I have just returned from Haiti. The destruction in Port-au-Prince is pervasive. Building after building has crumbled to a pile of rubble. Amid the broken cityscape, thousands of suffering people mourn for the dead, search for the missing and seek help for the injured. The agony is overwhelming. I have not seen a worse aftermath of an earthquake during my entire, decades-long career in humanitarian relief.
Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan, who is also Catholic Relief Services’ chairman of the board, fellow staff members and I attended the funeral Mass for Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot and his vicar general, Monsignor Charles Benoit, who died along with many others when the cathedral in Port-au-Prince collapsed. Prayers and tears flowed from the hearts of the hundreds gathered to pay their last respects to these men, who devoted their lives to encouraging and inspiring poor Haitians against the most daunting of odds even in the best of times.
How ironic it seems now to note that just last month I wrote to you about the fifth anniversary of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. In its wake, Catholic Relief Services mounted the largest relief and recovery effort in our history. Let me assure you that our response to the Haitian earthquake has been rapid and robust.
We were able to respond immediately thanks to emergency supplies we had stored in our warehouses in Port-au-Prince and another city to the southwest called Les Cayes. We were also fortunate that a regularly scheduled shipment of 1,500 metric tons of food aid from the U.S. Agency for International Development arrived soon after the earthquake.
To date, CRS has provided food and other essentials to tens of thousands of people. CRS volunteers in the Dominican Republic are filling buckets with crackers, sardines, canned beans and juice boxes. CRS is unloading trucks of wheat to help feed quake survivors who’ve sought haven on the grounds of a country club and are desperate for food.
We visited what remains of the CRS-supported St. Francois de Sales hospital. Determined doctors and dedicated staff were busy mending and counseling those with injuries to body and spirit. Operations were performed outdoors beneath an unforgiving sun. And I watched with great amazement as Archbishop Dolan moved among the patients and doctors. He blessed every person he met. He comforted every child, and encouraged every medical person with inspiring goodness of heart.
Catholic Relief Services was able to rush aid to the injured, homeless and frightened so efficiently and effectively because we have been working in Haiti for 55 years. Many of our programs are located south and west of Port-au-Prince, so we had staff and supplies of hygiene kits and other necessities at well-placed warehouses beyond the reaches of the terrible destruction.
CRS works effectively because we have longstanding and deep relationships with partners. We have a great reputation for getting things done. CRS was asked to be the lead agency at one of the first formally organized camps, where as many as 80,000 people are sleeping every night.
Just like after the tsunami, CRS will stay on the ground long after the TV cameras have packed up and gone home. We will continue to have a presence in Haiti. And we will do so, just like after the tsunami, because of the tremendous generosity of you, the friends of CRS.
One Haitian told us, “The worst is not knowing the future.” Thanks to you, the future is a little more clear. We will be in Haiti to restart and rebuild the hopes and futures of our brothers and sisters.
Your prayers and financial gifts are still needed urgently, as we prepare for great challenge ahead of us. Your support has been overwhelming. Thank you!
3 Responses to “Rapid Response Brings Hope to Haiti”
Leave a Comment
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.