Haiti Relief Efforts Enter New Phase

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI (July 12, 2010) – Covenant World Relief (CWR) partners have transitioned into new phases of helping Haiti with its long-term recovery from the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that leveled much of the capital city and surrounding areas six months ago today.

CWR does not provide direct assistance but rather works through World Relief International and Medical Teams International. Those organizations, in turn, coordinate with strong networks of local churches in order to provide the most effective assistance. CWR Director Dave Husby is a member of a special World Relief planning team that focuses on how to best partner American churches with Haitian congregations.

Covenanters have donated more than $1.14 million to Covenant World Relief’s Haiti Disaster Fund. Some of the funds will be directed toward long-term development, as was the case following the Indonesian tsunami and the hurricane that devastated New Orleans. Haiti was the poorest nation in the western hemisphere before the earthquake destroyed much of its infrastructure.

An estimated one million people were left homeless, most of whom remain in shelters no better than tents. Many survivors are “still living in a fog of despair and surrounded by devastation,” says Romnal Colas, World Relief’s disaster response manager in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital.

“Six months after the catastrophic disaster, this state of trauma is Haiti’s ‘new normal,’ ” says Colas. “The people are learning to start their lives over again, step by step,” he says.  “Many of them have a fear of concrete.”

Many of the survivors have sought refuge outside the city. Covenanter Janelle Peterson, who has been doing mission work in Haiti, recounts a recent trip to an area outside Port-au-Prince, “Any open yard is filled with makeshift tents and usually has a sign posted outside it reading, ‘We need help.’ ”

Among the survivors are local pastors and church leaders who have devoted themselves to serving others in the midst of their own personal suffering, Colas says, adding that, “they’ve struggled to cope with their own grief while counseling others.”

Medical Teams International has assisted nearly 185,000 people by providing medicines and supplies, as well as through the services of volunteers and staff. Services include orthopedic surgery, primary health care, wound care, and psychosocial treatment.

Because many healthcare facilities were destroyed, Medical Teams International has served 20,000 people through its mobile medical units.

During the next phase of recovery, the ministry will concentrate on helping people who have been physically disabled. Over the next two years, the nonprofit will provide prosthetics, equipment, rehabilitation, and emotional support to people with disabilities. As well, it will conduct seminars and training sessions with community leaders, teachers and pastors, and advocate at the community and government levels for improving the life of people with disabilities.

Covenant medical missionary Cindy Hoover plans to assist Medical Teams International with its work later this year.

Peterson left Haiti in June and plans to return July 22 to continue working with the Ebenezer Clinic. She is working under the support of the Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada, which also is partnering with the clinic.

Marianne Murchison, who was doing mission work in Haiti when the earthquake hit, attended a Haitian church in St. Louis, Missouri, on Sunday. “The people know the recovery will take a very long time,” she says.

Despite ongoing concerns, the people at the church were encouraged that the number of people expressing faith in Christ has increased dramatically, says Murchison, who is now a student at Webster University in St. Louis.

Murchison is the daughter of Marc Murchison, who pastors Lanyon Covenant Church of in Lanyon, Iowa. She is pursuing a master’s degree in international relations focusing on nonprofit management and hopes to attend seminary.

Ultimately, Murchison says, she wants to develop a leadership training school for pastors and others in the central portion of Haiti, where none currently exists.

She, like everyone who loves Haiti, is taking the long view when it comes to helping the country.

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