Bishop Pierre Dumas, president of Caritas Haiti, says education, care for the environment and the protection of people’s socio-economic rights are essential to helping Haiti move forward and flourish following its devastating earthquake.
The whole Caritas network was very efficient in the immediate emergency. The nearby Caritas organisations from the Dominican Republic, Mexico and other Latin American countries came to Haiti. A few days after, Caritas from the North and Europe came and they all formed a network to face the problem, to help people and bring them food and water and to save their lives. The action of the Caritas family was strong and powerful and vital from the start to saving lives and give back hope.
Now that the emergency is over, we mustn’t let Haiti be forgotten. We must keep up the breath of hope for the people. The network is accompanying Caritas Haiti in a more coordinated and articulated way now the emergency is over.
What I’ve really appreciated in this second phase, the rehabilitation phase, is the construction of dignified housing for the population rather than temporary housing. I’d like to take the chance to thank the Caritas network and all our sister members within it who were able to support Caritas Haiti and were able to show concern for the poorest and most vulnerable. We will never be able to forget this in Haiti, that families were able to regain their lost dignity thanks to Caritas Haiti along with other Caritas sister organisations.
We have to participate in the long-term and durable development of Haitians and we have to take part in the rebirth of Haiti. We can’t do that without Haitians themselves. So Caritas is there to encourage them, to promote projects and to help them become instrumental in their own destinies and to create a different type of future.
We no longer want to rebuild in the same way, build souless and sprawling cities. We want to respect local culture, tradition and language. Why did the big houses built with cement collapse in the earthquake when simple homes made of wood stayed up? There’s a wisdom behind that. We have to accompany these people, but not by imposing a different type of development but by respecting local tradition and their wisdom. And we will do this so that the Haitian people, who have suffered so much, can live through a new resurrection.
Without a doubt, Haitians have a number of challenges to face and in which the Church has been called to accompany them. First of all, we must think about education. No people have ever been able to move forward in their development without having a minimum level of education. Big investment needs to be made in this area. The Haitian Government and also the Church need to make education and training a priority.
The environment is also a big challenge. There is deforestation, there are natural and man-made disasters and the Church has a role in ensuring that life can begin again in Haiti by making sure there’s a strategic plan and civic education among Haitians. For example, we have a project in the south of Haiti in which we’re replanting trees and encouraging agriculture. At the moment, everything Haitians eat comes from elsewhere.
The Church must accompany Haitians, especially the most vulnerable, so that their social and economic rights are respected. We also finance people who haven’t got access to credit and support them through micro-financing so that each person can become instrumental in their own destiny and in that of their communities. By encouraging participation and communion everywhere, all members of society will be protected and encouraged in their quest for autonomy.