MCC continues to work in Haiti five years after earthquake
By Marla Pierson Lester for Mennonite Central Committee
In Cabaret, Haiti, 24 miles outside the capital city of Port-au-Prince, breezes flutter the sheer fabric hanging in the doorway of Gladys Joseph’s new home. There’s room in the yard for her children to play. And, for the first time since she was sent to Haiti’s capital city as a child, she’s able to have a garden—corn, beans, manioc and okra.
Five years after a devastating earthquake tore across Port-au-Prince and surrounding towns, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) has spent $16.9 million to help Haitians recover. Despite the many challenges that remain, MCC’s work done during those years continues to positively impact Joseph and many other people—both in the capital city and in rural areas.
An additional $2 million is allocated for earthquake recovery projects in 2015 and beyond.
In the months after the Jan. 12, 2010, quake, MCC responded to immediate needs, providing food assistance, cash allowances, water filters and thousands of MCC comforters and relief kits. MCC sent teams of structural engineers to inspect the safety of public buildings and to instruct masons in safe building techniques.
Even as aftershocks still rippled, MCC’s Haitian partners and other Haitians in nonprofits and government called for a broader response that reached far outside Haiti’s overcrowded, sprawling capital.
With the death toll growing, they pointed to the inadequate housing in the city, the lax building standards that compounded the tragedy of the quake—and the lack of opportunity in the countryside that led so many people to converge on Port-au-Prince in the first place.
MCC, with decades of experience working in Haiti’s rural Artibonite Valley, responded to that call—dedicating more than half of its earthquake response funds to projects in education, livelihoods, housing, water and agriculture there and in other areas outside the capital city.
Cash-for-work projects paid people who had fled the capital and their hosts to protect the natural water supply and improve irrigation systems. As cholera became a threat, MCC established kiosks providing clean water.
In Cabaret, MCC and local partner Christian Center for Integrated Development used support from the Canadian government through the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD) to build a village with 100 homes, a market, playground and community center.
Joseph, who lost her rented home in Port-au-Prince in the earthquake, recalls what a relief it was to no longer impose on friends or work to rear children in a space that was not her own. “When you stay with someone else, it’s like being humiliated. Your kids can’t play, can’t make noise, can’t run,” she says.
Joseph found it hard to believe that she would really be able to get a house—even up to the day she moved in. Coming to receive the keys, she brought no furniture, bedding or other belongings. “I didn’t bring any(thing) except for this child,” she says, holding her youngest.
“There’s more advantages to living here,” she says of her new home in Cabaret. She has a cistern to capture rainwater that she uses for cooking, bathing and washing clothes. In addition to vegetables, she is cultivating cherries, papaya and citronelle for tea in her garden.
In the town of Desarmes, MCC’s work has helped produce a different crop—vocational school graduates from Ecole Profesionnel de Desarmes (Professional School of Desarmes) who are working in trades, from agriculture to mechanics.
Thanks to classroom studies and practical training in mechanics at the school that was re-energized through MCC and a grant from DFATD, 28-year-old Dieunold Sterling now has the knowledge to complete complicated repair jobs he once would have had to turn down.
It’s a change that boosts his income—and opens opportunity for his family.
“We eat better is the first thing,” he says. He has easier access to credit, which is helping him pay off his professional school debt and pay school fees for his oldest child.
And through his studies, his vision grew for a future in his hometown, not Port-au-Prince.
Before, he says, he wanted to fix motorcycles. Now, he dreams of a full-service garage where he could employ other graduates, a shop selling parts and maybe eventually new motorcycles, which now people drive to other towns to buy.
What he’s done so far, he says, is only the beginning. “I’ve got a shop here, but I want to have an enterprise.”
Learn more about how MCC’s Haiti earthquake response and ongoing challenges at mcc.org/haitiearthquake.
MCC is a faith-based, nongovernmental organization that works in more than 60 countries responding to disasters, encouraging sustainable development and strengthening local peace and justice initiatives. MCC works for relief, development and peace in the name of Christ.
MCC’s Haiti earthquake response: By the numbers
$16.9 million spent since 2010
Nearly $2 million in addition is being spent on earthquake response projects in 2015 and beyond
45,528 people received food assistance
26,788 comforters distributed
6,680 water filters provided
6,344 people received cash transfers or were part of cash-for-work projects
2,981 participants gained skills in agriculture or livelihoods trainings
1,718 homes repaired or constructed
1,616 people learned tools for trauma healing or conflict resolution
1,131 students benefited from school reconstruction or support
Photo 1: Gladys Joseph, who holds her one-year-old son, Jean Pierre Romain, especially loves the opportunity to grow plants and vegetables in the yard of her new home, one of 100 homes in Cabaret, Haiti, that MCC helped fund after the 2010 earthquake. Before Joseph moved to her own house, she and her husband and children lived with friends. (MCC Photo/Silas Crews)
Photo 2: Dieunold Sterling works on a motor at his motorcycle repair business in Desarmes, Haiti, as his nephew Dumas John watches. The advanced mechanical skills he learned at a vocational school that MCC helped re-energize, allowed Sterling to get an education and develop a business in his hometown without going to overcrowded Port-au-Prince. (MCC Photo/Silas Crews)