Helping Haiti with Love
On January 12, 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti. It caused major damage to the country’s capital Port-au-Prince, surrounding settlements and many notable landmarks including the Presidential Palace, the Port-au-Prince Cathedral and the main jail. Tzu Chi immediately established Haiti relief coordination centers at the Tzu Chi USA headquarters in San Dimas, California, in the Dominican Republic office and in Haiti. Tzu Chi also initiated a global fundraising campaign that inspired people from 36 countries to give love and provide relief goods to people in Haiti.
Tzu Chi relief volunteers from six different nations quickly organized a comprehensive relief effort. Hundreds of them delivered and distributed relief goods, offered medical and emotional assistance and adopted relief work programs in Haiti. Goods accumulated from global donation campaigns included instant rice, flour, eco-friendly blankets made from recycled PET bottles, tarps, emergency shelters, mobile toilets, eco-friendly utensils and bowls and medical kits. A total of 84 distributions were held, benefiting thousands of households. Medical services, which included general medicine, oriental medicine, dental and chiropractic care, were planned to help victims for eight weeks, and a food-for-work program was established to empower Haitians to help clean up their community in exchange for food to sustain their families.
Always among the first to arrive at the disaster site and the last to leave, Tzu Chi volunteers have worked together to instill hope in the lives of victims with short-term relief and long-term care programs in Haiti. Seventeen Tzu Chi volunteer trainings promoted the spirit of compassion and self-empowerment through the Bamboo Bank initiative (in which locals were encouraged to save a small amount of money every day), which inspired local volunteers to set up other projects such as orphanage visits, home visits, and cholera prevention and hygiene education. Schools were set up and rebuilt for over 120 children to restart their learning habit after the earthquake. As part of the Send Love to Haiti program, a Tzu Chi charity project established prior to the earthquake, 358 boxes of school supplies such as classroom furniture and stationery were also sent to the children in Haiti to ensure a continuous learning experience despite disasters. By fall of 2010, Tzu Chi also began to help children who could not afford regular school fees by paying home visits and providing after-school activities for the parents and their children. Tzu Chi volunteers around the world continue to provide physical and emotional support to the people of Haiti, in hopes that they will extend this spirit of compassion to their compatriots and spread love within as well as beyond their country.