The earthquake, which struck at 4:50 p.m., was centered just 15 miles southwest of the capitol city of Port au Prince, a sprawling city with a population of just under one million prior to the earthquake that killed an estimated 230,000 people, mostly in the Port au Prince urban area, and left over 1,300,000 homeless. Although many left the city for the outlying provinces immediately after the disaster, hundreds of thousands were in tent cities for months following the January earthquake. Many have apparently returned as the population was estimated at 942,194 in 2012. Most of the residences and government buildings in Port au Prince were damaged or completely destroyed. Following the earthquake, the country was hit by a widespread cholera outbreak, which continues over five years later.
How is the country doing on the five year anniversary of this disaster, which to this day is one of the worst natural disasters ever recorded in the history of the world? We contacted New Missions, headquartered in Orlando, to find how they were affected by the earthquake and what they have been able to do in the last five years to rebuild their infrastructure. New Missions was founded in 1983 by George and Jeanne DeTellis, from Worcester, Massachusetts. They and their three sons arrived and set up their first clinic and mission in tents on a small parcel of land on the Bay of Gonave, near the city of Leogane, and in the heart of the area most steeped in voodoo worship in the land.
Now in Haiti, according to Charles DeTellis, New Missions has 27 churches, a medical clinic, 27 elementary schools, a high school, a Bible college, business school, and a Missions Training Center for hosting visiting teams. Each day over 10,000 children attend school, receive a hot meal, medical care, school books, school uniforms, and the opportunity to hear the Gospel message of hope that changes lives. The majority of their buildings were destroyed or severely damaged. Since then they have established six schools and churches in Haiti, and built 12 new church buildings to replace schools and churches that were destroyed in the earthquake.
Compassion International also has many local projects and development centers in Haiti, with several in the Port au Prince area hardest hit by the earthquake. Compassion assisted children were helped by over 78,000 food kits immediately after the earthquake, each kit containing rice, beans, spaghetti, peanut butter, cooking oil and three gallons of drinking water. Each kit provided a family of five with a meal a day for two weeks.
Now, five years later, Compassion International, with renowned Salvadoran engineer Hilda Bojorquez, an expert in earthquake resistant construction, has rebuilt 28 centers to meet international seismic standards, a remarkable feat considering the obstacles she had to face. Hilda had to educate the local manufacturers how to construct bricks and blocks that would meet the rigid standards, as not only materials but means and methods of construction had to be utilized. Inclement weather and sporadic gang violence hampered the efforts but by God’s grace the work was accomplished.
Compassion has also helped many local individuals and businesses with low interest loans, business plans and encouragement and advice in starting up micro businesses to provide essential needs such as drinking water, bakeries, shops and small manufacturing. All of the funds including interest that has been repaid have gone toward the reconstruction of schools and child development centers in the earthquake affected areas, including Port au Prince, Leogane, Miragoane and Jacmel.
Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale has had a missions outreach in Jacmel on the south coast of Haiti about 30 miles south of the epicenter of the 7.0 magnitude quake. Most of their effort has been in the area of evangelism, outreach, and supporting the ministry of Pastor Sam Felix and Pastor Zamora in their schools and orphanages.
According to Outreach Pastor Jorge Bustamante, they have not to date done extensive rebuilding of the infrastructure or buildings in the Jacmel area, but have focused their efforts in sending groups from the States on a regular basis to encourage and equip the local church in Haiti, who are better able to minister to the needs of the people than Americans working across culture.
Global Solace, Inc., (GSI) a non-profit organization in the Washington Beltway, is involved with providing solar energy projects in Africa and Haiti. They have been working with the St. Joseph School in Carcasse, Haiti, since prior to the earthquake. In 2009, GSI had installed a small 450 watt solar PV system with batteries and an inverter to provide 120V, AC power to the school for lights, a few computers and the ever-present cell phone chargers.
In 2013, after the earthquake, the facilities were expanded to include a second story on the school, the construction of a rectory for the local priest and the construction of a health clinic. In the fall of 2014, GSI installed a larger 2 KW solar PV system for the rectory, health clinic and expanded school. In addition, GSI is providing a network of 24 computers with internet access and educational software for the school.
There is much reconstruction going on in and around Port au Prince with roads and buildings. All of the new cement block buildings have to meet the new seismic codes. The city of Petionville, about 10 miles east of Port au Prince and about 5,000 feet above the sprawling capital city, has had extensive reconstruction as many of the American lives lost in the earthquake were at the Hotel Montana, a six story building which collapsed and pancaked in the earthquake.
Despite this progress, Haiti needs our prayers and support more than ever. Those who are able may want to consider getting involved with a short-term missions trip, which can change one’s life and perspective forever. Others may want to support financially those who go short and long-term as well as the national church in Haiti.
More information is available at: www.newmissions.org, www.globalsolace.org, and www.compassion.com.
Bob Woods is a senior project manager at AECOM Technical Services, as well as a published Christian author. He can be reached at email@example.com. Lee Bristol of Global Solace and Bob graduated together from Hartford (Vermont) High School, and Lee graduated from M.I.T. and founded Global Solace.