti. An additional 135 teams are scheduled for 2011, and the program is at capacity for the first three months of next year.
Crutchfield stresses the importance of not turning our backs on Haiti, “While the media’s spotlight on Haiti has faded, we cannot forget the millions of people who continue to be affected by January’s earthquake day after day in Haiti. UMCOR is there, on behalf of the United Methodist Church, walking and working with the people of Haiti for the long haul.”
How to Help
Though much has been accomplished, the recovery in Haiti is still in its earliest phases. Your financial and prayerful support is still needed, as tents give way to temporary shelters and ultimately, to permanent homes, schools, places of worship, and small businesses.
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. For gifts by mail, please make checks payable to UMCOR and mail to UMCOR, PO Box 9068, New York, NY 10087. 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.
*Melissa Hinnen is the director of communications for UMCOR