A reminder of what’s needed to heal Haiti

How the time passes – this past Monday marked five years since a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti, taking about 200,000 lives and wreaking havoc on the country’s already shaky and oftentimes crumbling infrastructure.

The scale of the disaster was – and is – virtually impossible to imagine. And even though much has been done in the years since to repair the damage and heal broken spirits, reports point out that there is still much work needed to bring to completion the restoration of what was lost in the quake.

Thank goodness for organizations, individuals and non-profit agencies that haven’t forgotten the devastating impact the earthquake took on the country, already such a vulnerable place and mired in poverty.

As reported by the Canadian Red Cross, while much progress has been made following the disaster on Jan. 12th, 2010, the organization continues its recovery efforts to help Haitians not only rebuild but to also strengthen their communities.

In the days and months following the earthquake, $222 million was donated to the Canadian Red Cross, but more funds are still needed to continue to rebuild affected areas, officials say.

Today, the Canadian Red Cross reports that its work continues in Haiti to improve access to healthcare for the country’s most vulnerable members, including mothers, newborns and children, as well as strengthening community resilience through community care and first aid.

The Canadian Red Cross also marked a major milestone last year through the completion of a shelter project, providing more than 7,500 families with homes in the Jacmel and Leogane communities.

The Red Cross has also ensured the occupants of these houses received title of ownership, and that the methods and materials are adapted to the particular geography of each region to protect against hurricane winds and flooding.

Also among those working hard to improve the lot of Haitians is the Salvation Army. Located an hour and 20 minutes from Port-au-Prince is The Salvation Army Vocational Training School in Luly. Students receive business training and skills development. Officials say the ultimate goal is for the students to operate their own business and generate income to support their families.

The Salvation Army Canada and Bermuda Territory also provides training for individuals who are interested in agriculture, construction, plumbing and electrical.

The vocational training institute provides theory as well as field sessions that are specific to each trade. These schools are located in six different locations; Luly, Petit Goave, Port au Price, Fond des Negres and Balan. To date, a total of 680 students have graduated. The Salvation Army Haiti Division supports the individuals following the training to gain suitable employment.

Ultimately, we all know how easy it is to let these disasters fade into memory. There is a whirlwind of support initially which is a wonderful thing to see. People consistently open up their hearts and their pocketbooks and are willing to support the cause – but as time passes, other causes surface as well. As we are barraged by 24-hour news cycles and informed of virtually every catastrophe that unfolds around the world, we can become, sadly, a bit desensitized to the horrendous circumstances that many people across the globe constantly endure.

That’s why these frontline organizations – such as the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, just to name two – are so very important. They continue to work in remote parts of the world to make communities better and more self-sufficient. They also can act as our ‘eyes and ears’ to the continued work that’s being done in so many places around the world. We need to be reminded of the pressing needs, and not just on key dates like anniversaries of particular disasters.

So let’s not forget Haiti. Or any other place on this planet ravaged by poverty or still reeling from the calamity that natural disasters bring. Restoration certainly doesn’t happen quickly, and there is plenty of room for all of us to ‘get on board’ with support in the long term – in the bigger picture of rebuilding communities and helping our neighbours.