Pamela Mohr 0000-00-00 00:00:00
As Lions and LCIF work together to bring hope to the people of Haiti, Chairperson Al Brandel says that he’s become aware of a new regard for Lions Clubs International’s standing in the global community. While in Haiti in late February, he met with representatives of aid agencies, Port-au-Prince Vice Mayor Nadege Joachin Augustin and the United States Ambassador to Haiti, Kenneth Merten. “Our reputation as a major NGO is growing,” he states with pride. Lions hit the ground running in Haiti and they’re still there working to provide relief, housing and a sense of security to those who lost so much. With hundreds of thousands of people sleeping in the streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, families living in the three tent cities created by Lions have built a community of sorts. “We’re bringing in tanks of fresh drinking water and our goal is to keep improving the quality of life for these people,” says Brandel. “Each tent city has an unofficial mayor and we meet with them to find out what needs to be done. They provide their own security forces. They’re creating their own communities—it just so happens they don’t have houses. These are smart, resourceful people.” Brandel points out, “Wherever you look, people are trying to build something. They put sticks together and put a tablecloth on top to try to create a home in the streets.” Lions are working to provide more sanitation as a growing number of “pigs, chickens, goats, dogs and wild animals” rove throughout Port-au-Prince, he says. “The rainy season is about to start and that’s going to be a real problem.” Brandel says Lions are trying to find a way to provide eyeglasses for those who lost them and meet urgent medical needs. “We hope to set up eye clinics in the camps and are working to get a medical clinic up and running soon,” he says. At least 200 more tents are expected to arrive soon to alleviate crowding and provide additional shelter. “We’re trying to get people back into their homes, but it’s going to be a long, long time,” Brandel declares. “Government officials are marking homes for safe occupancy. A green checkmark means it safe for habitation; yellow means homes can be used again as long as some things are fixed and red means it’s a total loss.” Most structures bear red checkmarks on what’s left of the exterior. It’s estimated that about 80 percent of homes in the Haitian capital were slapped together of adobe or poorly made concrete blocks. With no municipal building codes established, these structures quickly tumbled when the 7. 0 quake struck. Lumber is in short supply and expensive in Haiti. Lions trucked lumber and other building materials into the country to help rebuilding efforts. The capital city’s seaport and airport were closed in the critical first few weeks after the quake struck, so Dominican Republic Lions helped facilitate deliveries into this ravaged city. “We don’t want these people to be in tents two years from now. We want to help them get back home. We’re not in the tent business—we’re trying to help rebuild lives,” emphasizes Brandel. Post disaster needs assessments are still being done by Lions and other agencies since there is such widespread need. International Director Eugenio Roman Jr. Of Arecibo, Puerto Rico, says nothing prepared him for the destruction he witnessed when he went to Haiti days after the earthquake with Brandel and Past International Director Carlos Justiniano, of the Dominican Republic. “To be honest, I never saw destruction of this magnitude before— only in war films. What did I see? I saw more than devas Tation,” he reveals. “I saw a poor country that needs our help. But I also saw Lions from Haiti show us their determination and loyalty to our association and the spirit of service.” He continues, “I saw what Carlos Justiniano did every week to be with them and bring containers of food, water, medicines and goods. I saw the generosity of the Lions of Puerto Rico, who continued collecting materials and money for Haiti, over US$33,000 so far. I saw my own doctor and his son, also an M.D., go to Haiti and save lives. Both are members of my Arecibo Capitan Correa Lions Club and went there two more times.” Roman says that by personally meeting and helping so many Haitians in need, his connection to them is stronger. “They thanked me many times for what the Lions of the world are doing to help them. I will never forget these numbers—more than 200,000 deaths, 10,000 amputations and more than one million homeless. But we are there to help. That’s what Lions clubs and LCIF do. It’s impossible to describe how this has changed my life.”
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://digital.lionmagazine.org/article/Helping+Haiti/371020/36085/article.html.