Whatever happened to? Naples group's effort to aid Haiti quake recovery

— Nearly a year after an earthquake rocked Haiti, the recovery is still a work in progress.

More than 200,000 Haitians died and an estimated 1.5 million people were left homeless by the magnitude 7.0 quake that hit Haiti’s capital of Port au Prince on Jan. 12.

In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, help from around the world poured into the country and the three hardest-hit communities — Port-au-Prince, Jacmel and Leogane.

“The Hope for Haiti office was inundated with medical supplies, building materials and even generators which we air-lifted into Haiti on six 757s and one DC-10 in the month that followed the January 12th disaster,” Hope for Haiti president and founder Jo Anne Kuehner wrote in a statement. “Fortunately, our country director was on the ground in Haiti and was able to react to the needs of the people in the medical field, as well as safely distribute over $30,000,000 worth of emergency aid.”

But with nearly a year gone by, Hope for Haiti officials said donations for emergency relief haven’t continued to roll in as they once did.

“In any emergency situation you have a large spike and then it tapers off pretty quickly,” said Hope for Haiti Vice President Tiffany Kuehner, who wished she could say donations kept rolling in. “So what we saw was a tremendous amount of support come in the first three months and then it started tapering from then on.”

The emergency recovery side, including donations and volunteers, significantly dropped off after the six-month mark, said Tiffany Kuehner, granddaughter of the founder.

Unfortunately, Haiti also had two other major emergencies this year — Hurricane Tomas and the cholera epidemic.

“So in addition to all of the earthquake recovery work that we’re focusing on, we also had to spend a lot of our staff resources responding to the flooding after Hurricane Tomas and the continued epidemic of cholera,” Tiffany Kuehner said.

One of a series of stories looking at people and issues that were in the local news in 2010, though not lately. Have an idea? Post it below this story at naplesnews.com or call (239) 435-3457 and leave a brief message.

Regardless, the nonprofits’ mission in Haiti continues.

In 2010, Hope for Haiti continued to support 40 schools with 10,000 students and 400 teachers, repaired and renovated two schools in time for the 2010-11 school year, and distributed more than $30 million worth of emergency aid to more than 100 sites.

“We then went to work repairing a secondary school, demolishing a two-story primary school destroyed by the earthquake, set up an emergency clinic to care for the displaced people, and renovated a bakery which put women back to work selling bread in their neighborhood,” Jo Anne Kuehner wrote.

Hope for Haiti also continued to support numerous health-care sites, and trained 24 community health workers to educate more than 2,100 students and their communities.

The latest medical mission returned on Dec. 11, Tiffany Kuehner said, adding that the nonprofit is starting to phase out “general” medical missions.

“We have an amazing Haitian medical staff that is just phenomenal,” she said. “The only reason we were sending specialized medical volunteers is because we needed to fill the gaps, and there was just such an enormous patient load that with the current capacity of health-care providers in Haiti they could just not meet.”

How to help:

Hope for Haiti: To find out more about Hope for Haiti’s ongoing efforts in Haiti, go to the nonprofit’s office at 1021 Fifth Ave. N. in Naples or call (239) 434-7183 or go to www.hopeforhaiti.com

As soon as Hope for Haiti didn’t have to supplement the basic staff anymore, Tiffany Kuehner said the nonprofit tried to hire as many Haitian doctors and nurses as possible.

“They are the ones that can ultimately do a lot more in a lot longer period of time,” she said.

Nevertheless, the nonprofit occasionally still has a specialist join a mission to help in a specific medical field.

“For example, pediatrics … Haiti unfortunately has a very, very low percentage of pediatricians in the country,” Tiffany Kuehner said. “And so that’s something we are always looking for. There are obviously a lot of children that need a lot of help and we can’t fill that need without supplementing it with foreign pediatricians.”

Now with 2010 coming to an end, the nonprofit is looking forward to 2011.

“This year we will concentrate on building the primary school, a computer lab, as well as housing for families displaced and now living in tents,” Jo Anne Kuehner wrote. “These are just a few extra projects for the coming year in addition to our regular programs.”

© 2010 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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