Update on L'Arche in Haiti
Many people have expressed concern about how the L'Arche Communities in Haiti are doing. We will continue to post updates from L'Arche International below. There are also links to additional information about the situation in Haiti.
If you would like to make a donation that goes directly to L'Arche in Hait, visit www.larchehaiti.org to make an online donation through the L'Arche Canada Foundation. These donations will be restricted to Haiti Solidarity, but all donations are made in Canadian dollars.
Sites with Information about L'Arche Haiti
L'Arche Haiti Blog - a reporter-photographer's chronicle of life in Haiti (begun in the fall of 2009)
Correspondences from L'Arche International
Friends and donors of L’Arche throughout the world have given in total nearly $500,000 to support our L’Arche communities in Haiti as they recover from the January earthquake. The community of L’Arche Carrefour in Port-au-Prince was most immediately affected by the quake, but L’Arche Chantal, located southwest of the capital city, has also been impacted due to their decision to welcome some of the members of L’Arche Carrefour until safer housing could be assured for them.
We want to share with you an excerpt from the most recent letter we’ve received from the President of Haiti’s Board of Directors, Evelyne Bazin-Verdier. Her words speak to the complications the communities have faced as well as the resounding endurance that sustains them. Evelyne writes:
"Ten months after the earthquake, Haiti remains at sea, in a mess, in unknown territory. Haitians have seen nothing of the rebuilding announced or financial aid promised, and the country is still waiting for answers from financial backers. The absence of infrastructure, the wretched shelters, the overpopulated camps – and now cholera in Port-au-Prince – makes it very hard to find solutions.
There is, however, a big difference between the country’s reconstruction and L’Arche’s reconstruction. Haiti still doesn’t have a rebuilding plan, whereas we have almost completed constructing temporary buildings. Happily, our donors were mobilized from the start, and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank every one of them. The temporary shelter we are constructing, with its anti-hurricane and anti-earthquake design, intended to meet the needs and requirements of members of the community, including a community room, will become a semi-permanent residence. Until the rebuilding is finished, however, the community members still live in tents. The threat of tempests, cyclones, and rains is a constant worry. Sometimes the rain virtually invades the tents, and there is so much mud – but hope re-emerges quickly, and it keeps people strong.
Our neighbors remain with us on the grounds of L’Arche Carrefour. Some have left, others are still here. In eight months, we have experienced three deaths, three births, and two weddings. L’Arche Carrefour wasn’t really set up to be able to house all of these people, but we did know how to show solidarity. While L’Arche Carrefour is deeply involved in rebuilding and reflection, L’Arche Chantal has been moving ahead quickly for some time now. We have hired a secretary to professionalize L’Arche Chantal’s administrative office, and we have also hired a teacher so that we can re-open the community’s little school, where six students spend half of each day developing their potential.
The Chantal community has grown, with the arrival of 12 members of L’Arche Carrefour (eight core members and four assistants). They are adapting so quickly and so well that we’re now asking ourselves whether the move should be permanent.
The question for L’Arche Chantal and for L’Arche Carrefour is how do we keep this momentum up; how do we transform this new energy so that it endures? For us here in Haiti, this work of empowering all our members starts now. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers. You have made a difference in the lives of our brothers and sisters in L’Arche Carrefour and L’Arche Chantal."
July 19, 2010
Update from Isabelle Robert. L’Arche International’s Delegated Coordinator to Haiti:
As many newspapers highlighted on July 12th, the six-month anniversary of the devastating earthquake, efforts to organize the reconstruction of the country are progressing very slowly and international aid organizations are overwhelmed. Many people are still completely destitute. More than 1.6 million disaster victims live in one of the 1,300 refugee camps. Uncounted numbers live in the street.
At Carrefour, the epicentre of the earthquake, the residents of the neighbourhood have demolished what remained of their houses. During these past six months, in the absence of adequate infrastructure, the streets have gradually disappeared beneath the rubble. A narrow path provides the only access to the L'Arche Carrefour community today. Some 70 of our neighbours still live on the grounds, however; they have made this their home, living under the emblem of L'Arche. Jean-Robert, Ti-Francoise, Myrta, and the others are the very heart of this little village. They remind us that our presence here has meaning. That commitment and solidarity have a heart and a face.
At the end of this little path, L'Arche is an oasis of peace - despite the hurricane season that threatens above our heads, despite the wind and the sun that have destroyed most of the tarpaulins that covered our tents, despite the tropical rains that regularly flood the land and mean that our feet are never dry.
