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“When I grew up here 40 years ago, I would say that in many ways we were better off than we are today.”
Haiti was once known as the “Pearl of the Antilles.” But as a country born out of slavery and built on a culture of dependence, it had become one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. Then, on January 12, 2010, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck. And an already unstable country was left devastated.
“It’s estimated some 300,000 people were killed, well over a million and a half people left homeless.”
The Salvation Army has resided in Haiti since 1950, providing spiritual and social services throughout the country. So when the earthquake hit, The Salvation Army did not have to go help. We were already there.
Despite damage to our own headquarters and facilities in Haiti, Salvation Army officers, soldiers, employees, and volunteers worked tirelessly to serve those in need immediately after the quake. Thanks to the gifts of generous donors, we were able to provide nearly 8 million meals to families in need, medical care for more than 30,000 patients, and shelter and hygiene support for 20,000 people left homeless.
As time passed, the emergency lifesaving efforts transitioned to long-term recovery efforts. Establishing a Haiti Recovery and Development Office in September 2011, The Salvation Army began to develop and implement recovery projects to not only help Haiti rebuild, but to build back “better.”
“Quite often we misconstrue what charity is. Sometimes we think helping people or giving people something is charity. The reality is that over a period of time, that can rob people of their dignity.”
Over the last five years, The Salvation Army has worked alongside the Haitian people to restore vitality to their damaged communities. This united effort is vital to success, allowing the Haitians themselves to identify the problems that need to be solved in order to rebuild their country the way they want it to be rebuilt.
“Empowerment is a big, big thing – helping people to realize that they have value, that they have skills that they can use, that they don’t have to sit and wait for someone else to do it.”
Having been in Haiti for more than 60 years, The Salvation Army has established itself in over 70 Haitian communities, operating 48 schools that serve nearly 12,000 students, a primary healthcare and nutrition center, a children’s home, a hospital and dispensary, HIV/AIDS programming, and more than 60 churches and church plants.
From those centers of operation, we are now working with the Haitian people to focus on recovery. Long-term housing reconstruction projects are not only providing homes to displaced families, but are also offering vocational training and income generation for Haitian workers. Increased Primary Health Care is helping treat and educate Haitians to quell the spread of disease. And integrated community development programs implemented in 50 communities throughout Haiti are helping Haitians address clean water, generate income through job and skills training, start small businesses, farm their land for food security, and develop infrastructure to mitigate future disasters.
The work is far from done. But together, through the generosity of others, we are helping Haiti rebuild their country and reclaim their hope.
“Yes, there is great poverty here. But more important than that, there are a wonderful, dignified, resilient people who want their country to be known once again as the ‘Pearl of the Antilles.’”