Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Newsline Update: Brethren Disaster Ministries executive returns from Haiti

Brethren Disaster Ministries executive director Roy Winter has returned to the United States from Haiti, after being part of a US Church of the Brethren delegation to the earthquake zone.

Other members of the delegation remain in Haiti for the time being, including mission coordinator Ludovic St. Fleur, Haiti disaster rebuilding coordinator Jeff Boshart, and Haitian consultant Klebert Exceus.

Winter’s two final journal entries from Port-au-Prince are being posted in full at the Brethren blog on Haiti (go to http://blog.brethren.org/?p=41#comments). Following are excerpts:

"Sunday, January 24: Ludovic is preaching at the Delmas 3 church location. Roy had planned to go along, but was advised to stay to help with the generator and because of safety concerns. This is an area where a large sheet city has grown up and there is much unrest. My presence could cause problems for the church members.

"Jeff, Ludovic, Jean Bily (a Haitian pastor), and others are heading to northern Haiti to meet with church members who fled Port-au-Prince. They will also work on a few details of our Gonaives projects while in the area (2008 hurricane response).

"I met with Julian Choe and Mark Zimmerman of Frederick Church of the Brethren, who were traveling with a group from the Dominican Church of the Brethren, including pastor Onelis Rivas. We shared ideas and experiences in Haiti. Dr. Choe is volunteering in a variety of clinics in Haiti and the DR....

"Having a little time to write also let me reflect on the situation in Haiti. I have chosen to not dwell on the more gory details, but that is exactly what’s on my heart right now. The masses of homeless, the fear of buildings, hunger, and now signs that people are starving to death are heavy today. It seems food distributions are just now scaling up, as people literally are dying for lack of food. Likely many have seen all this on TV, but the overwhelming scope of the situation weighs so heavy.

"Even with all our combined resources (international response community), how do we help these people move from victims to self-sustaining people? For some, living in temporary shelters and receiving handouts of food is an easier life than before the quake, but certainly not a life that helps build dignity and a belief they can care for themselves.

"We certainly cannot solve the problems in Haiti, but we can try not to add to them. The primary issues to address are easy to identify: things like food, safe drinking water, reasonable shelter, finding employment for more Haitians, and so on. Our challenge is to address these issues in a way that builds independence and capacity rather than dependence. As we develop a comprehensive response we will be working very closely with the National Committee (of Eglise des Freres Haitiens--the Haitian Church of the Brethren) and find ways to employ or work with Haitians to help with the response....

"I plan to fly back to Florida tomorrow, and make it to Maryland on Tuesday morning. From here, my focus will be finishing a draft of our response plan, developing a household kit I hope Church of the Brethren congregation will help create, and, and.... The list is long....

"May God’s grace embrace us all."

Planning begins for longterm Brethren response

In his journal entry for Saturday, Jan. 23, Winter outlined some of the planning being done with the National Committee of the Haitian Church of the Brethren to begin a longterm response to the earthquake. Plans will likely change, he noted, but may include developing a feeding program in four locations, and supporting the Haitian Brethren church leadership who have lost homes themselves while at the same time needing to be part of the church’s earthquake response.

"We hope to feed around 1,200 people for six months, provide some household items, and water filtration systems," Winter wrote. "I believe there will be a place for work teams, but not immediately. Right now logistics are so difficult it is difficult to imagine how we support a team, when so many simply need food."

Before he left Haiti, Winter and the delegation were able to visit with ecumenical partners working in Port-au-Prince including Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), SKDE, and a partner of SERRV. They were unable to locate Church World Service staff, however. "These visits are always very helpful and build response partnerships," Winter noted. "MCC was particularly interested in our home construction work from last year and we were interested in the canned meat they are receiving--multiple containers."

The group also received a report from the New American School, which is supported by Brethren in Florida. The school lost one of its two buildings. "The director Donald Pierre-Louis was trapped in the school for eight hours while his staff worked to dig and cut him out. One of his teachers had to crawl through a two-foot opening they cut through rebar and slide on his stomach to free Donald from the debris. Thankfully Donald was not injured and no children were present."

For more about the Church of the Brethren’s Haiti earthquake response, including a bulletin insert, online opportunities to give to support the work in Haiti and share prayers for Haiti, the Haiti blog, and video clips from the work of disaster ministries staff, go to www.brethren.org/HaitiEarthquake.

Source: 1/26/2010 Newsline Update

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