Enolia Pierre admires her new home in the town of Mellier. Her original home here, which sheltered a total of 13 people, was destroyed in the 2010 earthquake.
By Linda Unger*
September 17, 2012—Enolia Pierre jingled freshly cut house keys in her hand, popping them into the air every now and again, and catching them in her open palm. As she did so, a smile of satisfaction spread across her face: she—and 12 other family members—finally had a place to call home.
“This house will last all our lives,” said Pierre, who sells coffee along the dusty road that leads to Mellier. The home she shared here with three other adults and nine children was destroyed in the January 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti and stole, according to the United Nations, more than 217,000 lives.
Pierre was one of a dozen new homeowners who received their keys last week in a quiet celebration and blessing in one of the new, lemon-colored structures in Mellier, about an hour-and-a-half drive from Port-au-Prince.
In all, 20 people here and 20 in the town of Carrefour, whose homes were irreparably damaged in the quake, will receive new houses.
“This house is strong enough to handle storms, earthquakes, and hurricanes. When you’re in it, you know you’re safe,” Rev. Gesner Paul, president of Eglise Methodiste d’Haiti (EMH), told the beneficiaries.
He and other church leaders present at the celebration thanked the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and its donors for their financial support for the construction of the homes. They also thanked United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) for material and volunteer support.
Rev. Jim Gulley, a consultant for UMCOR and its parent organization, the General Board of Global Ministries, underscored that the homes were built “out of a great deal of commitment and love” not only on the part of the partner organizations but also by the contractors who undertook the work.
The project, which was initiated last year at this time, is a partnership among UMCOR, UMVIM, EMH, and the local communities. It benefits families whose homes were totally destroyed by the earthquake and who counted at least six family members living under a single roof.
It was not the only reason for celebration over the past two weeks.
Including the housing projects in Mellier and Carrefour, EMH and UMCOR have completed four building projects this month.
On September 9, EMH welcomed about a thousand participants to a joyous inaugural communion service at St. Martin’s Methodist Church in Port-au-Prince. The two-story church, which also includes a primary school on its ground level, towers above the struggling neighborhood of which it is a part.
Not long after sunup the following morning, and before the air heated up to its usual 100 or so degrees, representatives of EMH, UMCOR, and the Methodist Church of Great Britain, were at prayer again. This time, they prayed for workers preparing to break ground for the long-awaited reconstruction of the church’s flagship school, New College Bird, which serves some 900 students.
A small sign intended to mark the rededication more than a year ago lay discarded atop a large white rock. The project had been stymied by the long wait for building permits.
“For me and the church,” Rev. Paul said, “this means that in spite of all, God is with us and we should never despair. Things happen, but on the horizon the sun is shining, and there is hope.”
A pivotal moment
Progress in construction and reconstruction is only one part of the current moment in Haiti, which UMCOR’s Melissa Crutchfield called “pivotal.” Crutchfield is the organization’s executive in charge of international disaster response and has been involved with UMCOR’s response to the earthquake from the start.
“There is a shift now in Haiti, from the emergency-response phase to the long-term development phase,” she said. She cited the conclusion of the most recent roundtable discussions, held September 5 – 8 in Port-au-Prince, among EMH, UMCOR, UMVIM, and other Methodist partners.
The roundtable, the fifth in a series, focused on development issues such as, Crutchfield noted, “more permanent housing, education, livelihoods, health needs, and how to work together more productively.”
In May of this year—two and a half years after the earthquake—capital plazas still were filled with families and individuals displaced by the ruin caused by the disaster; today, they are open for recreation. While some 390,000 Haitians continue to live in camps, nearly 75 percent of those who were displaced have found more secure housing.
Looking ahead, Crutchfield said: “It’s a really exciting time for us, and we’re looking forward to seeing how the next few years continue to improve life in Haiti.”
Back in Mellier, life is improving for Enolia Pierre and her extended family. In the corner of a garden ringed with blanched stones, Pierre’s young granddaughter showed off to visitors the red outline of a heart that she drew there, a gentle blessing of the family’s new home.
Your gift to Haiti Emergency, UMCOR Advance #418325 will help UMCOR continue to walk with the Haitian people as they progress through recovery to development.
*Linda Unger is UMCOR’s staff editor and senior writer.