We picked up the phones as soon as we heard of the earthquake to speak with Haitian partners like Chavannes Jean Baptiste of the Peasant Movement of Papaye (MPP). Like the thousands of Haitian families in the U.S. trying to find out who was still alive, we quickly found that communication lines were broken or overtaxed. Eerily, our partners’ phones just ring and ring – no answer. In Chavannes’ case, we were able to reach his brother in New York who confirmed that he is still alive. For that we give thanks. But in truth, we are working with very little direct information.
Given the magnitude of the quake, we are preparing for high fatalities and tremendous need on the part of survivors. We wanted to let Grassroots supporters know that we are doing all we can to provide as much help as we can. All of our partners have offices in Port-au-Prince.
We are in close communication with nearly a dozen allied organizations like American Jewish World Service, Rights Action and the Lambi Fund to learn what they have heard and how they are responding. It’s critical that we coordinate our efforts.
We know from over 26 years of experience that the best aid strategy – be it in Haiti and elsewhere – is to work directly with the people most affected. Emergency relief, like all aid, needs to be led by the communities themselves and move from the bottom up, not from the top down. We know from past history that Haiti has not been well served by the aid industry – Haiti’s reliance on food aid has only grown over the years. To the extent possible, we will provide cash to our partners to make local purchases of the items they most need and to obtain food from farmers not hit by the disaster.
We remain hopeful that we will be able to make contact with our partners in the next couple of days, and we will keep you updated on their status. Thank you so much for your concern and for your contributions to our Earthquake Relief Fund for Haiti.
Photo above: Chavannes Jean Baptiste in front of the MPP training center.