Posts Tagged ‘J/P HRO’

JP HRO–Stopping is Not an Option

Haiti One Year Later–and Your Help

Haiti Presidential Palace, Port-au-Prince

I was in Haiti over the summer, doing rebuilding/construction volunteer work at an orphanage in the seaside town of Jacmel. It was seven months after the devastating earthquake that smashed the island a year ago today—and had you told me then that the quake had happened just before I arrived, I would have believed you. Several months later, and all of my friends and connections I made while there make it clear that there hasn’t been a lot of forward progress. I know you know all this from the news—today’s anniversary, declared a national day of mourning in Haiti, is on every channel. One foundation worker in Port-au-Prince tweeted last night “New Theory: There are actually only 3 people in Haiti. Sean Penn, Bill Clinton, and Wyclef” and it is true, familiar faces get a lot of air time, and also bring a lot of international attention—which is good.

International help, actual help that makes it to the people, would be better…but it is rare. Billions of dollars were pledged to Haiti’s recovery from nations across the globe, but a tiny percentage of that has ever actually been given (including the US not getting pledged dollars down to the island). Money doesn’t solve every problem, but it would go a long way toward rebuilding homes (800,000 people are still living in desperate circumstances in tent villages), drinking water and sanitation systems (the cholera epidemic is still killing people who needn’t perish—and wouldn’t perish with access to safe water), and getting kids back into schools. Sure, the government would still be a mess (the recent elections, considered by almost all Haitians to have been a corrupt failure, have still not declared results…and most citizens know the results won’t represent them), but the people…the faces that aren’t movie stars or ex-presidents…might move back toward some semblance of normalcy. Ton upon cubic ton of rubble still lies unmoved; bodies still remain buried inside pancaked buildings; disease, unrest, rape, and assault still plague the tent cities where ten or more people are shoved into tiny canvas rooms; but still there is some joy. Music, laughter, dance, a community profoundly bound by one impossible circumstance after another—spending time outside, together, playing soccer in the street, braiding hair, celebrating birthdays, hundreds of merchants singing together in the market…Haiti has not spent a year crying, but has spent a year living and the living is mostly hard.

It can, and will, get better with our continued support. Private sector donations are the only ones making it through in great numbers. There are more than 10,000 NGOs (Non-Government Organizations—charities and foundations) working in Haiti—some far more effectively than others. Surely there is one that inspires you to help. Think about some of these, or use them as a jumping off point for your own commitment to healing.

The organization with whom I volunteered, who gives 100% of funds to construction crews and materials for orphanages in Port-au-Prince and Jacmel, is Hearts With Haiti.

Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres has treated more than 358,000 people in Haiti, performed more than 16,570 surgeries, and delivered more than 15,100 babies since the earthquake.

In addition to work in many other nations, the Rainbow World Fund has represented the international LGBT community outstandingly, and since the earthquake, has provided ongoing funding of “victory gardens” in Haiti to help fight against poverty and malnutrition, and sent thousands of pounds of supplies to help earthquake survivors rebuild their lives.

US Aid is the nation’s response to international emergency zones, and their Help Haiti programs cover a wide range of efforts, from rebuilding to medicine to investing in infrastructure.

The Clinton Foundation Haiti Fund has raised millions to build a better Haiti.

J/P HRO (J/P Haitian Relief Organization) is the group headed by Sean Penn, cutting through the bureaucratic BS and getting help directly to the people.

Here is a great map, showing where a great many of the NGOs are based and the work they are doing throughout Haiti—click around and be inspired.

Sean Penn, Haiti, and Me

I promise I won’t hijack this blog’s content and turn it into all-Haiti-all-the-time, and yet, since I leave in a month, it is foremost in my mind. What scares me is how it is NOT foremost in the minds of more people, as I surely believe it ought to be. It has been six months since the January 12 earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions. The international response was amazing and millions upon millions of dollars were pledged to help the nation heal—ay, there’s the rub. Only about 10% of those promised funds have materialized. Nations and corporations and private funders have not bellied up to the bar and written their checks. I was under the mistaken impression that Haiti had almost too much money and couldn’t adequately spend it to put systems into place. Nope–the money never showed up. You might have pledged some yourself–where is it? This is how I can come to learn, as I recently have from a colleague, that in the town I will be working in, Jacmel, a collective of more than 300 artists and their families that were all made homeless from the quake–only 20 of those families have tents, and they have not seen any foreign aid or aid workers for months. MONTHS! There is no relief money or food from outside sources–a Haitian company gives them enough rice and beans for one meal a day. That is the extent of what they are receiving. And yesterday, the first of the season’s storms hit Haiti, tearing down more than a thousand tents in the refugee camps, and starting the wet season where flooding is guaranteed (and all those other goodies, like increased malaria from the boon in mosquito populations. I got my anti-malaria prescription yesterday–and tetanus shot, etc). Hurricane season runs until November–can you imagine what will happen if a hurricane hits in this, what the weather predictors say will be a higher-than-average season for tropical storms?

In the face of all this impossibility, Sean Penn is a genuine inspiration to me, and you as well, I hope. Just hours after the earthquake hit, Penn and Diana Jenkins were in action, mobilizing to cut through the masses of red tape and intertioa to get help to the people on the ground as quickly as possible. Already experienced through their work in New Orleans post-Katrina, Penn’s J/P HRO (Haitian Relief Organization) has been in Haiti since the first days after the tragedy in January, and are still there now. Sean is sticking it out: “In our case, we came down with the idea of spending two weeks and trying to help out,” said Penn. “There’s something that takes over and it’s really an obligation because you see the strength of the people who have never experienced comfort, and the gifts that that can give to people like myself and to our country and culture. You see the enormous gaps.”

In addition to their remarkably effective work of cutting through the obstacles and moving mountains, J/P HRO has started their Beat the Rain Campaign to help relocate and provide safe temporary shelter for more than 50,000 earthquake victims

Without safe shelter, the lives of hundreds of thousands of homeless Haitians are at risk.

As flooding starts, Haiti faces a public health disaster that could be as great as the earthquake itself…so if you can’t come with me in a few weeks, will you find a way to support this hugely important work? Visit Sean’s website to educate yourself. Donate. Ask me questions–if I don’t know the answers, I’ll find out. Share this with me, and share your strength with Haiti.