American Red Cross volunteer Winnie Romeril returned from Haiti this past weekend after spending two weeks working on relief efforts there. Winnie has been instrumental in providing information about her experiences to us for sharing on this blog. On Monday, she spoke at a round table briefing at our National Headquarters. Here are some descriptions of the work she took part of, and her impressions upon leaving the country.
The Red Cross firmly believes that we must work with the community to figure out their needs. One example is how our water purification teams talk to community leaders to figure out what’s going on. Outside Port-au-Prince in smaller cities and villages, there are many wells unscathed by the earthquake– so we test them to let people know if the water is safe. In communities where it’s not safe, we have set up water distribution points.
There is an incredible resiliency in the Haitian people. Since everyone has been affected by the earthquake, this has created a powerful sense of unity. This resiliency is particularly prevalent among children, many of whom continue to laugh and play despite the widespread devastation. The market economy has also started coming back with some banks, gas stations and stores now open. Food and other materials are coming in from the unaffected countryside. Relatives who live abroad are sending in money.
How well would we like to build back Haiti? We could bring them back to the standards they were at before the earthquake, but is that good enough? It’s not. Haiti unfortunately will have more disasters. We need to help them prepare for future events with better construction that can withstand hurricanes and earthquakes. We know how to do this: we’ve done it in Pakistan, Peru, and China, and we can do it in Haiti. For every dollar we invest in disaster preparedness, we save $4-8 in disaster response. The Haitians are leading the way in rebuilding their lives.
We need to support Haitians to be stronger for the future.