DR Brethren Begin Aid Effort, Share Concern for Relatives in Haiti

Buildings collapsed in the earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti (top photo); and one of the impromptu tent cities springing up around the city, made out of sticks, sheets, blankets, and tarpaulins. Photos by Roy Winter, executive director of Brethren Disaster Ministries

The World Council of Churches (WCC) has called on the international community to cancel Haiti’s foreign debt. An “immediate and full cancellation” of Haiti’s foreign debt would be “only an initial step,” as Haiti needs a broader “plan to support recovery, poverty eradication, and sustainable development,” said the WCC general secretary in a statement on Jan. 25. Such a plan “must be developed with the full ownership of the people of Haiti and with the support of the international community under the coordination of the United Nations…. Any financial assistance should come in the shape of grants, not loans that would burden the country with more debt,” the statement said. For the full text go to http://www.oikoumene.org/?id=7517 .

Church World Service (CWS) on Jan. 27 called for Wall Street’s financial industry leaders to tithe their bonuses for the reconstruction of Haiti. “This month’s catastrophic earthquake is not only an unforgettable tragedy but a wake-up call to rich nations of the world,” said executive director John L. McCullough. CWS is also urging complete forgiveness of Haiti’s remaining debts. Referring to the telethon for Haiti that was held on several US television channels last weekend, McCullough noted that, “Despite a continuing tough economy, persistently high jobless rate, and the alarming increase of homeless families in the US, the American people managed to contribute to the $61 million raised.” The “Bonus4Haiti” tithing call to Wall Street is available on the CWS Causes page on Facebook.

Church of the Brethren Newsline
Jan. 28, 2010

Many Haitian Dominican Brethren have been seeking ways to get words of encouragement and support to family affected by the earthquake in Port-au-Prince. Iglesia des los Hermanos (Church of the Brethren in the Dominican Republic) includes several congregations of members who are of Haitian background. The Dominican Brethren also have begun working to support hospitals in their communities that have been treating Haitians wounded in the earthquake.

With limited resources, many Haitian Dominican Brethren are joining together to send people to go to Port-au-Prince on their behalf. Those chosen to go as representatives of the group are given a list of names of relatives to contact and donations of food and clothing to share with them.

It has been reported in newspapers that over 15,000 wounded from Port-au-Prince are receiving surgery and medical treatment in overwhelmed hospitals in the DR. Brethren have begun offering assistance to these patients and overwhelmed hospital staff, with the support of a grant from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF).

In San Juan de la Maguana, for example, Brethren are distributing hygiene kits consisting of a towel, undergarments, and toothbrushes to Haitian patients in their hospital. In Santo Domingo, Brethren are providing 50 meals a day to patients.

Assistance was also given to a woman who had come from Haiti with her husband for medical treatment. Her husband did not survive. Grief-stricken, she didn’t have the means to return to Haiti to be with her children, a dilemma many are facing. She was very grateful for the bus ticket the Brethren purchased for her.

Brethren mission staff have been offering airport pick up and overnight hospitality for several individuals and work teams headed to Haiti for rescue and medical work. The need for this will diminish once the Port-au-Prince airport is opened for commercial traffic, allowing teams to fly directly to Haiti. Until that is possible, mission staff have been glad to be able to help facilitate land transportation through the DR to Haiti for a number of volunteers.

— Irvin Heishman is a co-coordinator of the Church of the Brethren mission in the DR.