Archive for January, 2010

Domestic Response to the Crisis in Haiti
January 25, 2010

A Letter from John Robinson, National Coordinator for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance regarding the domestic response to the crisis in Haiti…

Dear Colleagues in Ministry,

 A few of you have inquired about the availability of PDA assistance in responding to the needs of the Haitian communities in the US in the wake of last week’s devastating earthquake. 

 PDA considers this both a domestic and an international disaster.  The role of the domestic response is to provide, where possible, spiritual support for Haitians living in this country who have been affected by the events in Haiti.  At this point our approach will be to develop information about Haitian culture and guidance about pastoral care for those grieving the loss of loved ones from a distance.  If the way is clear PDA may be able to develop regional gatherings for those who wish to be active in this ministry of care for those in our midst. 

 At this point returning to Haiti is not advisable for family members.  The international humanitarian assistance programs are working diligently to develop the relief structures necessary to provide safe, sanitary housing, food supplies and medical care.  PDA will be involved on the ground with partners with whom we have worked previously.  Funds will not be made available for transportation for family.

 We are awaiting word from the US government as to the plans for offering temporary status for Haitians with ties to the US to come to this country and under what conditions. So far this seems to be very limited and restricted to those with overwhelming vulnerability such as those with life threatening medical conditions and orphans whose orphanages were so badly damaged that remaining in place constituted an unreasonable risk to their health and welfare.  If some limited evacuation becomes a reality PDA will work with Presbyteries, existing aid organizations and with those funded by the government to provide case management and financial support.

 So far those evacuated from Haiti have been those with US or dual US/Haitian citizenship.  Many of these families are returning to the US without resources to support themselves.  Unless funding from FEMA is forthcoming it is likely that these families will be in need of hospitality and support as well as spiritual care during their evacuation. 

 At this time PDA does not have a plan for distributing funds to Presbyteries for support of the Haitian community in the US, aside from the Care for Caregiver training and information on culturally appropriate ways of assisting those dealing with the grief in the loss and injury of family and friends in Haiti.

We are still in the early days of responding to this crisis.  The areas struck by the earthquake are not yet secure, the systems of providing aid are not yet completely in place and the plans even for the foreseeable future are not clear from either out government or the United Nations and other international aid agencies.  Care must be taken neither to destroy the Haitian agricultural sector nor to replace employment opportunities for Haitian by foreigners as the Haitian people work to get their own economy working again.

 This will be a long process.  We all need to be careful to respond to the immediate needs within our resources without seeming to offer more than is possible to give.  Local ecumenical and non-profit collaboration can guard against duplication of services and exposure of one organization to be overwhelmed.  In long term disaster recovery it is important for those affected by the disaster to be encouraged to make choices for themselves and reconnect with their own means of coping and resilience.  Providing support through prayer services, listening sessions and fellowship can be as important as the provision of physical needs. 

 As we move forward with the involvement of PDA domestically with the response to this overwhelming tragedy, I will do my best to keep you in the loop.  In the meantime, if you know of those who could help in developing culturally appropriate information for those seeking to provide hospitality to Haitians during this crisis, please send the contact information to janet.nunez@pcusa.org.  In addition,  it would be helpful to know whether there are other Haitian community or faith communities within your Presbytery.

 Grace and Peace,

John

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