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You Are Putting Haitians Back on Track

By Robyn Fieser

Nearly 2 years have passed since a devastating earthquake shook the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas. Scenes of destruction dominated the news for weeks. Although the cameras have long gone, the work of Catholic Relief Services and our Haitian Church partners continues to help tens of thousands get back on their feet, thanks to your support.

Transitional shelters in Haiti

CRS continues to build transitional shelters for camp residents starting, with those who are most vulnerable. The residents of this camp were living in a schoolyard after the earthquake. Photo by Benjamin Depp for CRS

The humanitarian response, beginning just hours after the earthquake, remains challenging and complex. Activities have transitioned from handing out emergency food and medical supplies to providing long-term programming that grows local leadership, and helps Haitian communities drive their own recovery and development.

Today, CRS is helping many of the 2 million Haitians left homeless by the earthquake move from camps into homes. Your support has made the rebuilding of their communities—shelter, clean water, sanitation, demolition, rubble removal and house repairs—possible. Through our flagship Community Resettlement and Recovery program, CRS and our partners have built more than 10,600 transitional shelters. The modest but sturdy quake- and storm-resistant houses are home to some 55,000 people.

To help residents of one camp find safe living conditions, CRS provided rental subsidies for a year. Residents took part in a 6-week course to learn everything from financial management to conflict resolution. Afterward, each family made a plan to cope with future challenges and to take back control of their lives. To encourage their progress, CRS is providing basic 6-month health insurance and educational support.

Building Jobs to Boost Incomes

Key to helping Haitians get back on track is job creation and other income-generating activities. Through CRS' innovative Rubble to Reconstruction program, Haitians are creating businesses using the rubble left by the quake. Program entrepreneurs and their employees use hand-cranked crushers to grind debris from damaged homes into a concrete mixture for new construction.

CRS cash-for-work participants grind rubble into gravel and sand

CRS cash-for-work participants Fennel Onielis, left, Gasman Joseph, center, and Jean Rody Delise, right, grind rubble into gravel and sand as a part of the agency's Rubble to Reconstruction program. Photo by Benjamin Depp for CRS

CRS buys the sand and gravel from these entrepreneurs to use in the foundations of the transitional shelters and latrines we build, and workers earn a living and learn to run a thriving business. As the program has matured, the entrepreneurs have added workers to mix cement and make cement blocks for sale on the local market.

To revive small businesses, CRS provides grants and business training to hundreds of entrepreneurs who either lost their business during the earthquake or envision a new one. In a few neighborhoods, your support is helping entrepreneurs set up recycling centers that pay community members for their recyclable plastic items.

You're also helping poor people form community savings groups. Too poor to access credit from traditional sources, group members, usually women, receive training and opportunity to build savings. Members can then borrow from their groups' savings to pay for health care or educational expenses.

Outside the country's urban centers, recovery depends on increased agricultural activity. About two-thirds of Haitians are subsistence farmers. However, after the earthquake, many families in rural areas shouldered the added responsibility of supporting others who had lost their homes. As a result, farmers are unable to regularly farm and grow enough food to cover their needs.

Please see our latest Haiti financial report.

Using U.S. government funds, CRS continues its pre-quake focus on helping families in Haiti's southern peninsula improve their agricultural productivity and protect natural resources. And, to help grow Haiti's struggling mango and coffee industry, CRS is working with more than 5,000 farmers to improve production and farming practices, and create links to more lucrative markets.

Thanks to your generosity and continued support, CRS is resettling more than 10,000 families in Port-au-Prince. By enabling families to move home safely and earn a living again, CRS is helping to reduce the number of displaced people living in camps.

Our next challenge: to continue to help Haitian families regain control of their lives and lift themselves out of poverty.

Robyn Fieser is CRS' regional information officer for Latin America and the Caribbean. She is based in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

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