Category Archives: Aid Success Story

New homes for Haitians

Keys to a new home built after the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Credit: Ryan Worms/Caritas

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By Ryan Worms

Almost two years on from the earthquake of 12 January 2010, more than 600,000 people are still displaced in camps. They live in extremely precarious conditions and their health security is at risk.

Three dioceses were particularly affected by the earthquake: Port-au-Prince, Jacmel and Anse-à-Veau/Miragoâne. In certain areas more than 90 percent of the houses were destroyed.

Duval is a village set in the hills above Port-au-Prince, one hour’s drive from the capital. Bernard and his family live in this area. His wife Marie Gerta St Hilaire recalls 12 January 2010: “When the ground started to shake I panicked. I asked my husband to come and help me, but he could barely stand up. When we were able to get back to our house, it wasn’t there anymore. Everything had been destroyed, and there was devastation everywhere. After a while, we moved into a shack with our children. It was very hard, and I didn’t know if we’d ever get out of it.”

There is renewed hope for Bernard and his family: the inauguration of their new house. It was built as part of a partnership between Caritas Haiti and Caritas Ecuador. In Duval, on this first Sunday of November, 31 other families received the keys of their new homes during a ceremony organised in the presence of the President of Caritas Ecuador, Msgr Julio Parrilla.
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Filed under Aid Success Story, Conflicts and Disasters, Disaster Preparedness, Ecuador, Emergencies, Emergencies in Haiti, Español, Français, Haiti, Latin America

Haiti: Nous chantons la vie

La chorale de la cathédrale. Credit Ryan Worms/Caritas 2011


Jour férié à Port au Prince. Aujourd’hui, la ville commémore ses morts, nous sommes le 2 novembre.

La première visite que le chauffeur de Caritas Haïti me propose est à la cathédrale de la ville. Ce bâtiment imposant a été détruit lors du séisme du 12 janvier 2010. Il ne reste que certaines parties de la structure qui laisse imaginer la splendeur passée de la bâtisse. La façade est magnifique, quelques vitraux sont toujours perchés tout comme une des cloches que l’on aperçoit en haut d’une tour encore debout.

Lorsque vous pénétrez à l’intérieur, vous ne pouvez pas échapper à une étrange émotion. Le recueillement est de mise, la prière aussi. Ici, plus d’une centaine de personnes ont trouvé la mort. Lorsque la terre s’est mise à trembler, elles chantaient des louanges, faisaient monter leurs voix vers le ciel, la chorale majeure de Port au Prince était en pleine répétition.

De l’autre côté de la rue se trouve l’ancien évêché de la ville, lui aussi touché par le séisme. Nous traversons et voyons deux des cloches de l’ancienne cathédrale à terre. Est-ce que le bâtiment sera reconstruit ? Quand est-ce que les cloches sonneront à nouveau ? Impossible de le dire.

Pourtant, juste à côté, dans la petite église adjacente à l’ancien évêché, la vie chante à nouveau. En ce jour de commémoration des morts, la nouvelle chorale répète des cantiques. Une vingtaine de jeunes hommes et femmes, dont la voix n’est pas toujours assurée, lancent un message vibrant et plein d’espérance. Nous sommes le peuple d’Haïti, nous sommes la jeunesse de l’île, et aujourd’hui, jour des morts, nous chantons la vie.

Ryan Worms

Haiti: We’re singing life

It’s a holiday in Port-au-Prince. Today the city is remembering its dead. It’s the 2nd November.
A Caritas Haiti’s driver suggested I visit the city’s cathedral. This impressive building was destroyed during the earthquake on 12 January 2010. The few remaining portions of the structure allow one to imagine the building’s former splendour. The façade is magnificent and a few stained glass windows are still intact, as is one of the steeples above a tower that is still standing.

As you go inside, you can’t help being overcome by a strange emotion. Contemplation is the order of the day, and prayer too. More than one hundred people lost their lives here. When the earthquake began, they were singing hymns of praise, raising their voices heavenwards, as the main choir of Port-au-Prince was in full rehearsal.

On the other side of the street the old bishop’s palace was also affected by the earthquake. As we passed through we saw two bells from the former cathedral on the ground. Will the cathedral be rebuilt? When will these bells ring out again? It’s impossible to say.

However, nearby in a small church next to the former bishop’s palace, life is singing out once more. On this day of commemoration of the dead, the new choir is practising hymns. Around twenty young men and women are launching a vibrant message full of hope. We are the people of Haiti, the island’s young people, and today, the day of the dead, we’re singing life.

Ryan Worms

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In Ethiopia, intensive care for cattle

In the Borena area of Ethiopia, SCIAF is helping herders keep healthy livestock and sell other animals. Photo by Val Morgan/SCIAF

By Val Morgan, Media Officer for SCIAF

On some days in the field, I almost despair. It was a red-hot morning and we drove two hours to see a cattle feeding centre and destocking programme in Miyo, a village in southern Ethiopia. The more we drove the drier the landscape became until eventually it was totally barren, just dust and stones.

