Five years after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, Christian ministry Compassion International reveals it is on track to erect 30 new school buildings by this spring despite setbacks. The schools, built with the $31.2 million sponsors and donors from around the world gave the organization following the tragedy, will restore education and a pathway out of poverty for the more than 25,000 Compassion-assisted children who were affected by the disaster.
Compassion employed engineers from El Salvador and even created its own construction company in order to build 30 schools that can withstand future catastrophes by January. Compassion's U.S. communications director, Tim Glenn, said some structural problems have extended its completion date to April. Still, the organization is proud of what it has been able to do.
On January 12, 2010, Haiti was rocked by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that reduced several structures in its densely populated capital, Port-au-Prince, to rubble — including many church-run schools.
There is virtually no public school system in Haiti and many of the country's children receive their education from private schools run by churches.
For the last 48 years, Compassion International has partnered with 270 local Haitian churches and their schools to implement holistic child development programs that provide students a pathway out of poverty through the love of Jesus Christ.
In the wake of the earthquake's destruction, Compassion International's management support director for Haiti, Matthew Moore, explained, "Many of our church partners had lost buildings. They had nowhere to go to church, they had nowhere to provide for the children."
The ministry immediately jumped into action, reaching out to affected churches the day of the disaster.
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. 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.
In addition to providing for the immediate needs of the nearly 1.5 million displaced by the earthquake, Compassion also helped the families of its students rebuild their lives and their businesses with micro finance loans.
It biggest goal, however, was to rebuild destroyed schools. Without them, Moore stated, "We would have had to remove more than 25,000 children from our program."
So Compassion invested in school construction, bringing in Salvadorian reconstruction engineer Hilda Bojorquez to teach workers how to build disaster-proof structures in accordance with international seismic building codes.
Exclusive Op-eds from the Presidential Campaigns
"The problem is that the Haitian engineers were not taught at school how to have an earthquake resistant plan so we dealt with challenge by hiring a group of technicians in El Salvador that made all of the blue prints," Bojorquez said with help from a translator.
Glenn believes Compassion has made the most of its donations. "We provided immediate needs where it made the most sense," Glenn told The Christian Post.
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. Yet news reports of Haitians' continued struggles have led to scrutiny on how many charitable organizations are actually distributing Haitian relief funds.
Days after the disaster, The New York Times reported pockets of displaced residents were still waiting for food and water. GiveWell noted in 2011 that despite the billions of dollars donated, "the situation remained dire." In January 2014, Jake Johnson of the Center for Economic and Policy Research dinged USAID for under-delivering on the thousands of new homes and industries it promised to build.
Johnson also told NBC News this month that "if the expectation was to build back better and transform Haiti's public sector, then yes, by any measure it's been a failure."
Problems such as fuel shortages, the country's bad roads and one airport runway to receive supplies hampered many charitable groups from meeting their original goals.
Glenn told CP that Compassion used its existing infrastructure in Haiti and the neighboring Dominican Republic to overcome some of these difficulties.
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. Once the supplies reached Haiti, Compassion International allowed Haitian church leaders and volunteers to take the lead in dispensing food kits and additional relief.
Glenn explained, "We lift up the church to be the church in these communities."
Compassion used its network again when it created its micro loan program for local small business creation. It only opened the program to the family members of Compassion-assisted children. The program distributed over 800 loans which spawned 452 local businesses.
Despite setbacks in the schools' construction, Moore said, "We've accomplished virtually all the goals we set five years ago. 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."
He concluded, "I think all of our staff here, all the sponsors and those who love Compassion can be very proud of what we've accomplished."