January 12, 2011, marked the one-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti. There are still crumpled buildings lining the streets of Port-au-Prince. An estimated 800,000 people still live in tents, unable or afraid to return to their homes. And poverty is as bad as ever.
The island of La Gonave, where Partners International's ministry partner, Haitian Calvary International Ministries (HCIM), is working, is extremely poor, with very few jobs or hope for the future. Children attend school in rural churches, where teachers work without pay, students study with no lunch, and some kids don't even go to school because they don't have one decent set of clothes.
When the earthquake first struck, Partners jumped in, helping people with medical care, food, and other needs. A container of rice, oil, beans, and other necessities was shipped to La Gonave. Now, Partners is looking to long term development.
Bob Savage, Director of Global Learning Exchange, spent January 10-14 in Haiti, following up on the work being done through Partners International's involvement. Here are a few excerpts from his trip report:
"The local schools are incredibly poor, maybe the poorest I’ve seen. We drove most of the day on a terrible road riding in the bed of a truck with hard wooden benches. Bone jarring and I wasn’t prepared for so much sun exposure. We went to two schools in La Palmiste and Nan Boislet, one had a very simple building of rocks and cement with a corrugated iron roof, I didn’t see any books, and there was some kind of board they were using as a chalkboard. The other was worse, a bit of thatch for walls and a tarp over the top that was frayed by the sun.
"Lefils runs one of the schools that we didn’t go to. He went to university in Florida but had to come back when his student visa ran out. He said he loves it in La Gonave, that it’s more peaceful than Port au Prince. His school has about 60 kids in it, but should have at least 100 except that the other kids don’t have a reasonable set of clothes or shoes to come to school so the parents don’t send them. He said that once in a while parents might give a little, about $20, every few months, or maybe not at all. If they press for money, the parents don’t have it and feel bad so just stop sending the children. He’d like to pay the teachers about $140 per month, but very little has actually been paid to them. They’d like to give lunch to the kids which would help them learn, but they don’t have money for that either. They’d also like to provide uniforms for the kids, which would help more come who don’t have proper clothes.
"In all these schools, the teachers keep serving even if they aren’t paid. If the time comes where they can’t survive that way, they just stop and do something else. But there are few others jobs, so most keep serving in the hope there will be salaries for them once in a while."
Partners is helping with teacher salaries, and also in the initial planning stages for a vocational training school with HCIM, to give people on La Gonave hope of future employment through English and computer skills.
The road ahead is long, but through God's power, much can be accomplished to better peoples' lives, both now and for eternity.