Building ‘With Haitians, for Haitians’
Religion & Liberty Online

Building ‘With Haitians, for Haitians’

It has been three years since the nation of Haiti was overwhelmed by earthquake devastation. In those three years, to the naked eye, it often appears as if little has been done. After all, at least 360,000 people still live in tent cities and infrastructure remains dubious.

However, three years is a short time in a nation’s history, especially a nation like Haiti, with its background of political turmoil, slavery and natural disaster. According to Catholic New Service, progress – slow but steady – is being made. Not only that, the progress is being made by the Haitian people themselves, in partnership with others, rather than through a steady-stream of NGOs and stop-gap mission programs. Catholic Relief Services is one of those partners.

“We want to build things with Haitians for Haitians, and it takes a little longer,” Darren Hercyk, country representative in Haiti for CRS, explained in an interview from Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital. “In the end I have not found a problem where all parties have not bought into it.”

Hercyk said the earthquake changed the way CRS approaches its work from being primarily in rural areas to one with a major presence in urban programming. For example, CRS is tackling the rebuilding of St. Francis de Sales Hospital, which was destroyed in the earthquake, into a 200-bed state-of-the-art teaching facility. The U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and development agency has partnered with the Haitian Ministry of Health and the Catholic Health Association to carry out the project.

The goal, Hercyk said, is to network the rebuilt hospital with others across the country for the delivery of care and the training of future doctors and nurses.

Other key partnerships identified by Hercyk include a Catholic education program and the development of affordable and safe housing to move people still living in squalid tent camps scattered across the country.

Catholic Relief Services has worked in Haiti since 1954, partnering with the Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince to provide health, education and financial help to the people of Haiti. However, CRS is careful to recognize Haitian responsibility in planning for a sustainable future:

Our strategy has been to engage Haitians directly in driving their own development. As one of the largest American relief and development organizations in that country, we work through a broad network of partners, including the Catholic Church in Haiti. Through these partnerships, we are working hand in hand with Haitians to help them rebuild their country better and stronger. Our goal is to build up our local partners so that CRS is no longer needed directly in Haiti.

Read “Partnerships, sustainability are key in Haiti’s earthquake recovery” at Catholic News Service.

Elise Hilton

Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.