Local Christian Aid supporters braved the recent snow to hear about the reality of delivering development projects in a country hit by hurricanes, storms and a devastating earthquake, from a Christian Aid worker from Haiti.
Senior Programme Officer Victoria Jean-Louis works with local partner organisations on the ground in Haiti helping provide storm-proof housing and climate-change resilient crops so that local communities in the Western hemisphere’s poorest country can help themselves despite the odds.
She was due to speak at a presentation at St John’s Church in Newport on Saturday 3rd March, during a whirlwind week-long tour of the South and South West giving her first-hand account of the stories and themes highlighted in this year’s Christian Aid Week. Having spoken in Devon earlier in the week, Victoria was prevented from reaching the Island by the snowy weather but was present at St John’s by virtue of a live link from Wimborne in Dorset.
Last year local Christian Aid groups and churches on the Isle of Wight raised £15,526 during Christian Aid Week through a range of fundraising events and door to door collections.
Haiti was hit by a catastrophic earthquake in January 2010 when an estimated 220,000 people lost their lives and 1.5million people were left without homes. Christian Aid helped build robust homes which have since stood through storms including Hurricane Matthew, which wreaked further havoc across the south of the country in November 2016 destroying up to 90% of property in some areas.
“It would have been lovely to be there in person but I am so glad the link enabled me to share some stories with our committed supporters on the Isle of Wight.
“It was ironic to be caught in a snowstorm when dramatic weather systems and natural events are such a barrier to development in Haiti. Each rainy season we start to prepare mentally for disaster, for loss. Climate change has had a major impact on life in Haiti. Not only have natural disasters increased and grown more violent, but Haiti remains largely dependent on agriculture and as the seasons have changed it is necessary to apply climate change adaptation techniques for agriculture to thrive.
“Farmers throughout the country are suffering from these changes and food security is a major issue.
“But at the same time there is encouragement. In many rural areas where we work, temporary shelters can be very far away and it is the hurricane resistant homes that Christian Aid has built that serve as shelters for the family itself, for children, the elderly and so many more in the community.
“I have seen how a little can go a long way. A small contribution can transform a family’s life, can allow a family to improve their family farm allowing them to feed their family and sell their yield to pay school fees, medical bills and meet other critical needs.
John Cooper, aged 90 from Sandown, said:
“It was so important to hear these stories of transformation. I am very grateful to Victoria for sharing them.”
John organises an annual sponsored walk, as part of the Isle of Wight Walking Festival.
Christian Aid regional coordinator for the Isle of Wight, Stephen Dominy said:
“Christian Aid Week unites thousands of churches every year to achieve incredible things to support our global neighbours in need, who are often suffering through no fault of their own.
“An estimated 38,000 people are still displaced today in Haiti today as a result of the earthquake alone and across the globe there are around 40 million internally-displaced people who have lost their homes and livelihoods as a result of conflict, climate change or natural disasters.
“Hearing Victoria speak is sobering, but also inspiring as we hear of the impact of our work in Haiti where we walk alongside communities, listen to their needs and provide the urgently-needed tools to get back on their feet and thrive.
“It was a great opportunity to hear Victoria speak and be part of bringing about change as we #standtogether in the run up to Christian Aid Week, which was first set up over 60 years ago and is Britain’s longest-standing door-to-door fundraising week.”
You can help to change the lives of people forced to lose or leave their homes due to disasters and conflict by donating online at www.caweek.org, calling 08080 006 006, or texting ‘GIVE’ to 70040 to give £5.