Haiti: Aid groups implore Christians to pray, take action in time of crisis

by Melissa Barnhart, Christian Post Contributor |
Residents are reflected in a puddle of stagnant water as they walk in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, February 1, 2016. | REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares

Christian aid groups serving in Haiti have witnessed firsthand the devastation wrought by ongoing demonstrations spurred by allegations of government corruption and the country's inflation crisis.

Haitians again took to the streets in Port-au-Prince and other cities this month calling for President Jovenel Moïse's resignation over allegations the government misappropriated billions of dollars earmarked for reconstruction following a catastrophic 7.1 magnitude earthquake in 2010 that killed an estimated 300,000 people and left between 1.5 million and 2 million homeless.

During the protests churches were closed, schools were shut down — including tutoring and other programs provided by Christian nonprofit groups — and parents who work as day laborers were unable to earn wages.

Even though opposition parties have called for demonstrations to continue, as they have from time-to-time since last summer, Edouard Lassegue, the regional vice president for Compassion International's Latin America and Caribbean Regions, told The Christian Post that the situation has calmed down significantly and businesses, churches and schools are opening up again.

Compassion International has been serving in Haiti for 50 years and partners with churches to help educate children and provide for their physical and emotional needs. More than 109,000 are enrolled in its 315 child development centers in that country. Individuals who sponsor a child who participates in its program donate $38 a month to go toward that child's education and can opt to donate more funds to provide for other necessities for the child and their family.

"The children that are registered in the Compassion program, especially those who attend a church in Port-au-Prince or other cities — that's where most of the demonstrations took place," Lassegue said. "Those children had to stop attending their activities at the church. So for about a week, maybe two weeks, depending on where they were located, those children had to miss the activities going on in the projects."

As children return to church and their education programs and tutoring, it's incumbent upon Compassion International's staff, who are native to the region, to observe them and ensure they receive the emotional support they need.

"Part of the response of Compassion is not only making sure that those children attend those activities, but also pay special attention to the emotional and psychological impacts of the last few weeks," Lassegue added. "Many times, in our countries, what we find is that those needs often go unnoticed. And even though the child saw or witnessed violence or was the subject of actual violence, many times those situations are not addressed.

"Compassion is really trying to make sure those children do have that personal attention from a tutor, from — if the case calls for it — a trained counselor who can help children navigate through those feelings and address them," he said.

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