Rotary begins plan of action in Haiti
Top: Rotarian Stephen Cooper (rear); Pamela Solman, member of the Good Samaritan Foundation of Haiti; and Joseph Phelix, founder and director of the foundation, distribute food to residents of Île à Vache in June. Photo courtesy of Stephen Cooper
Bottom: Residents of Île à Vache stand in line to receive emergency food aid. Photo by Stephen Cooper
More than six months after Haiti sustained a massive earthquake, Rotary clubs and account holders of the Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund are beginning to allocate resources to help rebuild schools, provide prosthetics, and equip thousands with adequate shelter.
Despite assistance from around the world, the situation in Haiti remains bleak. An estimated 1.5 million Haitians still live in tent cities, while billions of dollars in aid from foreign countries has yet to materialize. Debris from 280,000 destroyed homes and buildings clogs the streets of Port-au-Prince.
Rotarians have contributed more than US$2 million to the Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund, a donor advised fund set up by The Rotary Foundation.
"By beginning the work on many of the projects, we anticipate that additional funds will be contributed by Rotarians who are motivated to continue that help," says Past RI Vice President Eric E. Lacoste Adamson, an account holder and member of the Rotary Club of Front Royal, Virginia, USA. "We also hope to encourage other partners and NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] to match these funds so that we can double or triple the impact of the funds in Haiti."
Local Rotarians, the Haiti Task Force, established two years ago to administer financial aid to the nation, and District 7020 (Haiti and parts of the Caribbean) review and coordinate every project. Some of the initiatives include:
- District 6990 (Grand Bahama Island; part of Florida, USA) will raise $40,000 to help rebuild a medical clinic in Kenscoff. The Haiti fund will provide the balance of the $80,000 project.
- District 7570 (parts of Tennessee and Virginia, USA) will rebuild Catherine Flon College in Carrefour with help from the Haiti fund.
- Rotarians in Canada has gathered school supplies and furniture. The Haiti fund will allocate $21,000 to ship the items to Haiti.
- The Haiti fund will contribute $10,000 toward a vehicle to serve as transportation for midwives.
- The Rotary Club of Tortola, British Virgin Islands, and the Good Samaritan Foundation began construction on a new school in Île à Vache, an island off the southern coast of Haiti. About $50,000 from the Haiti fund has been allocated to the school.
Emergency aid still needed
The Tortola club also has provided $25,000 in emergency food aid to Île à Vache, which has been overwhelmed by the mass migration of quake victims from mainland Haiti. The island’s population doubled to nearly 30,000 in the last three months, says club member Stephen Cooper.
"This increase in population has put immense pressure on the fishing- and farming-based community, where food and resources were already scarce before the earthquake," Cooper says.
Rotarians in the British Virgin Islands have links with Île à Vache that predate the disaster, he says. they appealed to District 7020 for help after community leaders on the island described the situation.
The first of what will be a series of $5,000 food distributions took place in June, with the Rotary Club of Cayes, Haiti, overseeing the project. The rice, beans, and cooking oil were all purchased locally.
"The food was carefully portioned out and distributed fairly among those in need," Cooper says. "Rotarians should feel proud of the contribution they have made to ease the suffering of the people of Haiti. I saw with my own eyes that this food is making the difference between life and death for many people."