On January 12, 2010, Haiti was upturned by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake. After this disastrous event, LDS Charities assisted Haitians in the relief effort.
The Haitian members of the Church have played a key role in making decisions that are best for their unique situation. Within a short time after the disaster, a special Haitian-led emergency-response committee was formed in addition to the already established Church committees. Men and women alike participated actively on the committee.
Every decision made by the committee had a similar objective: to help the Haitian members become self-sufficient. For each part of the relief effort, the committee gave assignments to the local Haitians so they could act on their own as much as possible.
The committee met several times a week. Patrick Reese, manager of administration and planning for LDS Charities, attended one of the meetings. He reported, “It was one of the best experiences of my life. All matters of business were handled and decisions were made.”
The system the committee established proved to be very efficient. Reese said, “The [Church] welfare program in the United States developed over several years. The circumstances these leaders face has required them to implement the full program in one month—zero to sixty in seconds! They are doing it.”
The committee organized medical treatment services, started a vast employment program, provided trauma counseling training for bishops, and established emergency shelters and an operating storehouse.
Bishops in Haiti have helped members in their wards cope with what happened. With the assistance of basic pamphlets provided by LDS Family Services, bishops helped people deal with the emotional after-effects of the disaster. These simple pamphlets informed the bishops of what was happening to the people psychologically, which allowed bishops to confidently say, “These are natural feelings to have after something like this happens.”
Using these materials, bishops counseled the members of their congregations to deal with their feelings by praying, reading their scriptures, going to Church so that they can be surrounded by other people, and talking about what has happened with their families. “It is a very basic thing,” Bass explained, “but it gives them the confidence to know how to help themselves and others.”
HELPING OTHERS SURVIVE
The local Haitians knew where the Church could get a warehouse to store food and supplies, which enabled LDS Charities to lease and begin using the warehouse just one week after the earthquake.
It wasn’t difficult to find people to work at the warehouse once it opened. Bass said, “We already had people there who are used to being leaders and who their fellow Haitians look to as leaders. So instead of having to go out to find people to work the warehouse, we just ask the bishops. We say, ‘We need 20 people here to unload trucks,’ and they get them there.”
Relief supplies included foods familiar to Haitians—beans, rice, oil, sardines, and spaghetti—as well as hygiene kits, newborn kits, tents, and other supplies. Leaders frequently reviewed the needs of their fellow Haitians to modify supply requests.
LDS Charities trained volunteers in the basic skills needed to run a warehouse. They taught them how to organize the warehouse, keep an inventory, place an order, and drive the delivery trucks.
Today, Haitian members are running the warehouse on their own. Food and supply shipments arrive at the warehouse two or three days after an order is placed. The warehouse workers unload and stock the supplies. When they receive an order from a bishop, the supplies are pulled and loaded into three large trucks provided by LDS Charities. To avoid danger, the men deliver the food to the meetinghouses during the night.
Run by 25-30 people, the food distribution project has supplied thousands of Haitians with food.
Although it will take years to rebuild Haiti, the progress that the Haitian members of the Church have made is remarkable.