Category Archives: hurricane relief

Relief vs. Development

Although many people confuse the two, Hurricane Matthew has reminded us that there are huge differences between relief and development. We ordinarily do not engage in relief work, but as we learned after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, when disaster strikes our partners, our deep and longstanding local connections make us uniquely positioned to respond. However, while relief work helps people to stay alive, it does nothing to change their overall situation or improve their long-term conditions. Continued too long, it can actually be harmful.img-20161011-wa0018

It has the potential to undercut development work, as people become accustomed to handouts. This is tremendously disempowering. Recipients grow passive, since what they may have to offer is not valued. In time they will be dependent on the one offering assistance. On one of my earliest trips to Haiti, I met farmers who couldn’t sell their produce because food was being given away as part of an aid program. Many of them didn’t even bother to plant that year because competing with giveaways seemed futile.

Furthermore, relief can never help people to grow out of poverty, no matter how much money you put into it. One of the most common questions I get is, “why, with all the money that was spent on Haiti after the earthquake, is it still poor?” The answer to that is complicated, but the simplest answer is that putting money into relief and expecting an end to poverty is expecting the impossible.

Effective development, on the other hand, can actually help people to move beyond poverty. In fact we see it happening every day amongst our partners. However, unlike relief, it requires the active participation of the people themselves.

All of the elements of the Plant With Purpose model encourage that participation: Bible study curriculum that helps people to understand that work is a gift and that they have talents and a calling; savings groups that depend not on outside donations, but on the savings of the participants; agricultural experiments that farmers themselves run. Efforts to help the poor that don’t enlist them as leaders and employ their talents and resources are missing the most potent ingredient.

Once people become active participants in change, they can both discover and contribute their own gifts. Possibly the most tangible example of this is the savings that people contribute. New participants frequently don’t believe they have money to save, and truth be told; I didn’t really believe it when we started either. However, groups that didn’t think they could save fifty cents a week have saved thousands of dollars, and collectively they have saved and invested millions of dollars into their own communities.

But there are other, less tangible, ways that they have contributed as well, digging up and employing amazing talents in the process of ending extreme poverty. For example, tree planting and watershed restoration are done on a voluntary basis. People begin to serve and care for their neighbors as an expression of their generosity. They become true partners in the effort to redeem communities and creation. We look forward to transitioning out of the relief and recovery mode in Haiti, and back into a mode where we are better able to free people to use their God-given talents and respond to one another in generosity.

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Haiti Update, Wednesday October 12

On Monday, four teams of ten people each began work on the road from St. Etienne to Cherident. They worked to restore half of a kilometer near Lonpre. Yesterday that team was expanded to five groups of ten people, who cleared 1.2 kilometers.

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To facilitate communications, we have asked Taylor Pizzuto, who was serving with us as a communications fellow in the Dominican Republic, to move to Haiti and help us with updates, and reports. He arrived in Port au Prince today and we expect his first report later today.

Survey work continued as well. We still have not heard any news of fatalities, despite some rumors. Most of the loss of life was farther west than where we work. However, we are seeing terrible destruction, like this church in Boucan Chatte, where a couple of our village savings groups meet. The first set of pictures are of the church just over a week ago, during one of our meetings, and the second set was taken last Friday.

However the real destruction has been to the food supply – crops that people were depending on are badly damaged. Yesterday, I spoke with a friend who is originally from the village of Kavanac, near Grande Colline. He said, “fortunately we didn’t have any death, but the damages are very considerable. I wonder what people in the community will eat in the following 3 months.”

I pray that we can help to answer that question. We hope to provide cash-for-work for the next several months so that people will be able to buy food. However, for that to happen we will need to raise considerably more money than we have to date.

If you want to help, our donation page is set up so you can create your own fundraiser for Haiti relief. https://plantwithpurpose.dntly.com/campaign/help-haiti#/ You can also make a direct donation.

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Haiti Update, Tuesday October 11

I have time for just a quick update today.

We still have no reports of fatalities in the communities where Plant With Purpose has been working, which is a blessing. However, crop loss has been extensive. Guy has been working on getting a complete list of damages, which includes injuries, damage to homes, loss of crops, and loss of livestock. We work with 40,000 people in Haiti, so this list is long.

Yesterday Guy organized a work party, which is hard at work repairing the road to Grand Colline. We are paying people for their work with the money we are raising right now, so they will have money to buy food. He is giving preference to the most vulnerable families in the hiring process.

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This system of cash-for-work is one of the most effective ways of getting food to people without undercutting the local farmers and merchants with food to sell.

In the meantime we have a lot more pictures to share.

Cornillon did not have as much damage as Fonds Verrettes or Grande Colline, but the damage is still significant as these pictures show.

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Hurricane Matthew Makes Landfall

Hurricane Matthew made landfall at 7 AM this morning, as a Category 4 just west of Les Cayes. It is apparently the strongest hurricane to hit Haiti in 52 years. The storm has since moved into the Gulf of la Gonave, but will likely drop a lot more rain before it completely leaves Haiti.

I just got off the phone with Guy Paraison, the director of Floresta Haiti, our local partner. He is in Croix de Bouquets near Port au Prince, but has been communicating with the regional directors by phone and text message. Here are specific local updates.

• Bainet, on the southern coast, and closest to where the eye made landfall has had flooding and landslides. Information is still incomplete, and I expect we will be hearing a lot more about damage and possibly loss of life.

• Grande Colline – the phones are apparently out and roads are impassable, so Guy has no concrete information.

• Cornillion – Our regional director, Smith reports that the wind is still very violent and there has been a lot of rain. Many farmers have lost crops – particularly bananas and beans. Also, many of the tree nurseries have been destroyed. However, the contour canals and soil erosion control barriers have been effective in reducing soil erosion and crop destruction.

• Fond Verettes – There has been a lot of rain but no specific reports of damage yet.

• Acul du Nord, furthest from the center for the storm, has experienced mostly rain and wind. We were planning on holding training on ecological latrines, led by Jorge from our Mexican program, and at least one farmer made the trip down from Acul du Nord to attend the training, which has obviously been postponed.

This information is very incomplete, but with the isolation of the communities we serve, we are unlikely to get an accurate picture of the full devastation for a few days, so stay tuned. However, Guy talked to us about the need to set up a relief effort for those who are most affected, so we are starting on plans to respond.

If you wish to donate you can go to our online donation page and write Haiti in the comments section. https://www.plantwithpurpose.org/donate/

Thanks for your prayers. I will keep updating this through the day and week as more information becomes available.

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Filed under haiti, hurricane relief