Rebuilding Hope in Haiti
As the immediate shock of Jan. 12’s devastating earthquake in Haiti fades, the nation has begun to appraise the future with a fresh eye. Terry Snow, national director for YWAM Haiti, says he and his team are shifting from temporary and instant relief to implementing long-term plans that will help refugees reclaim and rebuild their lives from the ground up.
While the destruction catapulted Haiti into the worldwide news for weeks, the country will be restructuring itself for years to come. In St. Marc, where one of YWAM’s four Haitian centres exists, Snow has been coordinating efforts for both short-term and long-term relief. He and his team set up a system on their base to register all refugees who come to the city from Port au Prince, where the earthquake struck. Approximately 4500 victims have been handed identification cards, which allows them to seek help as refugees.
Local pastors with whom Snow has established connections have also been stepping in to offer their churches as temporary shelter for those who lost their homes. For 2 US$ a day, the churches can provide one person with warm meals. Over 1700 people have been placed in these churches or residences in the area, and Snow has been meeting with the pastors to ensure people are receiving the food and support they need.
In addition to this immediate solution, the YWAM team has ordered 200 tents which will provide shelter for refugees as they seek jobs, family members and permanent housing. Up to eight people can live in each 300 US$ tent.
Initially the gym at the YWAM center in St. Marc was being used as a temporary medical clinic, but YWAM volunteers renovated a nearby hospital that was condemned as unfit years earlier. With the garbage swept out and paint on the walls, St. Nicholas hospital is ready to be used once more. Some victims are also living in the hospital until they can find a more permanent location, and the St.Marc gym is now accommodating more YWAM teams that have arrived to help from all over the world.
In addition to the work in St. Marc, YWAM has medical teams set up across from the capital building in Port au Prince providing care for anyone who needs it. In addition to care needed for wounds received as buildings fell in the earthquake, basic medical services are being provided. Recently, a woman showed up at the St. Marc police station about to give birth to her baby.
Even now, weeks after the earthquake, YWAM’s trucks are being used as ambulances to carry the injured from the streets where they are still resting, unable to get to a hospital, to locations where they can receive urgently needed medical attention. Ten days after the earthquake struck, a man was discovered trapped under the rubble by a YWAM team; they were able to pull him from his prison to freedom.
Snow and his team see their job as a lot more than just providing for the physical needs of those who come through their doors; the people they see are desperate for emotional and spiritual encouragement as well. He says many Haitians have seen that the things they trusted in before the earthquake are not giving them what they need. Amidst the chaos of organizing the refugees and volunteer teams coming to serve, he and his team feel more than ever the importance of sharing the hope they have in Jesus.
“It’s not just the physical medicine they need,” Snow said, “but the caring touch of the genuine love of God. The Haitian people are stirred to place hope in something lasting.”
While donations have been quick to come, more is necessary for the team as they settle in to help rebuild the nation. The biggest needs right now are shipments of medical supplies, funding and volunteers who can come for at least one month, but preferably more. Although the nation is in an unstable and relatively dangerous state, Snow says his 23 years in the country have given him enough experience to recognize where safer places are.
To find out more about YWAM's work in Haiti, and find out how to volunteer, please visit : www.ywamhaiti.org
Watch a video story about YWAM’s work in Haiti :