ELCA NEWS SERVICE
March 5, 2011
ELCA Continues Lifesaving Work in Haiti
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (ELCA) -- Standing atop a hill of cement rubble and twisted steel surrounded by temporary shelters wrapped in canvas tarps dotting the neighboring hills, the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), took in the sights and sounds of everyday life in Haiti.
At his side was the Rev. Joseph Livenson Lauvanus, president of the Eglise Lutherienne d'Haiti (The Lutheran Church of Haiti). "We Haitians will not be defined by the rubble, but by restoration, for we are a people of the resurrection," said Lauvanus to Hanson. Lauvanus hosted Hanson during the presiding bishop's visit to Haiti Feb. 21-22. The two Lutheran church leaders visited several ELCA-supported recovery projects in Haiti initiated in the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake.
The earthquake devastated the south-central portion of the Caribbean nation near the capital city of Port-au-Prince. Nearly 250,000 people died, some 300,000 people were injured and more than 1.5 million people were displaced. Most are still living in camps.
Lauvanus said the Lutheran Church of Haiti is focused on transforming the lives of Haitians by "accompanying" them as they rebuild their country and economy. Lauvanus expressed his gratitude for the ELCA’s support in helping to make this work possible.
ELCA members have given more than $12.6 million to date to the ELCA World Hunger and Disaster Appeal in response to the earthquake in Haiti, all of which is being used to provide relief and recovery. Through February 2011 about $4.2 million of these funds had been spent for work in Haiti and for Haitians sent to the United States for medical care. The remainder will be used to continue efforts as part of a five-year redevelopment plan.
"We can be part of the solution," Lauvanus said. "We talk about how new life can rise from the rubble. We talk about renaissance. We talk about transformation because the gospel is about good news. The people are not alone. Christ is in their midst."
Hanson said he was impressed by Lauvanus' comment that Haitians won't be defined by rubble, and that they are "a people of the resurrection."
"I literally saw that statement lived out again and again," he said. "That is not meant to minimize the magnitude of poverty or the task that lies ahead. It speaks to the resiliency of people of faith that we encountered, and why we need to continue to accompany Haitians. As so often happens, we receive as much in these relationships as we give."
A five-year plan for long-term ELCA response
The ELCA has planned a five-year, $10 million long-term redevelopment strategy and will work through its local partners and the Lutheran Church of Haiti to help Haitians renew hope and rebuild livelihoods.
A hallmark of the ELCA's response to widespread disasters is to assist with both immediate needs and engage in long-term redevelopment efforts, working alongside people who live in the area.
The ELCA, through the generous giving of its members, is providing support to help with immediate needs such as water, sanitation and other materials, as well as deploying health agents to respond to cholera. It is also working with Haitians on longer-term redevelopment, such as building a vocational training center and housing, and establishing income-generating projects.
The vocational training center, for example, will increase income opportunities for young men and women in communities affected by the earthquake. Chickens are being provided to some 200 farmers to develop an egg production cooperative in places such as Bell Eau-Fonds des Negres, Vialet-Petit Goave, Peredo-Jacmel and Poste Droit-Les Cayes.
"It is a cooperative owned by the people," Lauvanus said. "We train people. That is why education is key for us."
The five-year plan also calls for facilitation of access to shelter, safe water and sanitation; providing education through rebuilding of three school buildings for 450 students; and increasing the capacity of Haitians for emergency preparedness and response.
Funds have already been deployed for a wide range of needs:
+ The ELCA sent nearly $1.5 million to The Lutheran World Federation to support initial emergency response, camp management, temporary shelter and schools, water and sanitation. It provided another $525,000 toward cholera response.
For example, Redemption Lutheran Church, Sapotille, Haiti, near the earthquake's epicenter, has been rebuilt and serves as a community outreach center. The congregation provides free access to safe drinking water and educates its members and the community on cholera prevention and services provided by health agents. Community health agents have been trained to respond quickly to people with symptoms of cholera, stabilize them and transport them to health facilities for treatment. Without this community-based resource, many people would likely die, unable to get to medical care soon enough.
"Whenever anyone thinks someone has cholera, they call one of these community health agents," Lauvanus said. "They treat the environment to (keep) people from getting it. From there we provide cars to go to the hospital."
+ More than $1.5 million in ELCA funds went to the Lutheran Church of Haiti to provide services and supplies to families who sought refuge at several church locations following the earthquake. A portion of those funds are being used to rebuild in Carrefour, including purchase of land and heavy equipment for a vocational training center near Gressier.
The center will provide vocational training in construction trades, such as masonry, carpentry, and heavy machine operation and repair. According to the Lutheran Church of Haiti, the center's staff will provide an 18-month training program for 40 people. Those who join the program initially will begin learning new trades by building the school.
+ Other funds were provided for feasibility studies to help promote access to microfinance or new business opportunities; shipments of material aid, and health and hygiene kits in camps; and support for Haitian refugees and medical evacuees entering the United States.
The ELCA works through partners on the ground in Haiti, such as the Lutheran Church of Haiti and The Lutheran World Federation, Geneva.
Photos from Presiding Bishop Hanson's visit to Haiti are at http://photos.elca.org/ELCA-News-Service-1 on the Web.
Information about the ELCA's response to the disaster in Haiti, including how to give, is at http://www.ELCA.org/Our-Faith-In-Action/Responding-to-the-World/Disaster-Response/Ongoing-Responses/Haiti-Earthquake.aspx on the ELCA Web site.
About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with approximately 4.5 million members in more than 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.
For information contact:
John Brooks, (773) 380-2958 or firstname.lastname@example.org