The rebuilding of Haiti following the January 12, 2010 earthquake is either taking a lot longer than expected or is going reasonably well.
Darren Hercyk, Haiti country director for Catholic Relief Services, has found the perspective that prevails depends on who is visiting on a given day.
A girl sits outside a classroom at St. Anthony of Padua Church in the rural community of Petite Riviere des Nippes, Haiti, in this March 2011 photo. CNS/Bob Roller
For newcomers, he told Catholic News Service recently, the country’s seemingly overwhelming disarray is a shock and they wonder where the billions of dollars in aid promised by the nations of the world immediately after the earthquake has gone.
“Others would be amazed by how much has been done,” Hercyk said.
He prefers to focus on what has been done, having been in Haiti for a year and a half guiding Catholic Relief Services’ largest country program.
For Hercyk and the hundreds of CRS staffers, the effort is more than rebuilding structures and facilities; it’s about strengthening Haitian institutions nationwide. Give Haiti another decade, he said.
“Haitians need to see the change coming from Haitians,” he said from his office in the Delmas neighborhood of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. “The road to sustainability goes through strengthening Haitian institutions.”
Those institutions include nongovernmental organizations and the Catholic Church.
“Strengthening Haitian institutions doesn’t mean just coordinating with them. It really means getting in there and having them do the project and you working with them while they’re doing them. That’s the commitment we’re seeing much more today,” he explained
“At CRS we realize we won’t see long lasting change unless we invest in the church,” he said.
Among the efforts getting attention are education, health care, safety and security, housing, food and nutrition and more.
But Hercyk stressed patience.
Nearly 172,000 people remained in more than 300 tent camps Sept. 30, according to the International Organization for Migration, even though hundreds of thousands of displaced people have returned to their neighborhoods or moved in with relatives. In many cases the housing that is available is subpar and expensive. People everywhere live in tight quarters.
Affordable, safe housing is among Haiti’s greatest needs. In response, CRS has set out in developing a pilot program with U.S. Agency for International Development in the community of Caradeaux. It calls for building 125 units whereby people can develop a sense of home ownership. If it works, (Read More)