With a little help from our Caritas friends
Interview with Fr Serge Chadic, director of Caritas Haiti
Immediately after Haiti’s massive earthquake in January when it was difficult to get aid through, one sight was common in the makeshift camps around Port-au-Prince: people helping each other and sharing what little they had.
When the airport reopened, Caritas members from across the world were in their turn waiting to help Haiti either by sending aid or staff. Other members sent money and messages of condolence and encouragement.
“Immediately after the earthquake Caritas members set off for Haiti. It was really a sign of the universality of Caritas and of the family spirit,” said Fr Serge Chadic, director of Caritas Haiti.
With an estimated three million people in need of help, hundreds of thousands dead, damaged buildings and infrastructure, Caritas members realised Caritas Haiti would need material and financial support in responding to the disaster, but also moral support in facing the disaster and the future.
Caritas Haiti staff were outside of Port-au-Prince for a workshop on the day of the earthquake. When they felt the massive tremors they tried to contact their families but couldn’t get through. Only on returning to Port-au-Prince the next day they understood the extent of the damage.
“When we returned to the city we saw that the cathedral was no longer standing, nor was the archbishop’s house. Then we learned that the archbishop was dead along with the vicar general and many others,” said Fr Chadic.
“At first I stayed calm, then I cried,” he said. “When I got home I didn’t know what to think. There was just total devastation.”
Within hours of the earthquake, Caritas started to send staff from Europe to help Caritas Haiti. Fr Antonio Sandoval, the coordinator for Caritas Latin America immediately flew to Haiti with a team of rescuers he’d mustered in Mexico. Catholic Relief Services (a US member of Caritas) already had 300 staff on the ground who had been working on programmes before the earthquake. Caritas Switzerland and Secours Catholique (Caritas France) also had a presence in Haiti from before the earthquake.
“We realised that we weren’t alone,” said Fr Chadic. “To feel as though there were people by our side brought comfort and joy. That helped us to see things in a different light. It helped us realise we could overcome our difficulties.”
Caritas members from 40 countries have so far collected $ 198 million (Euro 147 million) from private donations for Haiti’s quake survivors. In addition, governments have pledged $36 million (Euro 27 million) to Caritas for Haiti.
Around $20 million is being used to provide for immediate needs over the next two months. Already Caritas has fed over 500,000 people. The aid network has provided shelter kits to 43,000 people, and given medical treatment to 12,000 people.
“Haitians are grateful to all the Caritas members who have offered help,” said Fr Chadic. “I too would like to thank all the members for the confederation who have shown their solidarity. All the Caritas members are pitching in so we act as one to touch people’s lives.”
Over the next five years Caritas will help rebuild Haiti and will provide homes, healthcare, livelihoods and education.
“Haitians are a people who sing and cry, and who are very courageous. But they also know how to go beyond their suffering in order to find hope. And while there’s hope we can still fight for a better tomorrow,” said Fr Chadic.
RESOURCESAnnual Report 2011Emergency GuidelinesEmergency Response Tool KitEmergency Appeals 2012Emergency Appeals 2011Emergency Appeals 2010Emergencies on Caritas BlogBridging the Gap between Policy and Practice