A well-known and highly respected worldwide ministry dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty has kept its promise to Haitians devastated by the earthquake in 2010: $31 million to build 30 quake-resistant schools.
Still feeling the effects of the 7.0-magnitude Haiti earthquake that struck five years ago this month, 25,000 children have something to celebrate, as the Christian outreach organization Compassion International continues to deliver on its promise to help rebuild the afflicted poverty-stricken nation with $31.2 million in aid to construct 30 new schools.
Thousands of students in the island nation have been out of decent school facilities since before the quake. Now, thanks to the generosity of Compassion's donors and sponsors around the globe, they will be able to continue their education so that they will no longer be on a one-way road to poverty in arguably the world's poorest nation.
To turn the nightmarish reality of the devastating aftermath from the earthquake into a dream of healing, hope, and opportunity, the nonprofit Christian aid organization – dedicated to bringing Christ's Word, provisions and love to children around the world – hired engineers from El Salvador and put together its own construction company. Its mission was to complete the construction of 30 disaster-resistant schools by the five-year anniversary of the quake.
Coming very close to that projection, Compassion U.S. communication director Tim Glenn conceded that some structural issues prevented the construction crews from meeting their scheduled completion date. However, he was enthusiastic about meeting their extended deadline in April, telling The Christian Post that everyone at the Christian group is encouraged by the progress they've made to make everything happen so close to schedule despite the obstacles.
With the public school system in Haiti being virtually non-existent in the first place, the earthquake damage in 2010 leveled much of the education facilities in Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital and most populous city. Because the public schools cannot accommodate much of the youth population, church-run schools educate many of Haiti's children, and a number of those facilities were destroyed in the quake.
Compassion's school project was designed to put local children who are in desperate need of an education back into classrooms in safe school facilities.
"Many of our church partners had lost buildings," Compassion International Haiti management support director Matthew Moore pointed out. "They had nowhere to go to church; they had nowhere to provide for the children."
The same day the quake struck, Compassion was there to help congregants from damaged churches.
"Within the first nine months, Compassion delivered more than 600 tons of relief supplies such as food, clothing and temporary shelters to those displaced from their homes," The Christian Post reports. "Its mobile health clinics vaccinated nearly 15,000 children in the months following the disaster and distributed 4,000 hygiene kits. Compassion also provided post-traumatic counseling to children affected by the disaster."
Of the $31.2 million donated to Compassion's Haiti fund to date, $20.3 million of it came from contributors within the U.S.
Back to school … and work
The Colorado Springs-based ministry also assisted the 1.5 million Haitians who were displaced from their homes after the earthquake. Compassion provided support for students' families by giving them more than 800 micro finance loans to restore their lives, helping to create 452 local businesses.
"[If we didn't rebuild the schools] we would have had to remove more than 25,000 children from our program," Moore explained.
To make the new schools a reality, Compassion put its resources into creating a building team that would be up to the task. This included Hilda Bojorquez, a reconstruction engineer from El Salvador. She was brought in to train workers in the art of building disaster-proof structures that meet international seismic building codes.
"The problem is that the Haitian engineers were not taught at school how to have an earthquake-resistant plan, so we dealt with challenges by hiring a group of technicians in El Salvador who made all of the blueprints," Bojorquez informed.
Glenn is confident that Compassion has used the resources provided by donations in the best way possible. "We provided immediate needs where it made the most sense," he expressed to The Christian Post.
History of Compassion
But blessings from Compassion have by no means been a short-term project in Haiti. In fact, they extend back nearly five decades, as the Christian outreach has joined hands to partner with some 270 local churches and the schools they run.
Through Compassion's assistance with schools, students glean from development programs that take a holistic approach to education to give them the tools they need so that they will not be entrenched in a culture that perpetuates poverty. Of course, all instruction is deeply embedded in the love and teachings of Jesus Christ.
Obstacles for other relief groups
Even though large sums of money were collected worldwide by various humanitarian organizations for disaster relief, reports indicate that much of it did not end up getting where it was needed.
"In 2011, nonprofit charity evaluator GiveWell estimated that over $5 billion in donations were pledged in 2010 to charities big and small to help the impoverished peninsula in 2010," The Christian Post reports. "Yet news reports of Haitians' continued struggles have led to scrutiny on how many charitable organizations are actually distributing Haitian relief funds."
An account given by The New York Times just days after the earthquake told of multiple areas where residents fleeing their leveled homes were stranded without receiving food and water relief.
"The situation remained dire," proclaimed the relief organization GiveWell in 2011, even though billions in contributions were funneled into the hands of numerous humanitarian aid groups.
USAID's mishandling of funds was specifically brought to light when it was found that it failed to come through on its promise to build thousands of new homes and industries in Haiti following the disaster.
"[I]f the expectation was to build back better and transform Haiti's public sector, then yes, by any measure, it's been a failure," Center for Economic and Policy Research's Jeff Johnson told NBC earlier this month.
The poor conditions of Haiti's infrastructure, such as damaged roads and an airport runway in need of repair, are some of the roadblocks many aid organizations have blamed for their failure to deliver on time.
According to Glenn, Compassion was able to steer past many of the transportation challenges that hindered other aid groups by using both Haiti's and the neighboring Dominican Republic's existing infrastructures.
"The Christian ministry stockpiled supplies with some of its Dominican Republic partner churches and then trucked the supplies to its affected Haitian partners from there," noted The Christian Post. "Once the supplies reached Haiti, Compassion International allowed Haitian church leaders and volunteers to take the lead in dispensing food kits and additional relief."
Compassion has made it a point to ensure that its assistance is felt by Haitians as local churches reaching out with the provisions of God.
"We lift up the church to be the church in these communities," Glenn emphasized to The Christian Post.
Compassion's school projects may be running a little behind schedule, but Moore rejoices that the Christian aid group has been able to deliver on just about every promise it made five years ago after the quake.
"We've accomplished virtually all the goals we set five years ago," Moore declared. "The money that so many generous donors and sponsors gave the Haiti disaster response will be spent how we said it would be spent and we've impacted many of thousands of lives. I think all of our staff here, all the sponsors and those who love Compassion, can be very proud of what we've accomplished."