Take a moment to think about how you define community. Is it defined by your neighbors? Is it your co-workers, relatives or social media acquaintances? Is it those we count on for basic services - the doctors, teachers, postal workers, and garbage collectors? Is it the highway you drive on, or the house you live in. Or is it shared experiences, hopes and dreams?
Now consider that in many parts of Haiti, community is not defined by what people share, but more by what they lack.
After the 2010 earthquake, the community of people we serve in the neighborhood of Delmas 32 were defined by homelessness. They lived in a tent city a stone's throw away from where they had lived the day before the disaster. J/P HRO helped relocate all families back into safe and durable homes in their neighborhood and we continue to serve the same community in a new location.
At J/P HRO, we're about supporting stronger communities in Haiti. That sounds great, but what does that really look like? It looks like ensuring access to basic services that should be every human being's basic right. Everyone deserves medical care, housing, education, jobs and job training. We must listen closely and respond quickly to the needs of those we work with. Most of all, it means allowing Haitians to shape our mission instead of the other way around.
The earthquake uncovered another larger disaster in Haiti: Poverty. What is self-evident across the world is that poverty prevents sustainable growth. Haiti and the communities we serve are ready to grow. With your support, they won't just grow, they will thrive.
Natural disasters teach us many lessons. Chief amongst them is the power of things beyond our control to transform in an instant. Our organization began as an emergency response to save lives, and grew into an agent of development through building sustainable programs.
In this way our organization continues to be transformed by the earthquake, but not defined by it. On January 12th, 2010, 53 seconds uncovered that the real disaster in Haiti is poverty, and through our work in economics, social and community development, we aim to address the roots of this disaster.
When an earthquake happens in California, there is damage, sometimes even the tragedy of death. The economy, however, doesn’t careen out of orbit. Entire communities aren’t suddenly adrift. Life is able to go on. Sustainable development looks like elevating quality of life to the point that people don’t need to live in constant fear that everything could be ripped away from them by a harsh storm or shake of the ground. This may be a long way off, but it is the effective way we can move beyond one disaster, and mitigate the aftermath of the next.