Ten days have passed since a massive earthquake brought widespread destruction and suffering to Haiti. Plenty of news reports have focused on the difficulty getting relief supplies from the Port-au-Prince airport to the people in the city, but at least a trickle of aid is flowing. In some parts of the country, like the mountainside village of Zorangé
west of Jacmel, aid remains virtually non-existent.
“We have 200 people in Zorangé sleeping on a soccer field,” says Tara Zechini of the Hope for Haiti Foundation. “We have over 50 homes damaged or destroyed.”
Prior to the earthquake, the Hope for Haiti Foundation was providing a wide array of services to the people of Zorangé to meet their educational, medical, and spiritual needs.
Zechini says the group is dedicated to “helping build the community and helping Haitians help themselves.”
The foundation was founded by a Haitian, Jean Elade Eloi, 10 years ago.
“I believe our work will be insignificant if we’re not able to empower and equip a new generation to ‘be the change’ that Haiti needs and that only Haitians can provide,” he notes on the organization’s website. “I firmly believe this generation has a mind obsessed with seeing positive changes in Haiti, where education will be a right to each child rather than a privilege, where mothers will not fear losing their child before they reach their fifth birthday.”
The Help for Haiti Foundation’s efforts are supported by volunteer staff in North Carolina. Zechini says they are trying to be patient in responding to the current tragedy.
“We have sent down our founder and he is going to return [January] 29th with more of a game plan,” she says.
Zechini says one thing the group is doing right away is purchasing cement to build shelters for people, “so they’re not sleeping on a soccer field.”
Bad times in Bainet
The foundation also is assessing damage to property it owns in the nearby city of Bainet, about 15 miles southwest of Jacmel on Haiti’s southern coast. Hope for Haiti owns a building in the city of 60,000 that it hopes to convert into a hospital specializing in maternity care. The building sustained damage in the quake, but needed renovation work anyway, so the group is trying to look at the situation positively.
“We just decided God did a little demolition work for us,” Zechini says.
The situation and mood of the people in the two communities is very different, she says.
“In the Zorangé mountain area, they’re torn because the rainy season is about to start,” she explains. “They need the rain for their crops,” but no one wants to sleep in the rain.
Zechini says the people in Zorangé are doing OK for food because they had stored some up for the winter.
“In Bainet, they’re a little more desperate because there’s a little more destruction and it’s harder to get food,” she says.
There continue to be issues with obstructed roadways, making it difficult to move supplies overland.
Fortunately, none of the foundation’s local staff in Haiti lost their lives in the earthquake, though some did lose family members.
“Most of our team is healthy and safe,” Zechini says.
Prior to the earthquake, Help for Haiti was planning to send a team of 40 medical professionals to Haiti on Jan. 30 with medical supplies. The foundation is trying to determine how best to use these people and supplies in the aftermath of the quake. Trying to rush them to the area now could prove futile.
“There are so many people that just want to be in the area now,” Zechini says, but that may not be feasible. “This is going to be a long-term recovery effort.”
She says there are many ways people can help, including “facilitating a fundraiser, having a [fundraising] party, or praying.”
Financial donations are, of course, welcome and needed, she says.
“Obviously, we’re building up funds and storekeeping that for a huge long-term effort.”
Related: Haiti earthquake: Jacmel, one week later
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