L'Arche Haiti

Boy in Haiti

The devastating earthquake which hit Port-au-Prince on 12 January 2010 left our community there homeless. Two board members and one of the community members died. Many in our communities are struggling with the loss of loved ones and the buildings have been assessed as structurally unsound, and are due for demolition.

The rebuilding cannot yet start, because the country's infrastructure is so damaged. Our community members are living like so many of their neighbours, in a tented village.

Givers here in the UK have raised around £60,000 in response to L'Arche's appeal for help, which is a magnificent achievement.

Isabelle Robert, Delegated L'Arche Coordinator to Haiti says

"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."

If you would like to support our L'Arche Haiti appeal, please visit our donate page. Your help makes a huge difference.

To read all of Isabelle's letter

Once L'Arche Haiti can start the massive rebuilding programme ahead, these donations and any further help that comes, will play a vital part in helping this community build new future.

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 set-up installation 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.

Isabelle Robert, Delegated Coordinator to Haiti