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Haitian archbishop urges residents to take charge of recovery
By Benjamin Mann

.- Port-au-Prince Archbishop Guire Poulard marked the second anniversary of 2010's earthquake with a call for Haitians to build a better future for themselves and their country.

“The reconstruction will be Haitian or will not be,” the archbishop proclaimed in a message carried by the news outlet Haiti Libre.

He said Haitians “cannot accept to live only from international begging,” but must take on the task of reconstruction in the same way that national independence was achieved: “by rolling up our sleeves.”

“Put your hope in God and in yourself,” the archbishop urged, saying the “other promises do not offer any guarantees” for the future.

Archbishop Poulard was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI on Jan. 12, 2011, on the one-year anniversary of the earthquake that killed his predecessor Archbishop Joseph S. Miot along with 250,000 other residents of the island.

On the second anniversary of the earthquake, the archbishop described his appointment as a message to Haiti from Pope Benedict XVI.

“He wanted to say to Haiti, battered, traversed by all kinds of misery: take courage, get up, dry your tears and put yourself to work,” Archbishop Poulard recounted.

“Thus, on this second anniversary of this tragedy,” he proclaimed, “I turn towards the refugee camps of the earthquake, towards the homeless of before and after the earthquake, to the physically and mentally handicapped, towards the victims, finally towards the people in general, to say to all: courage!”

The Port-au-Prince archbishop explained that the Haitian Church stood in solidarity with the whole country, especially in light of the “slow progress of the reconstruction.”

“Haitian people, people of my country, people of this country that I love with great passion, the Church is with you and will continue to walk with you,” he pledged.

He noted that the archdiocese has no headquarters, while many priests and religious remain homeless alongside hundreds of thousands of other Haitians.


In these conditions, he said, “we show really our solidarity with the poor” and those who lack the means to “lead a decent and dignified life.”

The Pope’s representative to Haiti Archbishop Bernardito C. Auza told Fides news agency that 600,000 Haitians still live in tents two years after the earthquake, including students of Port-au-Prince's seminary.

“The Church has dozens and dozens of reconstruction projects, but the technical preparatory stages are long and difficult,” he said.

Archbishop Auza was among the first residents to convey news of the disaster to international media in 2010. Two years after, he sees the recovery efforts lacking direction and momentum.

“The reconstruction in Haiti was and is particularly difficult and expensive because everything is imported, even the sand,” he noted.

In a further complication, an international commission that had been helping with the rebuilding lost its mandate on Oct. 21. Now, Archbishop Auza said, “there is no longer a structure or an institution that guides or directs the efforts.”

“Parliament has yet to address the issue, and the question is not in the legislative program. The issues of management on who manages the funds, and especially who gets the contracts, are very hot these days.”

Under these circumstances, Catholic Relief Services' new president says communities must be empowered to deal with their own local needs.

Carolyn Woo, who became the organization's president and CEO on Jan. 1, recently visited Haiti together with her predecessor Ken Hackett and Catholic Relief Services board chairman Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas.

In a report on their visit, Woo and Hackett said they were “impressed with what has been accomplished” in Haiti, “and equally struck by the amount of work still to do.”

They explained that Catholic Relief Services' strategy of local self-empowerment was necessary  “to get this recovery right for Haiti,” and have “ordinary Haitians – who had lost so much – leading their own reconstruction in dignified and sustainable ways.”

Some of these ways include organizing local cleaning and building crews, making loans and grants to entrepreneurs, and providing small-scale technology that can be easily used by individuals.

Woo says Catholic Relief Services “doesn't pretend we can solve the myriad problems in Haiti” but is committed to “working with communities – not for them,” as they forge their own future.


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April 23, 2014

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