Distributing aid in Haiti

Boy carries water collected  from broken pipe near the JRS Bono Centre; Jimani. Pic: JRS

Boy carries water collected from broken pipe near the JRS Bono Centre; Jimani. Pic: JRS

We left Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic, for Haiti, and on the way we decided that the truckloads of donations, which were originally going to be deposited in an industrial warehouse in Barahona, should accompany us directly. When we reached Jimani, a town on the border with Haiti, we set up a team of personnel from Centro Bonó and Centro Poveda. We then crossed the border with two large truckloads of aid, having made sure we were accompanied by military security. It was almost night when we reached the Jesuit novitiate in Port-au-Prince, but we did not unload the trucks for fear of the people’s reaction, since we no longer had military security. However, we managed to get two police officers to keep watch during the night.

Early the next morning we unloaded the trucks, and then we held a meeting to get organized. While we were at the meeting, a large number of people began to bang at the gate asking that the food be distributed. We stopped the meeting, expecting the worst, and called the police. The police arrived but the people still did not disperse. The commander asked us to give them some water, which we did. When the people finally left, we promised them that they would be receiving more of the aid we had brought with us. The people agreed to that, and I also promised them that I would go talk with them later.

That afternoon I met with them. Our novitiate is at the entrance of a very poor neighbourhood, one that has many people affected by the earthquake. That afternoon we had an excellent assembly of the residents there. They understood that we needed some time to organize the distribution properly, and we for our part recognized that they should be included among the beneficiaries of our aid. I shared with them our fears about the lack of security, and they told us that in that zone they themselves would guarantee security. They organized themselves to receive the aid, and they promised to help us unload the trucks.

It is hard to describe the joy I felt in this whole process, a joy flowing from a new understanding of the situation, from very concrete personal relationships, and from a new way of managing aid. It is important to integrate the people as much as possible in the process itself.

From among the crowd that gathered at our gate, I remember especially the voice and the face of Soucet, a very brave woman who was angrily and forcefully demanding food. I recall the fear on the faces of so many people. But now I see friendly faces, the smiles of people with whom we are sharing what we have and with whom we are working together for the same cause. Now we have stronger security and protection than anything the military forces could have provided. We have the companionship of the people whom we want to accompany and help.

Fr Mario is coordinator of Jesuit activities for Haiti in the Dominican Republic

Source: Missio

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