Monday, March 22, 2010

Reaching Out To Haiti from the Cincinnati Enquirer

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Reaching Out To Haiti
Two months after the quake, hunger, illness and homelessness threaten to break a wounded people
Stories by MARK CURNUTTE, •
March 22, 2010

They slogged toward the airport, lugging suitcases or balancing mattresses on their heads, lured by the promise of help. They came by the tens of thousands.

Blank expressions on their faces, they hoped to get some of the food and water they knew was arriving daily.

They didn't.

Despite the crush of international aid and relief workers, many Haitians still get little or no relief two months after the Jan. 12 earthquake.

Instead, they've settled in crude shelters - fashioned from sticks, bedsheets, blue tarps and rust-streaked corrugated tin - that rim the airport's security fence........................

Child's Hope International, founded by a former Mason church pastor, Larry Bergeron, has assembled millions of high-protein meals in its Blue Ash "factory," a former Kroger grocery store, and shipped them around the world since its creation in 2008. Hundreds of thousands of them have gone to Haiti.

Bergeron, a member of Urbancrest Baptist Church in Lebanon, went to Haiti with three other church members last month to distribute 300,000 more meals. The 40-foot container, which he had been told had arrived in the Caribbean Sea port at St. Marc, instead had not gotten out of Florida.

He shipped to St. Marc in an attempt to avoid the indiscriminate tariffs slapped on aid by the Haitian government in Port-au-Prince.

Still, Bergeron borrowed 75 boxes of food he shipped late last year to a Clay City, Ky.,-based ministry with a Haitian mission.

Rethinking everything

One of the programs at the Children's International Lifeline center employs 20 women who make purses, aprons and clothing. In a room in a vocational school at the compound, women from the surrounding villages learn how to sew on foot-powered machines. They then graduate and join a manufacturing co-op that pays them a salary, a third of which goes into a mandatory savings account that allows them to buy the sewing machine.

"Otherwise, it's going to be an empty hole," said Don Curtis, of Clay City, who runs Lifeline. "We have to rethink how we do things; we have to help Haitian people make a better life for themselves. It has taken us years to get to this point. We had to essentially help bring up a new generation of Haitians."

Bergeron distributed 50 boxes of the borrowed food to the FOCAS-supported school in Calebasse. The remaining 25 boxes went to the Ebenezer Orphanage in the seaside town of Montrouis. It's run by a pastor and his wife, who have four of their own children. They've taken in 23 orphans and have struggled, since the earthquake, to feed them on a daily basis.

Bergeron, 61, visited the orphanage twice during his visit last month. The dirt compound lies behind a wire fence and a locked iron gate.

A church made from coconut leaves stands at the front of the property. A classroom and kitchen were built onto the back. Farther up the hill, the main house sleeps the family and children, as many as 16 on floor mats in a single room.

Bergeron spotted a vacant lot next to the orphanage and envisions a small farm that could teach the children agricultural skills and provide food for the orphanage. It could be landscaped to prevent erosion in heavy rains. An existing well could be dug deeper to ensure cleaner water. He planned to give the 40-foot sea container to the orphanage for housing.

The lot owner wanted $50 a month rent for the land for a guaranteed 10-year lease.

Bergeron, who has visited impoverished areas of Africa and Russia, had been to Haiti previously, and he has seen no situation as desperate as that in the Caribbean nation.

He focused on the possibilities at Ebenezer so as not to be overwhelmed by the enormity of Haiti's problems.

"We have to help people learn to help themselves," he said. "It took a long time to get into this situation. You have to start by trying to change the lives of children. You pick one project. It's almost like creating a firebreak to fight a forest fire. You draw a line and try to save some of the trees.

"I look at the level of brokenness and decay and think it might take 100 years to see a significantly better society."

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