Despite the worldwide relief effort that has unfolded since a 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit the country of Haiti in January, many problems loom for survivors: Hundreds of thousands of people need stable shelter as the rainy season sets in; a new healthcare crisis looms as patients face diseases caused by unsanitary living conditions; and schoolchildren can't return to classrooms where buildings have collapsed and teachers have died. In addition, for many Haitians, the dire conditions have left them with an even greater need: hope.
Karl Eastlack, CEO of World Hope International (WHI), a Christian aid organization that has been working in Haiti for nearly 15 years, said his group is now working hard to deliver practical help and spiritual hope in the hardest of conditions.
In visiting Haiti a few days after the quake, Eastlack remembers being approached by a Haitian couple with their sick baby. The father wanted Eastlack to keep their baby. "My wife and I won't survive, but you can give our son a chance to live," the man told Eastlack.
"What a sense of hopelessness that is apparent when you would give your child away for a chance for him to live," Eastlack said in recalling the event. "It broke my heart. I wanted to show them there was more than that-there is hope for another day that only comes through Jesus Christ."
Jo Anne Lyon founded WHI in 1996 after seeing great needs during a visit to Haiti. The organization has since expanded to help 22 countries around the world with relief and community development.
But unlike the other countries WHI reaches out to, Haiti always left Eastlack feeling discouraged. Even before the quake, Haitians endured hurricanes, leading to mudslides on deforested land. Another factor is the practice of voodoo by as many as 75 percent of the Haitian population.
"It's a dark, dark religion," Eastlack said. "It dominates people spiritually who are already feeling rather hopeless. Imagine what the quake stole from them-any sense of doing anything for themselves. Now they're at the mercy of the rest of the world. They don't have jobs, homes, barns. It's a general sense of discouragement."
WHI has been partnering with Wesleyan churches in the area to help with the physical and spiritual needs of the people. The organization wants Haitians to see WHI not as Americans dropping into the country to fix them, but rather as partners coming alongside churches and programs already in the country.
"When the crisis hit, the U.S. and Haiti governments turned to us to lead the way," Eastlack said. "We were well-positioned at the time of the quake; our footprint was large and we had knowledge of the local and national government."
WHI has since placed 10 sites in and around the capital where the group has been caring for the survivors' immediate needs of food, shelter, medical supplies, and clean water.
The group has been assisting orphanages, providing hospitals with medical supplies, and helping schools by sending U.S. teachers to help train Haitian teachers. WHI has also provided AIDS relief work, as well as helped boost the local economy and promote food sustainability.
Other plans include spring day camps for Haitian children that will include secondary education, vacation Bible school, and sports. The group also has 1,000 applicants for their Hope Corp program that will bring in short-term teams to help with the day camps, medical doctors to help at the clinics, and architects and engineers to help with the rebuilding. Through a three-year plan, WHI hopes to help survivors get back on their feet and back on track with their lives.
WHI is also trying to bring spiritual hope to the survivors by sending spiritual counselors to care for many of the survivors suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Many Haitians have nightmares and live with the fear that something bad is going to happen to them again. The counselors talk them through their fears and sense of hopelessness, and emphasize ultimate hope in Christ.
"We can give them sense of encouragement, said Eastlack. "We can reach out and tell them there is a new day coming."
