Tuesday, September 09, 2008

haiti under water

Some readers of this blog will know of my congregation's (Providence United Methodist Church, Charlotte) twenty-eight year history of mission partnership in northern Haiti. In particular, we have helped to build a medical clinic that treats approximately 1500 persons in a given week; from this has emerged an orphanage, from funds given via a family foundation, a feeding program, treatment of persons with HIV/Aids, a long-term relationship with a Methodist circuit of eight churches, a young man who lived with our family for one and a half years prior to his transferring to Huntingdon College, where he is Dean's List major in Biochemistry, and, more recently, the establishment of the School of Mercy (K-5) in Milot, and plans for a microcredit partnership. For a North American congregation, it is all pretty amazing, and has been, in the language of Eugene Peterson, a "long obedience in the same direction".

Having said all of this, Haiti has been hammered by the floods left in the wake of Hurricanes Gustav, Hanna, and now Ike. Gonaives, a city of 300,000 is in the most precarious of conditions. For pictures, see the link to "Partners In Health" to the right, in the Haiti section. All of this brings to mind Hurricane Jeanne, which killed 2000 persons in Gonaives in 2004 (1500 persons were killed in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region by Katrina, a combined natural and humanly engineered disaster). Haiti is a mostly deforested country, with little tree cover to absorb massive rainwater (see Jared Diamond's essay on the distinction between Haiti and the Dominican Republic on the island of what is sometimes called Hispaniola in his epic Collapse). And yet the longterm need for ecological recovery does not answer the short-term need for disaster relief, which is, by all reports, almost a logistical impossibility, given the impassibility of roads.

I spoke with Jacques Lamour, now at Huntingdon, on Sunday afternoon, and he reminded me of the typical pattern of winds flowing through the Gulf--up from Port Au Prince, by Gonaives, with Cap Haitien protected by the northern mountain range of the country. He did say that many are coming to Cap, seeking refuge. Others, stranded in Gonaives, are living on rooftops. An imminent human disaster is in the offing. Already 1000 persons have died in the storms this month and 5 million people are without food or water (Source: Ralph Latortue, Haiti general counsel for South Florida).

So, what can you do? Contact your Senator and ask him or her to call for a substantial humanitarian response (John Kerry, Massachusetts has been the most notable voice in that body). Georgia, which is situated at the intersection of Europe and Asia, has received much greater attention than Haiti, which is two and a half hours from Fort Lauderdale. $20 million has been sent to Georgia; $10 million is being considered for Haiti. You can support the work of Paul Farmer's organization, Partners in Health, which has social workers "on the ground" in Gonaives,and is in the best position to respond to the medical crisis. And, you might give to the United Methodist Committee on Relief--Haiti (418325). All administrative costs of UMCOR are covered by local congregations via our apportionments.

A year ago, through the good graces of my friend Ron Robinson, chaplain at Wofford College, I served on a panel discussion with Paul Farmer, professor of medicine at Harvard, MacArthur genius grant recipient, co-founder of Partners In Health, and subject of Tracy Kidder's Mountains Beyond Mountains. I found him to be a brilliant and yet humble person, to have entered into such great suffering and accomplished so much good in the world, and especially in Haiti. His pilgrimage has taken him into the heart of the HIV and Tuberculosis epidemics in Haiti, Rwanda and Peru. He struck me as a compassionate and yet rational observer of the human condition. Farmer writes this month, about Gonaives, "I have never seen anything as painful".

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

If you have read this far, please circulate this post with any social network of which you are a part. Thank you.


Blogger Sam Dixon said...

Ken, thanks for your comments about the needs in Haiti and suggesting that people consider donating to UMCOR's Haiti relief efforts at www.umcor.org. Just one important clarification. UMCOR does not receive apportionment dollars. Its administrative costs are funded through the annual One Great Hour of Sharing offering and other contributions designated for administrative costs. Sam Dixon

10:56 AM  
Blogger ken carter said...

my apologies, sam. i appreciate all that you do. ken

7:42 PM  

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