Following the violent uprising in Haiti that ousted the past president and displaced thousands of citizens internally, several Christian humanitarian groups gathered strength and support to distribute emergency food and medicine to the Haitians.
Among those groups was Church World Service ?the humanitarian arm of the National Council of Churches, which has member churches from across 36 denominations.
According to a Church World Service report following a March 15-22 assignment, while there has been some improvement in the situation in Haiti, there is still an avid need for assistance, both physically and spiritually for the many victims in the nation.
The following is the edited version of a first hand experience in Haiti by a CWS International Disaster Liason Don Tatlock as released by the CWS newssite:
We are able to travel into the country to see and hear first-hand the needs and conditions of the people in the northern part of the country. Thanks to the presence of the international peace-keeping forces, in-country travel has been open and the security level lowered.
It is also evident that many UN and humanitarian agencies are out driving in the north, as we see several UNICEF, World Food Program (WFP) and Red Cross vehicles going in the same direction and for the same purpose as the ACT team. Driving in Port-Au-Prince and on the highway, daily life seems to be returning to some normalcy.
Street venders and markets are open, many people are walking in the streets, the roads are congested with traffic and car horns are honking. Armed rebels and Lavalas supporters are not visible. Once in a while you see a military convoy driving around Port-Au-Prince.
However, most Haitians are trying to get on with their daily lives and look for food and work. Another sign that the situation is improving is that most schools started to open this week, many having the first classes yesterday or today. In Haiti, one can judge if the country is feeling safer and the situation is calming down not by businesses opening, but by schools opening, as the students and their families feel confident about attendance.
As we drive towards Gonaive, we pass a market in the middle of the highway, bringing traffic to almost a complete stop; however, there is no sign of disturbance, just busy men and women shopping.
We reach the city of St. Marks, one of our planned stops to visit pastors who are members of the Association of the Evangelical Leaders of the Artibonite District.
It is during this meeting that we meet the Joseph family (mother Caroline and 6-year-old son Anderson). They were directly affected by the violence during the civil strife period. Mrs. Joseph had gone to her pastor to seek help and sanctuary for her family and herself.
Mrs. Joseph still remembers the day vividly. It was February 11, the day that several men came to their home and took her husband. They beat him in front of the family and then set him on fire. Anderson saw the whole thing.
"We have been living in fear since that time and we don't know what we have done," she tells us.
According to Pastor Renaud Guillaume, Church of God, Hand of Christ, there are many stories similar to the Joseph's. Recently, radio news has been reporting that 50 men have died from being tortured or beaten in this area; however, we know from other accounts that the number is higher.
"This is a terrible situation we have been experiencing this last month," says Rev. Guillaume. "The people need counseling and assurances of safety, of peace in their lives. We need help and support to fix their spirits.?
"We have God on our side and we are not afraid of either the Lavalas party or the rebels, as our people are being victimized by both groups."
Following this release of the news, the American Baptist Church donated $5,000 for CWS’s week of compassion relief effort. Their funds will be used for shipments of medical supplies and food. Designated gifts can be made to the CWS. For more information, please visit: www.weekofcompassion.org.