Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Earthquake in Haiti—One Month After

After four weeks, we're starting to see some relief and hope in the horrific crisis in Haiti. However, incredible obstacles still remain in place. Our Shalom work in Mizak, Haiti, is stretched to its limits, running out of food, unable to provide emergency shelter, and asking for immediate help.

Paul Prevost, Coordinator of HAPI Community of Shalom, called Valerie Nossman-Celestine, co-founder of HAPI, with the din of hungry children nearly drowning him out! He said they tried a ticketing system to hold the count at 300 for food distribution, but they have 500 there today.

There are Food and Shelter provisions in Port–au-Prince, and available trucks for transportation, but security is a major concern and logistics are an overwhelming challenge…thus not much product is getting out of the cargo storage areas near the airport.   The only food and tents that get out to Mizak—3 hours SW of the city—are being brought in by visiting mission teams who are limited in their transportation capacity.  They desperately need help with food and shelter for 600+ families and 500+ children in Mizak who are looking toward H.A.P.I. Communities of Shalom for help and hope.

Among the 23 localities within the communal section of Mizak, in total, 542 houses have been assessed as completely destroyed or beyond repair.  This is only the initial assessment within 2 zones which had not yet completed their count.  Thousands more no doubt are homeless and hungry and in need of assistance.  As the initial assessment number rises, as buildings/homes that were initially counted as 'standing' are discovered to have cracks that necessitate that they be demolished and rebuilt, the situation in many ways is getting worse rather than better. On the other hand, Hope is on the Way.  A medical group was there last week, another service teams arrives next week, and a mental health team is scheduled to arrive on March 6. (Personally, I hope to join the March team as a field traumatologist and National Director of Communities of Shalom.)
                                            
Valerie Nossman-Celestine, co-founder of HAPI, suggests that at least 600 homeless families are homeless and in need of tarps, tents, or temporary shelters NOW, and have zero reserve to rebuild themselves. Family size can range up to a dozen per household, but with an average of 7 per family, the total homeless population within the communal section of Mizak at 4,200. (This does not include those who still have a house but are sleeping outside out of fear!)

At least 200 people are sleeping in the immediate area around HAPI Shalom Director Paul Prevost’s house and at the adjacent Peace Park.  Paul continues to ‘beg’ for food, tarps and tents, but so far only a few provisions have arrived, only a drop in the bucket of the total need.

“If we secure larger tents,” says Valerie, we will not raise them inside the Peace Park, as we use this area for activities during the day.  Paul said he is willing to use his land for the tents and latrines (which is a sacrifice because it reduces what he can grow food on). He also said that if we had the possibility for additional tents, we could gain cooperation from churches or individuals in zones that are more distant from his (he's in the 'Mizak zone within the Mizak communal section). It is a 2 hour hike and possibly more from one end of the communal section to the other, so decentralization would be desirable. People prefer to sleep closer to their own zone where they will rebuild their lives, plant gardens and raise up schools, etc.

For more information on H.A.P.I. Communities of Shalom, visit http://www.haitianartisans.com
To read a recent news report on the connection of Communities of Shalom in West Michigan to Shalom Zones in Haiti, click here http://www.mlive.com/living/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2010/02/communities_of_shalom_coming_t.html

To help us raise hope and shalom in Haiti, contact:
Michael J. Christensen, National Director, Communities of Shalom   www.communitiesofshalom.org      shalom@drew.edu
 
You can read my blog post on Haiti at Beatitudes Society:  "Crisis and Opportunity"