As we arrived at our destination on the top of a hill there were panoramic views all around us. I was told that three years ago this area used to be a vibrant area for farmers and herders with crops and precious grassland on the hills all around me. Now there was nothing.

We met our local guide, a young man from our partner, GPDI. He started by telling us about the animal feeding centre which SCIAF (Caritas Scotland) is supporting.

It may seem strange to be feeding animals in a time of drought, but it is perfectly logical. If you don’t keep alive the animals that the people depend upon for their food and income, and they die, the people will become totally dependent on humanitarian aid, even if it does rain. If a family has livestock and the rains do come, then they will be able to recover and will become independent and self-sustaining again. Continue reading

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Filed under Africa, Agriculture, Aid Success Story, Conflicts and Disasters, Emergencies, Emergencies in Ethiopia, Ethiopia, Food

Keeping a promise: Caritas helps Pakistan’s latest flood victims

In southern Pakistan, residents of a flooded area float on a makeshift raft. Photo: Caritas Pakistan

In summer 2011, heavy monsoon rains inundated southern Pakistan, an area already reeling from massive floods in 2010. Here, a survivor tells her story.

My name is Shakeela Mohammad Bakhsh. I live in Badin along with my two brothers and sisters. We are living under the guardianship of our uncle because our father died.

I still remember the night of July 22, 2011. We were all sleeping—it was 3 a.m. Suddenly we heard the noise of flood waves reaching our house. The water level was rising fast, too fast for us to carry some household items. We heard the cries and moans of the people around us calling for help and rescue.

At last, some rescue teams came for us and carried us to a safer place. Here, we were alone, and had nothing to eat or drink with us. Adding woes to worries, my brother fell ill and we did not know where we would find the money to arrange his treatment.

After a few days, a Caritas Pakistan team visited the area and saw the miserable conditions we were living in. At first, we wondered if this team would act like others–collecting data from us but never reappearing.

Our apprehensions proved wrong. Two days later, they distributed tokens for food hampers. On the promised date, they gave us a large food hamper, even more than we had thought. The ration in the food hamper was enough to fulfill our needs for a month. A few days later, Caritas Pakistan gave us kitchen utensils, quilts, bedsheets and pillows.

Caritas Pakistan is still in regular contact with us. We are really thankful to Caritas Pakistan for looking after us and supporting us in a difficult time.

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Small businesses back to work in Japan after quake

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By Laura Sheahen in Kesennumma

If you’d worked all your life to build up a business, only to see it swept away in minutes by a gargantuan wave, you’d be forgiven for wanting to give up. The aging residents of Japan’s east coast lost decades of labour when a tsunami struck in March 2011.

“There were many shopkeepers who thought about quitting,” says Masato Sakamoto, who lives in a coastal city called Kesennumma. The city wasn’t just swallowed by water, it was burned by massive fires that the disaster sparked.

In the town centre, the streets are silent. Debris dangles crazily from burned-out rafters. But where others see a ghost town, Masato sees possibilities. Standing in an empty lot, he describes his plans for a two-story shopping plaza that will house dozens of small shops here.

In poor countries, Caritas helps people help themselves by providing basic income-earning items like sewing machines or fishing nets. In an industrialized country like Japan, helping small businesses takes different forms. One is filling in the gaps as entrepreneurs rebuild. The tsunami was the most costly natural disaster in history, and while the Japanese government is helping many industries, people who own stores or small factories need additional support.

“I felt we had to restart our businesses, even though we’d been attacked by the tsunami,” Masato says. “We started selling items outdoors, and brought the older shopkeepers—the ones who were tired—to our market to see what we were doing. They realized: We can do it.”

Masato worked with other small business leaders to draft a plan for the shopping centre. “The government said it would build the mall’s basic structure if we found the land,” he continues. Caritas Japan plans to provide piping, finish the interior walls, and pay for needs like refrigerators. “There will be a fish shop, a bicycle shop, a shoe shop—more than fifty shops want to join,” Masato says. The project is moving forward, and will give employment to many tsunami victims who thought their working lives were over.

Farther south, in a city called Ishinomaki, an older couple runs a family-owned processing plant for seafood. The tsunami wiped out their equipment: “The machines here are digital. Once the water soaked them, they didn’t work at all,” says owner Futoshi Honda. His wife brought the seafood from the plant to an evacuation shelter to feed survivors. Meanwhile, they wondered how they would cope with the mud-logged rooms of the small factory.

Volunteers from Caritas are working up and down the coast to clean out survivors’ homes. Caritas groups, and volunteers from other charities, started coming to the Hondas’ plant to clean up.

