This post was written by Jenelle Eli, a member of American Red Cross’s international communications team, who travels often to Haiti.
Each time I travel to Haiti, I’m amazed by the progress that has been made in between my trips. What was a school under construction this summer was handed over in autumn to the school principal—new desks, chalkboards, latrines, and all. What was a quarter-finished walkway is now a well-trod path for neighborhood residents.
Some months ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Haiti with Gail McGovern, President & CEO of the American Red Cross. While I’ve been coming to Haiti for about two years now, Gail has been traveling here since the earthquake struck. The changes she has seen in those past six years have been striking.
“Every time I come back to Haiti, I see it improve a little. But this time, it is a huge leap,” she told a group of American Red Cross staff members during her trip. That’s not an exaggeration. During a walkabout of Campeche—one of eight neighborhoods benefiting from American Red Cross’s LAMIKA project—those leaps of progress were made abundantly clear.
Newly-constructed stairways replace the steep rocky inclines we had to climb in the past; solar streetlights dot the landscape that was once pitch black at night; houses that were damaged or precarious are now busy, disaster-resistant homes. These are no minor feats. Indeed, the stairways improve accessibility, which creates an environment that is safer and more conducive to economic expansion. The streetlights can prevent crime, enable businesses to stay open later, and even allow kids do their homework after the sun sets.
In the first year after the earthquake, one mother told us that she had used a Red Cross cash grant to buy her daughter a school uniform—a small but important way that her family was returning to normalcy. Now, Campeche is home to this airy and earthquake-safe school, Ecole CEMEAH. Renovated with funds donated to the American Red Cross—it’s one of ten educational facilities to be reconstructed or expanded by the American Red Cross in Campeche and neighborhoods nearby.
We also visited Canaan—an area of about 200,000 inhabitants that was completely unoccupied before the 2010 earthquake. Now a busy city, its residents are served by a Haitian Red Cross health post, which offers residents access to basic health services and medicine. The American Red Cross is funding that health post and is working with the residents of Canaan to promote safe development and prepare them for future disasters.
As our trip came to a close, Gail offered words about the generous people who made all this progress—and more—possible, “Anyone who donated to the Red Cross would be so proud of the work I am seeing here.”
For more information about our work in Haiti, visit redcross.org/haiti