Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Charlotte relief worker: Haiti continues to need help

It’s been six months since the earthquake and relief efforts continue. Results have been mixed as millions remain homeless. Most are living in tents during the summer hurricane season. Sabine Guerrier, president of Charlotte’s Haitian Heritage & Friends of Haiti, recently returned from her group's third stint of relief work. I asked her about what she’s seeing on the ground.

How do you feel things are progressing?

Not as well as I would have expected. Six months after, its still baffling to me that we’re not done with the cleanup. How are we going to start the rebuilding effort? People are still buried under the rubble. People are still living on the streets. We’re past due to start the rebuilding. Why is it taking so long? They should have the equipment. They have raised the money. Why are we not doing it?

What are the greatest needs at this point?

You have a long list of needs, but it's still medical and housing. You still have people in the hospitals. You still have people needing care. People also need a lot of the mental and psychological care. People are scared. Also, housing is an issue. We’ve talked a lot about the tent cities around Port-au-Prince. But many people have left the city and moved to other parts of the country where housing was already inadequate. Especially right now with hurricane season, how are the tents going to help those people?

Last month, you were to deliver an ambulance from Charlotte. What is it now?

Right now the ambulance is still in customs. And it's in customs because of paperwork that we need to worked out. There were mistakes done that need to be fixed. We’re hoping if we get the right paperwork and signatures, over the weekend, hopefully by next week, we’ll get the ambulance.

People can see the ambulance in the shipyard when they’re walking on the street. And they can’t understand why we’re donating something free of charge and it's not being used. They’re starting to ask a lot of questions.

What other things are you’re working on?

The first thing is trying to send a crew to Haiti to train the medical workers on how to use the ambulance with the additional supplies we sent. Next, we’re working on a rehab center for handicap earthquake victims and continuing to build housing for the displaced. We’re also trying to find a handicap accessible van. There are a lot of people who are now handicap.

What should people consider when they think about Haiti?

It’s not over. A lot of people think it’s over. That the country has gotten better with all the donations that have been collected. But it's far from over. It's going to take years. A lot of support, both internationally and internally, a lot of collaboration to get Haiti back on its feet. The challenge is that people are tired of giving. They feel they've given enough. And they don’t see enough results. Haiti continues to need help. And those that most need the help are not receiving it.

For more information about the Haitian Heritage & Friends of Haiti, visit their website at http://hhfoh.org. On Thursday, the group will be at the Bank of America's 10th year Diversity Cultural Fair. It will be held from 11:30 to 2 p.m. in Founders Hall at the Bank of America Corporate Center.


Anonymous said...

While the situation in Haiti is surely sad and demoralizing, we would do well to remember that Haiti was a cesspit before the hurricane and while it is our responsibility to provide humanitarian aid, it is not our responsibility to rebuild their country for them and leave them better off than they were before. I am all for helping those affected by a natural catastrophe, but we have plenty of suffering people here at home (in the US) that have a preemptory claim on our help and financial largess.We need to take care of our own first.

Anonymous said...

I'm not opposed to helping Haiti but what about all the people in our own country? What about the disaster in the gulf? What about all the homeless people here? USA support efforts are helping people in every other country but here at home.

Anonymous said...