“I’m so grateful to Caritas for helping us,” he says. With luck, the assistance will extend to many families. Futoshi has been able to hire some of his staff back, and believes he’ll be able to employ more soon. “I feel I must create jobs,” he says, “so people can start working.”

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Japan after the quake

In a town on the coast of Japan, a ship is beached on dry land after a massive tsunami on March 11, 2011. Credit Laura Sheahen/Caritas

By Laura Sheahen in Kamaishi

When you’re in a tsunami-hit zone, there are no ground floors. At my six-story hotel in Kamaishi, a town on the east coast of Japan, signs point the way to a staircase surrounded by what I assume are “under construction” signs. From the top of the stairs, the third stories of nearby buildings look OK. But at street level, the buildings are just broken frames. Shattered glass, jumbled furniture, and mud-stained scraps of cloth stretch as far as I can see.

Thanks to Japanese engineering, many buildings on the coast withstood the earthquake that struck on March 11, 2011. Even with the ground floor gutted, Japanese engineering is holding up my hotel. But nothing could keep the tsunami water from crashing in.

Cruel geographical accidents determined what the wave destroyed and what was saved. I walk three blocks on flat land, peering into ruined shops and homes. Then, taking about twenty steps, I walk up the slightest of hills to a parish complex that’s now the base for Caritas Japan’s relief efforts here. I wonder where Caritas would be staying if not for that incline.

“The people who live right near the ocean, they knew to act when they heard the tsunami warning,” says a woman visiting with Caritas volunteers at the church. “But people who live more inland couldn’t believe the water would come this far.”

Sitting with four other women in the parish hall–now open as a free Caritas café–she describes how she escaped the wave. Most town residents took their cars first, but when traffic jams made it impossible to move, they got out and started to run. Kamaishi is surrounded by low mountains, and many people headed for a temple at the top of a hill. From there, they watched as vehicles, boats and whole buildings were swept in and then out by the tide. “I couldn’t believe how strong the wave was when it pulled back,” says one woman. “I saw a huge, one-ton ship pushed in, and then dragged back much more quickly. The tsunami destroyed more going out than it did coming in.”

Some of the immense ships never went back to sea. They sit on dry land with green grass sprouting around them. Cranes and earthmoving machines heap debris in enormous piles. Volunteers, including ones from Caritas, sort through the ground rubble.

Six months after the tsunami, most people would like to start rebuilding somewhere. But certain low-lying areas are now restricted until the local government develops its city plans. Land on higher ground is at a premium and the government must use part of it for temporary, prefabricated housing.

“Goodbye baseball,” murmurs Reinhard Wuerkner of Caritas Germany, who is part of a Caritas group visiting the tsunami zone. On a former baseball field, the government has constructed a sophisticated trailer park to house the survivors. Thousands of people along the coast are now living in such trailer parks after their number came up in the housing lottery.

For those who lived in shelters like school gyms for months, the trailers offer much more privacy. They’re small, but very well-equipped, down to the air conditioning, recycling bins, and mail slot. Still, they are a far cry from home.

For now, the trailer parks have one indisputable advantage: their altitude. They’re far from the sea and high up. “I don’t want to live where we lived,” says another woman at the Caritas centre. “The water still comes close to it, especially in the evening.” For those who lived near a shoreline now permanently eaten away in spots, for those who were saved because they were close enough to a hill, height is what matters.


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Flood Anniversary and the role of Caritas Pakistan

Credit: Caritas Pakistan

Amjad Gulzar, National Executive Secretary of Caritas Pakistan

The first flood anniversary brings back many memories; both happy and sad. We supported the victims in times of pain and suffering but there were many whom we could not reach in time. Caritas Pakistan, helped generously through its international partners and played vital role of bringing relief and help to thousands who suffered the tragedy.

The disaster last year was the worst in the history of the country. Nearly 20 million people were affected by massive floods and heavy rain during July and August 2010.

We shall continue our efforts in the rehabilitation phase with a focus on reconstruction, livelihood restoration, provision of health services and safe drinking water as well as psychosocial care support.
Caritas Pakistan in collaboration with National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has organised a preparedness course this year. The training involved our Country Disaster Management Team keeping in view the monsoon and threat of flood this year.

NDMA also provided the technical support to Caritas Pakistan for training the Disaster Management Team and ensured their regular coordination and cooperation. Caritas Pakistan has developed its Monsoon Contingency Plan taking into account the lesson learned from last year.

We have also developed a book comprising success stories, articles, photos and recognition which will be launched in reference to “Flood anniversary and the role of Caritas Pakistan” in the second week of August 2011.

Caritas Pakistan is confident and enthusiastic to assist the victims in the rehabilitation phase as well as professionally prepared to respond to any type of disaster in cooperation with CI confederation members.


Filed under Aid Success Story, Asia, Conflicts and Disasters, Emergencies, Emergencies in Pakistan, Pakistan