One year later, Haiti still struggles to rebuild
Top: The Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund committed more than US$128,000 toward the rebuilding of classrooms at La St. Famille Elementary school in Cayes, Haiti. Bottom: Haitians plant fruit trees as part of a $13,000 reforestation project. Photos courtesy of the Haiti Fund
In the year since a catastrophic earthquake struck Haiti, Rotarians in the country have been using resources and funds donated by Rotary clubs worldwide to rebuild schools, support environmental education, and fund clean water initiatives.
A 7.0-magnitude quake struck Haiti on 12 January 2010, killing more than 300,000 people and crumbling the country's infrastructure. More than a million people still live in tents and under tarpaulins. A deadly cholera outbreak in October slowed the work toward long-term recovery. See related story
Rotary clubs have provided more than $18 million in aid to Haiti. District 7020, which includes Haiti, raised US$1.5 million and secured goods and services valued at about $11 million for immediate help.
"All the Rotarians in Haiti have shown amazing dedication to tirelessly working to help their communities recover from the earthquake," says Past RI Director Barry Rassin. "I admire what they have done and continue to do."
Rassin is an account holder of the Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund, a donor advised fund set up by The Rotary Foundation. Rotarians worldwide have contributed more than $2 million to the fund. So far, the Haiti fund committee has agreed to allocate about $1 million toward 53 projects.
The relief effort has involved Rotarians from about 50 countries.
"Rotary has been a major influence in Haiti," Rassin says. Rotarians "have participated in various programs to help those in Haiti who have been seriously affected by the tragedy. We must continue to support recovery efforts and work side by side with the Rotarians in Haiti to move their country to a more positive place."
Some of the initiatives supported by the Haiti fund include:
- A $50,000 project by District 7020 and the Rotary Club of Cayes to rebuild six classrooms at La Sainte Famille, an elementary school in La Savane, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city of Les Cayes. The school serves 682 students, including more than 40 displaced by the earthquake.
- A $13,700 project by the Rotary Club of Carrefour/Mon Repos, Ouest, to educate 1,300 students about the importance of reforestation. Haiti lost 98 percent of its trees because of the earthquake. Students will plant and maintain fruit trees, reducing erosion and increasing agricultural production.
- A $64,000 project by the Rotary Club of Mirebalais, Centre, to construct 80 rainwater collection tanks, each with a 2,500-gallon capacity, in a section of Mirebalais, where there is no irrigation, potable water, or electricity. Ninety-five percent of the area's residents work in agriculture. The tanks and filters will provide clean water for about 3,000 people.
"It will take years for the country to recover, but by working together on each project and seeing it through completion, Rotary will make a difference in the lives of millions of people," Rassin says.
Richard McCombe, a member of the Rotary Club of South-East Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas, says Rotary is particularly well suited to help in Haiti's recovery: More than 30 humanitarian and educational projects were already underway before the quake.
"We decided that whatever we do in Haiti must help improve sustainability and build capacity," McCombe says. For example, a prosthetic limbs project in Pignon in northern Haiti also provides job training to local workers to produce and fit lightweight, low-cost artificial limbs. The $500,000 project, supported by the Foundation and Rotary clubs in the United Kingdom, will benefit about 4,000 quake survivors and others in need of prostheses.