'Still in shock' | Haiti is hit by a massive earthquake followed by aftershocks, with an epicenter near the capital, Port-au-Prince | Mindy Belz and Jamie Dean | Jan. 12, 2010
Helping Haiti | WORLD provides a list of relief organizations accepting donations to assist earthquake victims in Haiti | The Editors | Jan. 13, 2010
Search and rescue | U.S. disaster experts, the U.S. military, and private relief groups head to earthquake-devastated Haiti | Mindy Belz | Jan. 13, 2010
In the dark | Haitian-Americans hope to contact loved ones and quickly send aid back home to family and friends | Alisa Harris | Jan. 13, 2010
Weeping and waiting | Haitian earthquake victims await help, but obstacles slow relief efforts | Jamie Dean | Jan. 14, 2010
Desperation | Too many Haitians are in a holding pattern awaiting aid, as relief organizations try to make progress | Jamie Dean | Jan. 15, 2010
Long night | With tens of thousands of casualties, Haitians weep and wait for morning | Jamie Dean | Jan. 15, 2010
Deliverance | A group of orphans arrive safely in Pittsburgh while relief organizations report progress in Haiti | Mindy Belz | Jan. 19, 2010
Crying for help | Hard-pressed Haitians seek assistance as aid groups face logistical challenges | Jamie Dean | Jan. 21, 2010
Leaving Port | Beyond the capital city are rural communities equally devastated by the quake and in need of help | Jamie Dean | Jan. 22, 2010
The new normal | As life and death continue their morbid mingling, relief groups forge ahead to help | Jamie Dean | Jan. 22, 2010
Finding home | Now that search-and-rescue efforts have been called off, attention turns to providing shelter for survivors | Jamie Dean | Jan. 23, 2010
Chaotic aid | Relief groups attempt to help Haitians despite murky rules, government interference, and the lack of a cohesive plan | Jamie Dean | Jan. 28, 2010
Aftershock | Caregivers predict a second wave of death, as Haitians find moments of deliverance amid days of devastation from one of the modern world's worst natural disasters | Jamie Dean | Jan. 29, 2010
Homecoming | For Haitians orphaned before the quake, it means leaving home and starting over | Alisa Harris | Jan. 29, 2010
Crisis giving | Instant need calls for long-term strategy | Rusty Leonard | Jan. 29, 2010
An indecent grief | First lamentations, then comfort that strengthens more than soothes | Mindy Belz | Jan. 29, 2010
Hope for Haiti? (audio file) | Hear WORLD news editor Jamie Dean discuss her visit to the earthquake-ravaged country | Nick Eicher | Feb. 1, 2010
Despair and salvation | While the UN grapples with unruly crowds, The Salvation Army peacefully distributes food | Jamie Dean | Feb. 2, 2010
Crossing lines | Failing to heed sound advice, 10 Americans now find themselves facing kidnapping charges in Haiti | Jamie Dean | Feb. 4, 2010
Haiti's plight (audio file) | A discussion of the country's days of devastation and moments of deliverance | Jamie Dean | Feb. 5, 2010
Stress management | Helping Haitians recover takes zeal-with wisdom | Jamie Dean | Feb. 12, 2010
Taking charge | In quake aftermath, build new cities, says Haitian ambassador (and Bible translator) Raymond Joseph | Mindy Belz | Feb. 12, 2010
Houses of God | Grand-Goave, Haiti | The Editors| Feb. 12, 2010
Living water | Water Missions International offers long-term solutions for clean, drinkable water | Angela Lu | Feb. 13, 2010
Building blocks | While Christian Aid Ministries provides for the immediate needs of quake victims, it looks ahead to helping the country rebuild | Angela Lu | Feb. 16, 2010
Close quarters | ActionAid helps homeless Haitians deal with sanitation and security issues at camps set up in Port-au-Prince | Angela Lu | Feb. 23, 2010
Hardest hit | With nearly half a million orphaned children before the quake, Haiti's challenge to parent them just got bigger | Jamie Dean | Feb. 26, 2010
The search for miracles | Port-au-Prince is a city desperately seeking turnaround-and that's before the earthquake | Jamie Dean | March 12, 2010
Night crawlers | A new disaster threatens defenseless women and children in Haitian tent cities: rape | Jamie Dean | March 25, 2010
Homecoming | Missionary Patrick Lataillade, who nearly died in the quake, returned to help Haitians this week | Angela Lu | March 27, 2010
Hashing out Haiti | As the UN makes recovery plans, Haitians struggle for the basic necessities for survival | Jamie Dean | March 31, 2010