Next Phase of Brethren Response in Haiti Begins

Church of the Brethren Newsline

Contrasting experiences after the earthquake in Haiti: Shown above, a building that collapsed in the earthquake, in the same neighborhood as the building shown below, which remained standing and in good shape. The home shown below was one of those built by Brethren Disaster Ministries, which has had a rebuilding program in Haiti since the island was hit by four hurricanes and tropical storms in 2008. The longterm Church of the Brethren earthquake recovery effort will include the building of new homes for people who have fled the Port-au-Prince area and are living with relatives in other parts of the country. Photos courtesy of Roy Winter


Feb. 5, 2010

A new phase of the Church of the Brethren disaster response in Haiti has begun, with the building of temporary shelters for earthquake survivors and church members who have lost homes in Port-au-Prince.

Also underway are two Brethren feeding programs for children, and plans to continue building permanent homes in other areas of Haiti where people displaced by the earthquake are seeking refuge.

The church’s response effort is being carried out with leadership by Eglise des Freres Haitiens (Haitian Church of the Brethren) and Brethren Disaster Ministries, with funding from the Church of the Brethren’s Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF). The Church of the Brethren’s participation in the work of Church World Service (CWS) and ecumenical partners in Haiti also continues.

Two more EDF grants have been given for earthquake relief efforts, totaling $250,000.

Although communications with Haiti continue to be difficult, Brethren Disaster Ministries Haiti consultant Klebert Exceus has reported by telephone on a new Temporary Shelter Program expected to serve some 20 Brethren families and neighbors–or 120 people–of two of the hardest hit congregations of Eglise des Freres Haitiens. Building of the shelters will start Monday.

The Temporary Shelter Program is intended first for Brethren families in the Delmas 3 and Marin congregations who lost their homes, and for some neighbors in need in those areas. Two pieces of land have been rented where shelters will be placed. They will be made of canvas walls, with tin roofs, and placed on thinly poured cement floors. Construction teams will be hired locally, under Exceus’s direction along with leadership by the National Committee of Eglise des Freres Haitiens.

The feeding of daily meals to children at the Paul Lochard No. 2 School in Port-au-Prince began on Jan. 25 and is reported to be successful. Several hundred children are receiving one hot meal a day at the school, which was founded by Exceus and employs three of the Haitian Brethren pastors on its faculty. Some of the children served by this feeding program are “restevec”–children whose families have been forced by poverty to sell them as slaves or domestic servants in richer households.

Another group of children are to begin receiving daily meals next week, through a Kids Club at the Delmas 3 Church of Eglise des Freres Haitiens. Also in the planning stage is a biweekly food packet for families living in the communities around the three Brethren congregations in Port-au-Prince.

Brethren Disaster Ministries is purchasing the food in Haiti, in an effort to support the agriculture of the country and help provide income and jobs directly to Haitians who are in need.

“There was a good harvest in Haiti this year, and lots of food is available in the markets,” said Roy Winter, executive director of Brethren Disaster Ministries. “The challenge is that no one has money because they lost their income source in the quake. Further, as tons of donated food are imported, farmers will likely struggle to sell their goods, further compounding the financial crisis of this earthquake. Our plan is to buy from Haitian farmers as much as possible.”

The program is hiring Haitian Brethren to purchase the food, and hiring local construction teams to put up the temporary shelters, in another effort to provide work for those who in addition to their homes, also lost all possibility of an income in the earthquake. “We’re employing people to do a particular task, and it gives them the dignity of an income,” Winter said.

“The result is we can feed a child a hot meal for about $1,” he said. The program also may work with the Dominican Church of the Brethren to help purchase food in the DR and transport it into Haiti.

When the current dire situation eases in coming weeks or months, Brethren Disaster Ministries plans to bring volunteer workcamp groups from the United States to assist the Haitian Brethren in the rebuilding phase of the recovery. More information about upcoming volunteer opportunities in Haiti will be shared as soon as planning is in place.

As of mid-week the situation in Port-au-Prince has improved, reported Jeff Boshart, coordinator of the Brethren Disaster Ministries rebuilding program in Haiti, after a phone call with Exceus. “Food and water are much more prevalent, although there are still complaints in some places of not getting enough.”

Boshart said that currently the members of the Delmas 3 Church are receiving food and water. Members of the Haitian church’s National Committee also have all received emergency funds through the Church of the Brethren “and they are grateful,” he reported. “Everyday life is coming back in Port-au-Prince…. Churches had regular services on Sunday as well.”

“In closing (Exceus) said, the people we have helped are very very happy,” Boshart said. “He said we can’t even imagine how what we did has helped them and how grateful they are that we came in their moment of need.

“It sounds like the church folks are starting to look to the future, even if that future is only next week. After what they have all been through, that’s saying something.”

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