JRS serves 16,000 people suffering from Haitian earthquakeJanuary 21, 2010
(Washington, D.C.) Jan. 21, 2010 – Jesuit Refugee Service has provided emergency relief in the form of food, medicine, tents and debris-removal tools to about 16,000 citizens of Port-au-Prince to aid their recovery from last week’s devastating earthquake. Additionally, in coordinated efforts with partner organizations in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, JRS has set up several locations throughout the countries to deliver aid to more people suffering from the effects of the earthquake in an efficient and organized manner.
The Jesuit Centro Bonó center in Santo Domingo, DR, has been set up as a collection center for supplies to be delivered to Haiti. JRS in the Dominican Republic moves items from Santo Domingo to Barahona, a city in the southern part of the DR near the Haitian border where they are then moved into Haiti; when conditions permit the items are sent directly to Port-au-Prince.
Jesuit Refugee Service has so far been able to offer aid to Haitians in the form of food, medicine, hygiene kits, places to rest – and in the one of the primary missions of JRS, by being a supportive presence.
One of the JRS staging centers for earthquake relief in Haiti is the novitiate in Port-au-Prince. Tents have been set up in the courtyard for medical volunteers to sleep in, and trucks unload their goods at the novitiate as well.
“We arrived at the Jesuit novitiate at twilight and began to unload the trucks, without any fear about the reaction of the population. We did not have military security, but there were two night watchmen present. Early the next morning we continued to unload supplies and then met to organize. As we gathered a large number of people began to knock on the door asking for food to be distributed. We stopped the meeting thinking the worst. We had to call the guards. (I told the people if they would disperse I would meet with them. They agreed.)
In the afternoon I met with people from the surrounding neighborhood. Our novitiate is at the entrance to a very poor and depressed neighborhood where many victims of the earthquake are living. That afternoon we had an excellent meeting with all the residents. They understood we needed time to organize the distribution, we understood that they need our help. We shared our fears and our feelings of insecurity; they said that we had nothing to fear, that they would help us to organize to distribute the aid and pledged to help us unload the trucks.
You cannot imagine the joy this interaction gave me. A joy linked to a new understanding of the situation. It gave us a very specific lesson on a new way to manage emergency aid distribution. We need to integrate people as much as possible in the process itself ... When people flocked to our door I remember the voice and face of Soucet, a very brave woman who demanded food, with anger and courage. I remember my fear in the face of so many desperate people. Now I see friendly faces, people with whom to share and work together for the same cause ... Now we have a stronger sense of safety and security than could be provided with the military forces. We have the backing of those who we would accompany and serve....”
- Mario Serrano, Director of JRS – Dominican Republic, who is leading a team into the earthquake devastated areas of Haiti.January 19, 2010
The Haitian city of Jacmel can now only be reached via the neighboring Dominican city of Pedernales. Pedernales is the most secure route to access this community, due to the collapse of other transportation routes in the wake of the earthquake. From Pedernales, access to the Cabo Rojo Port is possible, and JRS is relying on the support of the Navy and local authorities to access the town.
On January 18, JRS sent the first shipments of aid to the city of Jacmel on four boats. The first three went out with food, medicines, 1,600 tents, trucks and tools with which to remove debris. The fourth came with 60 tons of food, more medicine and 48 French doctors coordinated by Plan Internacional. JRS organized the boats with the active participation of the Dominican Civil Defense force, the Navy and voluntary national and international workers from both Haiti and France. Each of the vessels included representatives of the umbrella organizations mentioned above.
Aid from the Jesuit run Social Center of Santiago has been coordinated with Caritas – Dominican Republic. On Jan. 17, JRS mobilized a telethon from the Social Center which was broadcast across the Dominican Republic. In addition JRS sent 12 trucks of supplies, and seven more containers of supplies via 40-foot trailers. Each of the trucks and containers held items such as canned food, water, medicine, medical supplies, and other materials. These items were delivered to Caritas and Catholic Relief Service Haiti – with whom we are partnering in Haiti – for final delivery to quake victims. you can read and/or listen to the NPR story here:
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Mr Christian Fuchs
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202-462-0400 ext. 5946