After money, organization is surely what is most lacking in the chaos that has become the reality of Port-au-Prince. Thanks to you, however, thanks to the network of friendships and support that has been created around L'Arche Haiti, we are able to meet the needs of daily life in our little Arche without having to seek support from the NGOs, which are overwhelmed by urgent needs. And, above all, we are able to think about the future: L'Arche Haiti is, in fact, getting organized.
We have re-established the L'Arche Haiti office in Petionville, on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, and we have hired an Executive Director to manage the rebuilding of L'Arche Carrefour. Jocelyne Mercier, formerly of the IDB (Inter-American Development Bank) has assumed this responsibility. She has served L'Arche Haiti as a member of the Board of Directors, and she has been a friend of the community for 15 years. Jocelyne has two children and is delighted to be able to serve L'Arche and her country at one and the same time.
Jocelyne's first project will be overseeing the construction of temporary shelters. We have just signed a $144,000 contract with ARCHIGEP, a Haitian engineering firm, operated by Mr. Emmanuel René. The funds have come directly from gifts of friends of L'Arche. Construction will begin soon.
L'Arche has three properties in Carrefour: The grounds at the Caye Saint Joseph, site of the destroyed buildings and the place where we have pitched our tents and are welcoming our neighbours; the grounds of the Ké Konten school, which has resumed operations; and the grounds of the workshop. This last is the site on which we will be constructing four buildings designed to house 30 people for about two years. We are building a house for men, one for women, a multi-purpose community room, as well as toilets and a shower room. We expect construction to take about two months.
In the small community of Chantal, 150 km to the south, life is full. In order to be able to welcome members from the Carrefour community, we have opened a second residence here. For obvious reasons, we have named it the "Foyer Carrefour." While this setp-up installations wouldn't work over the long-term, each and every person here is committed to unconditional solidarity with their sister community.
We have set aside three days this coming October (29-31st) to reflect on the future of the community, and will welcome a number of resource people to the event. It has become clear that L'Arche Carrefour cannot be rebuilt on its current site; therefore, the most important issue before us is the relocation of the community. Where is the most suitable place for us? Where can we best fulfill L'Arche's mission? Where will we be able to welcome an even greater number of people affected by intellectual disabilities and testify to our common humanity in the very heart of Haitian society? These days of reflection will also allow us to define and get a fix on the human and financial resources demanded by this new phase of our life. We will keep you posted on the results of this reflection.
The new L'Arche Carrefour is a source of hope for all of us, even if everything has yet to be done or built. Our deepest hope is that it may witness even more powerfully to the unique place of people affected by intellectual disabilities at the heart of Haitian society. Their gifts have become clearer than ever in the current situation. Nancy, Jean-Robert, Ti-Francoise, Jolibois, and the others have no fear of loss or of being deprived of their possessions or of their well-being in this new situation that solidarity demands. Their response to the situation is the most beautiful lesson they can teach us.
We are completely humbled by the sheer enormity of the misery and poverty of the current situation, but we are also deeply moved by the acts of kindness and solidarity that, despite it all, continue to be offered.
Thank you for walking with L'Arche Haìti on this road of humility and humanity.
March 12, 2010
Update from Evelyne Bazin Verdier, Board President of L'Arche Haïti:
Dear Friends in L’Arche,
We have been receiving your words of encouragement since the earthquake which hit Haiti so hard, including our community of Carrefour. The telephone calls of Jean Vanier to Jacqueline have brought some much needed comfort to us, like a Eucharist, for the journey. Each person here appreciates this active solidarity, which is coming from all corners of the Federation. Thank you to all of you, from the bottom of our hearts.
The members of L'Arche at Carrefour, having slept several nights in the open air, are now sheltering in tents. Several of them have been welcomed by the community of Chantal, where they have been happily settling in. But with the rainy season almost upon us, our temporary shelter under canvas is raising new fears and problems. Please, keep L'Arche Haiti and its members in your prayers. The important task of reconstruction lies ahead.
I would also like to make you aware that within the last week, L'Arche Haiti has had some impact on the French media. The blog, ‘Mwen pa fou’, that I invite you to check out, if you haven’t already done so, was the subject of an article in the journal ‘La Croix’ in its internet edition of 11th March.
I invite you to keep logging on to the blog of Jonathan, an assistant in L'Arche Chantal, in order to get a better understanding of our situation: http://larche.ca/reporters/jonathan/
You could also read the article in La Croix online, if you haven’t yet had the opportunity:
Please continue to write to us. Your messages tell us that we are part of the same family. This feeling of belonging to a common humanity builds up our hopes in a new country, and in renewed communities carrying the mission of L'Arche.
