By Bob Allen
While news media have long moved on to other stories like the pro-democracy Arab Spring and U.S. presidential election, the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake remains a present reality in Haiti, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field workers reported on the disaster’s second anniversary.
Steven and Nancy James, who serve in Haiti jointly appointed by the CBF and American Baptist Churches USA, noted in a Fellowship blog that generous donations and volunteer labor have accomplished much in two years, but there is still much to be done.
“Tons of rubble have been removed, schools are once again in progress, a new president has been elected and things are starting to look “normal”, a “new normal”, as nothing will ever be the same again,” the couple reported.
The work in Haiti has moved from the early phase of disaster relief to recovery. CBF volunteers have worked along Haitian workers to construct “earthquake-proof” houses built with the rubble from the destroyed homes to provide sustainable shelter for those who were living in tents. While more than a million people displaced by the quake are now in permanent shelters, an estimated 500,000 are still living in tents.
“It is easy to despair when it seems there is still so much work to be done, but we see signs of hope,” they said.
One sign of hope is the rebuilding of a demolished school, which has become one of the finest schools in the town of Grand Goave, where CBF relief-and-recovery efforts are based.
CBF workers Michael and Brenda Harwood said the Fellowship kept its promise to rebuild Siloë Baptist Church School, constructing 13 classrooms and an administration building. The work began with volunteer labor by both Americans and Haitians, but over time the Haitian work crew was paid a modest wage and free lunch every work day for 18 months. The Harwoods said American volunteers often commented that one of the highlights of the experience was laboring alongside the local workers.
“Siloë Baptist Church School can proudly say that it was built by local labor, managed by a local foreman and a local project manager,” they said. “The pupils now gather in the courtyard every school day and proudly sing their national anthem as the Haitian flag is raised over their school. This is followed by a hymn and prayers to God. We are thankful that we have been able to make rebuilding a school a reality for our Haitian brothers and sisters in Christ. May the school prosper and offer hope to a new generation of well-educated Haitians.”