Haitian-American leaders in New York offered a loud-and-clear message Monday in the wake of the deadly 7.2 magnitude earthquake that devastated the southwestern portion of the Caribbean nation: Haiti needs help, but from the right organizations.
They were trying to head off the kind of the problems that hurt relief efforts after the 2010 quake that killed up to 300,000 people.
At a prayer vigil on Monday outside of Brooklyn’s Saint Jerome Roman Catholic Church, which offers masses in Haitian-Creole, activists and politicians vowed to work to ensure that funds are sent to the right organizations. Many want to prevent a repeat of when the American Red Cross raised $500 million in 2011 yet built only six homes.
“Us that call ourselves allies, we need to follow the lead of the Haitian community –– don’t just start coming up with your own organizations,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards. “There are organizations doing the work on the ground. Let’s make sure we’re supporting those efforts and not reinventing the wheel.”
Leaders of nonprofits aiding Haiti said that in the early days following the Aug. 14 earthquake direct cash support to organizations is needed to help pay for shipping food, medical supplies and other necessities — as well as to support groups already on the scene of the disaster that’s killed nearly 1,300 people.
“You could give to a reputable organization that’s on the ground that’s providing the support, like Capracare, that’s buying medication in Haiti as needed and serve people immediately,” said Jean Pierre-Louis, who heads up the Haiti-based nonprofit Capracare. “Right now, if you buy medication to save somebody’s life, they’ll be dead before it gets to him.”
‘We Need Your Friendship’
Those who spoke outside of Saint Jerome’s church Monday emphasized Haiti’s history as the first Black nation to overcome colonization
“This is the time that we need your friendship back in return,” said Assemblymember Mathlyde Frontus (D-Coney Island). “We were the original Black Lives Matter movement, the original freedom fighters movement.”
Saturday’s quake came just over a month after the country’s president, Jovenel Moïse, was assassinated.
But even prior to Moïse’s death, Haiti faced a political crisis where constitutional scholars were divided on whether or not his five-year term had ended since he entered office late.
After the country failed to hold national elections in October 2019, much of its legislative body had dissolved and Moïse began ruling by decree. Meanwhile, the country also recently faced a gasoline crisis amid the pandemic as well as an escalation in gang violence and kidnappings.
The Biden administration recently extended and expanded federal Temporary Protected Status for tens of thousands of Haitian nationals, after dozens of activist groups called for the U.S. federal government to release and amend the guidelines’ following Moïse’s slaying.
Now, local Haitian leaders say, more help will be needed from Washington as well as from everyday citizens willing to pitch in.
“Unfortunately we’ve been down this road before and we know the tragic loss that occurred in the earthquake in 2010. And so that’s in the forefront of everyone’s mind as we call on the United States government to move the resources and to build the coalitions to get on the ground and save lives” said Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-Brooklyn), who co-chairs the newly formed House Haiti Caucus.
“It is now up to all of us to keep the pressure on,” she added.
How to Help
The Mayor’s Fund has directed New Yorkers to the following relief organizations so far:
The Ayiti Community Trust, an organization born out of providing emergency relief that has since shifted to community development, has launched an earthquake relief fund. The organization, whose leaders are based in Haiti and throughout the diaspora, is committing to channel funds to Haitian-led organizations in the Caribbean nation.
Capracare is a charity established in 2009 to provide a range of health care services for Haitians, including medical and mental health, especially those who live outside of the country’s cities. The group directly employs health care professionals in Haiti who are now focused on providing care for the injured.
Hope for Haiti’s aim is to reduce poverty by focusing on education, health care, infrastructure, access to clean water, and improving economic conditions. As of Monday, Hope for Haiti stated that it’s prepared to distribute its stockpile of emergency kits for vulnerable families and individuals, despite the group’s St. Etienne and Les Cayes’ offices being damaged by the earthquake and coastal flooding. The three-decade-old group’s team includes local doctors and nurses.
Partners in Health, the largest non-governmental health care provider in Haiti, has already begun organizing employees to respond to the unfolding crisis.
All NYPD police precincts across the city are accepting personal hygiene products, baby food, nonperishable food, flashlights and medical supplies for shipment to Haiti.
Councilmember Farah Louis’ (D-Flatbush) office will be hosting relief grieving and counseling sessions starting Monday over the next seven days from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. at two Brooklyn locations: the Haitian American Caucus Training Center at 495 Flatbush Ave.; and the Evangelical Crusade Christian Church at 557 East 31st St.
“There are people grieving in our community and we don’t have enough mental health providers and counselors to deal with the issues that people have right now when they get that phone call that mom, dad, sister, cousin is dead in Haiti,” said Louis, whose district encompasses Brooklyn’s Little Haiti.