Today, January 12th, marks the five year anniversary of the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010. On this solemn day, all of us at the Colorado Haiti Project (CHP) are pausing to remember those who lost their lives in this tragedy. We also are taking this opportunity to strengthen our resolve and commitment to help the people of Haiti, and stand in solidarity, hope, and comfort with those who today continue the long path to recovery.
We were fortunate that the community of Petit Trou de Nippes and its surrounding communes were not hit as hard in the earthquake as other parts of Haiti. Although this was a relief for us and our partners, we immediately switched gears to respond to and help people that were impacted by the earthquake. With the trust of the local population through our long standing 20 year history with our Haitian partners, we were able to mobilize a tailored response to meet the specific needs of Petit Trou, as well as others impacted by the earthquake. Rapid response from CHP included:
1) We immediately repurposed medical supplies that had already been gathered for a medical mission, and delivered them to a board member, Dr. Jim Smith, who was in Port Au Prince at the time. Dr. Jim was able to redirect these critical supplies to doctors who flew in from around the world to staff medical posts, as well as support in-coming medical teams from a number of relief organizations.
2) In addition we provided material support to a medical team, led by current board member Erin Snyder, into the devastated neighborhood of Cris Roi in Port au Prince. Erin had previously lived and worked at Hospice St. Joseph in Cris Roi.
3) CHP representatives Nic Remington, Don Snyder, Dr. Warren Berggren and Paul Casey travelled to Haiti to inspect the St Paul’s campus buildings and other buildings in the region, assess the impact of an influx of refugees from Port au Prince, Leogane and other hard hit areas, and mobilize our network of CHW’s to do a registration of refugees and report on special needs of the community in the aftermath of this tragic event.
4) CHP channeled donated resources to our partner, the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti, to support the delivery of food through the “ti” system of women who sell in the markets. This relief mechanism not only provided life saving food to families devastated by the quake, but injected resources into the local economy.
5) CHP supporters and volunteers donated not only resources, but their time, energy, and expertise through three CHP trips to Haiti immediately following the quake to support relief efforts. On trip included a team of psychologists who provided mental health services, including working with people to use mindful breathing techniques and other personal coping mechanisms for high stress and fatigue. The success of this program was reflected in one man’s comment who said he had gotten the first full night of sleep since the earthquake after taking the program.
6) As with other rural areas in Haiti, Petit Trou received an influx of displaced people who had lost their homes, family, and friends in the earthquake. CHP used donated resources to support families who took in displaced family and friends so they could add a room to their home, and have sufficient food to feed everyone.
7) CHP also worked with communities to construct 12 new wells in the Petit Trou area to provide safe and clean drinking water to thousands. These wells proved critical in keeping at bay the cholera epidemic that devastated many other parts of Haiti post earthquake, and continue to serve the population today.
Over these past five years CHP programs and resources have been well directed, transparently implemented together with our Haitian partners, and have created sustainable impact. Hand in hand with our Haitian partners we have helped build a resilient and empowered Petit Trou that is not only better prepared to withstand and respond to a disaster, but able to bounce back quickly and even reach out to neighbors to provide a helping hand in their time of need.
Today, through our high impact programs in water and sanitation, agriculture, health, livelihoods, and education we continue to build a more resilient Haiti, and empower our Haitian partners for positive and sustainable change.
We invite you to join us today in a moment of silence and prayer to remember those who lost their lives five years ago, and for those who still struggle today on their path to recovery. And please, we welcome you to join us – and bring a friend – in our continuing journey to work hand-in-hand with our Haitian brothers and sisters to build a more resilient Haiti.
By David Hintch