January 26, 2010
Update from Joan Mahler, US Zone Coordinator, regarding L'Arche in Haiti:
Thank you for all of your prayers and messages of concern about our communities in Haiti. Today, we heard for the first time a confirmation that the Carrefour community in Port-au-Prince has suffered some significant structural damage. Mary Hurley, an assistant from L’Arche Cleveland, has been in Haiti the past week to help the Missionaries of Charity in Port-au-Prince. Mary sent word that she was able to visit the community, where she found community members happy and enjoying dinner in a tent. She said that one of their homes was completely destroyed and the other one damaged. We’ve also read that, until the infrastructure in the capital improves, some members of the Carrefour community will be living in the Chantal community to the southwest, where damage was significantly less. L’Arche USA has begun collecting financial donations for the community; we are awaiting instructions from L’Arche International regarding how they can be securely transmitted.
January 14, 2010
We are slowly receiving information from Port-au-Prince. Little by little we are receiving news about the scope of the disaster, which is absolutely unprecedented, and what the Haitian people are going through today. Extreme poverty, weak infrastructure and environmental deterioration make Haiti such a vulnerable country, and it is this already fragile country that has been hit, and completely destroyed.
I do not have much more news to report than what I shared yesterday, since all communication is out. The members of the Carrefour community near Port-au-Prince are doing well; they spent the night outdoors. For the time being they still have food and water, but that will not last long and everyone is wondering what they are supposed to do if the roads are impassable. The city of Cayes, a few kilometres from the community of Chantal, has been partially destroyed and although we have had no direct news, we get the impression that this rural region has probably been spared. Jonathan, a young Quebecois assistant who has been at L’Arche Chantal for two years, is en route to Port-au-Prince to lend a hand.
Given the sizeable Haitian community here in Montreal, many people here are panicking. Many of you have perhaps met Dominique Anglade who is on the McKinsey team and who has been helping us over the last few months. Dominique just found out that both her parents died, buried under the rubble of their home. Evelyne Verdier, President of the Board of Directors of the Carrefour community, had to leave her home and was not able to contact the community, but she gave us what news she had, counting the dead and injured around her. Isabelle Robert, who assists the two communities in Haiti, is trying to establish more regular communication and we will share with you any news we receive in the coming days.
Many of you are wondering how you can help with the reconstruction. We know that the community has suffered substantial material damage. A special assistance fund has been set up for the communities in Haiti, and you can contribute now through your associations or national foundations. Make sure to indicate that your donation is for “Solidarité Haiti”.
Yesterday evening in Port-au-Prince there were other weaker tremors… Let us pray for no more aftershocks, for all the people mourning the disappeared, for all those who find themselves literally in the streets today, and for God to express his compassion in this situation of extreme vulnerability in every way possible.
Jean Christophe Pascal, L'Arche International Coordinator
January 19, 2010
We have learnt with great sadness, from an email sent by Evelyne, (Board President of L’Arche Haiti), that two Board members were lost through the earthquake:
“L’Arche Haiti is in mourning: we have learnt that L’Arche Board members, Marie Cécile Dumontier and Schella Jovin, have died as a result of the earthquake. Marie Cécile is still buried beneath the debris of the “Villa Manrese” and Schella as well as her sister Gina perished beneath the debris of their family home. We feel overwhelmed by the news.” It is a huge lost for the L’Arche Communities and our deepest sympathy goes to their families and to L’Arche Haiti.
In view of the situation, the Chantal community has been preparing to welcome some members from L’Arche Carrefour district. Jonathan returned to Chantal yesterday in order to prepare the ground with the community, and buy basic foodstuff. He will return to the Carrefour district tomorrow in order to accompany the group of L’Arche members present there. Communication within the country is slowly being re-established, to the extent that Evelyne and Jacqueline were able to contact each other yesterday. Even so medical needs are becoming more and more urgent. The emergency committee is organising itself with the help of Maria Elvira Santacruz, coordinator for Arche Latin America and the Caribbean, in order to send medicine to Carrefour as quickly as possible. We are also looking into the possibility of sending Isabelle Robert to Haiti so that her presence may be seen as a tangible sign of friendship and support. Indeed, solidarity continues to show itself amidst this devastating situation that the country is undergoing. I would very much wish to encourage you to continue doing all in your power to help, be it by sending a gift to the Foundation of Arche Canada, praying, or by any other means.
We invite you to consult the Meeting Point (http://www.larchecommons.ca/index.php) to follow the events in Haiti.
Yours in peace,
Gabrielle Beaulieu, L'Arche Quebec Regional Coordinator