1:00 P.M. EST March 19, 2010 | NEW YORK (UMNS)
Community leader Sharlene Jean offers a sample of treated drinking water
to a child living in a makeshift camp in Gresier, Haiti. A UMNS photo
by Mike DuBose.
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For 16 years, staff of the Lambi Fund have helped rural communities
in Haiti work toward self-sufficiency.
Since the Jan. 12 earthquake, the humanitarian organization has
witnessed the effects of reverse migration on those communities as more
than a half-million people have streamed out of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s
heavily damaged capital. The 80-year-old mother of Lambi staff member
Pierre St. Cyr, for example, has taken in 39 earthquake survivors.
“Many of the rural towns doubled their populations overnight,” said
Karen Ashmore, Lambi’s executive director. “We’re giving cash grants to
43 grassroots organizations in the countryside to help their members
meet that expanded capacity strain.”
United Methodist Women has given financial support to the Lambi Fund
and other groups committed to empowering women as equal participants and
community leaders in the rebuilding of Haiti.
The organization also is part of a coalition that is circulating
principles calling for the inclusion of women in the earthquake recovery
process, says Carol Barton, an executive with the Women’s Division,
United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.
United Methodists intend to be involved “in direct support for
efforts to train and mobilize grassroots women in some of the refugee
camps in Haiti to monitor how aid is getting to the camps, how it is
being distributed and whether women’s needs are being taken into
account,” she added.
At the United Nations, the Huairou Commission, a partner with United
Methodist Women, submitted a statement on behalf of the coalition
during recent meetings of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women,
noting that because women are “disproportionately impacted” by the
earthquake, they also are key to Haiti’s recovery.
“We expect to see a large and diverse number of Haitian women’s
organizations consulted and included in needs and damage assessments,
and in the design, implementation and monitoring and evaluation of
post-disaster aid programs,” the statement said, adding that financial
aid to grassroots women and their organizations is essential.
Legacy of leadership
The coalition’s declaration is part of an effort to get women on both
the agenda and participants’ list at an international donors’
conference set for March 31 at the United Nations.
Volunteer Marua Senfre carries
10-year-old Rose Michel, who lost
both her legs as a result of the Haiti earthquake. A UMNS photo by Paul
Recognition of women’s legacy of leadership already has come from the
Board of Global Ministries and the Church World Service board of
directors, whose members include Harriett Olson, the Women’s Division’s
top executive. In a March 11 statement, directors said that women must
be actively involved in leadership roles in Haiti, allotted a fair share
of resources for reconstruction and development and receive training
and financial support to expand the capacity of their organizations.
On the ground, the Women’s Division has given $10,000 grants to both
the Lambi Fund and the Movement of Dominican Women of Haitian Descent
for their earthquake relief efforts.
More grants for Haiti assistance will be approved when the division’s
board of directors meets in April, according to Betty Gittens, staff
executive. Regional missionaries and staff also are planning
fact-finding trips to the Dominican Republic and Haiti, she said.
Caravan for relief
The Movement of Dominican Women of Haitian Descent, which supports
community health projects and offers training and educational programs
for women and children, organized a caravan of 88 relief workers within
36 hours of the earthquake. The workers provided medical care and other
services to survivors in six different makeshift camps.
The Dominican volunteers also set up a tent city and clinic at a
church-run orphanage and school that had collapsed outside the city of
Leogane, caring for the 78 orphans who had been left on their own.
The Lambi Fund already had an extensive network of projects in Haiti
related to sustainable development, community microcredit, animal
husbandry, the environment and leadership training.
“Prior to the earthquake, we had worked on 175 different projects
impacting almost 2 million Haitians,” Ashmore explained. “We have strong
grassroots connections in the countryside.”
Lambi staff convened regional assemblies after the earthquake, asking
participants to prioritize their immediate, mid-and long-term needs.
Among the more immediate concerns:
• Sanitation. The influx of population into the countryside
has overloaded sanitation systems, so the Lambi Fund plans to build 880
latrines in rural areas.
A woman sells items in front of her makeshift shelter in a camp for
homeless families set up on a golf course in Port-au-Prince. A UMNS
photo by Paul Jeffrey/ACT Alliance.
• Income generation. Micro-enterprise will help earthquake
survivors “develop their own livelihood so they can start supporting
themselves,” Ashmore said. Lambi is helping a group of market women in
Port au Prince replenish their microcredit fund.
• Medical supplies. A lack of basic items, such as
refrigerators to hold medications, is a problem, Gittens said. “There’s
still a tremendous amount of need, in terms of medical assistance within
• Safety. The Lambi Fund supports a group that is forming
protective areas in the tent cities and applying group pressure to
encourage people to intervene if they witness attempted sexual assaults.
“They’re amazing,” Ashmore reported. “A lot of the women were victims
of domestic violence and rape and they are supporting each other and
helping other women.”
• Shelter. With many people still living under blankets strung
on ropes, permanent housing has become a priority, particularly as the
rainy season approaches Haiti. “We were hearing that women need tents
and that tents also have become a scarce commodity,” Barton said.
“There’s an enormous concern about the rains coming.”
The Lambi Fund’s long-term goals include increasing the availability
of organic, locally-grown food and clean water with expanded sustainable
agriculture, reforestation and water access projects. Other sustainable
development projects would include pig and goat breeding and setting up
grain and sugar cane mills.
“Imports and food aid is fine in the immediate time, but it doesn’t
help the local economy at all,” said Ashmore.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.