Many people have asked how the recent earthquake in Haiti impacted the two villages where we work – Galette Chambon and Thoman. The earthquake hit in the far southwestern part of the country as seen by the red dot in the photo below. Our two villages are to the east (right) of Port-au-Prince. There is no damage at all where we work, though the tremors were definitely felt in both of our locations.
GANGS. One of the biggest challenges facing those who would provide disaster relief is the ongoing threat of local gangs that terrorize people who attempt to drive from Port-au-Prince to the area that has been affected by the earthquake. Over the last couple of years, these gangs have become very violent and have engaged in theft, assault, kidnapping, and even murder.
Currently, we are receiving different reports (not unusual in Haiti) about the level of gang activity. One report tells us the gangs are allowing relief workers and supplies to pass unobstructed. Another report tells us the gangs are attempting to extort large sums of money from those attempting to travel that way and even refusing to allow groups to pass.
LOCATION. Another challenge for BGM is that the southwestern part of Haiti where the earthquake struck is far away from our two villages (6-8 hour drive depending upon traffic and road conditions).
PEOPLE. Also, we do not have local Haitians working for us in that area. In the two villages where we work, we have 176 employees. If a disaster occurs in our two areas, we have more than enough people on the ground to make a quick and profound difference.
EXPERTISE. As you know, our purpose and expertise are in building sustainable communities. We build churches, houses, medical clinics, and schools. We staff them with local pastors, doctors, nurses, and teachers. We enter a community to be there for the long haul and provide long-term assistance. We are not strictly or primarily a disaster relief organization.
Role for BGM
In light of all these challenges, is there a role for BGM in this earthquake disaster? We think there is.
After Hurricane Matthew hit this exact area several years ago, we built numerous houses that are still standing even after the earthquake last week. Right now, our plan is to allow those organizations who were already working in this area, as well as those organizations whose expertise and resources lie in disaster relief, to do the work they are in a position to do.
Once the immediate relief work has been complete, we will see if there are opportunities to build new houses and provide other long-term relief. We believe this is where our strengths lie and where we can make the most difference.
In the Meantime
We will continue to monitor the situation daily to see when it is safe and appropriate for us to enter the area, assess the situation, and see what help we can offer.
There is one thing we do not want to do at this time: take undue advantage of this earthquake disaster to raise funds that we are not in a position to spend wisely. We believe that would be wrong. Instead, when we determine that it is appropriate for us to begin working in that area, we will let you know the ways you can help, financially and otherwise.
Please continue to pray for those dear Haitians who have been affected by this terrible earthquake.
There is much suffering taking place, and we are looking forward to doing what we do best to help those in need.