Over the last few weeks, we have watched heartbreaking scenes coming out of Afghanistan: images of desperate families fleeing the advance and then occupation of the Taliban. Most recently, we looked on, horrified, as suicide bombers took the lives of over 100 people in Kabul. We follow a God of justice and compassion, and feel His pain in the suffering we see. The situation has understandably dominated the headlines. But, as Afghanistan drives the news agenda, we risk forgetting about the rest of the world – stories of both suffering and overcoming that need to be told.
As the Vice President of the Latin America and Caribbean Region for the international child development charity, Compassion, I have seen how the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti on 14 August has come and gone from the news cycle – faster than most people had time to register it had even taken place.
We’re tired of Haiti being portrayed as a place of poverty and disaster, but news coverage is often critical in getting the necessary response and support we need as a nation. Instead, we would love to see headlines that highlight even the smallest efforts of progress to slowly help turn the country around. Positive stories to share include those of the Haitian people’s resilience in the face of a crisis, and how the church is growing stronger and more responsive.
We have learnt valuable lessons from the 2010 earthquake that struck our capital – and my hometown – Port-au-Prince, and foundations have been laid for Haiti to build a more sustainable future for its people.
It is usually the buildings, rather than the tremors and storms themselves, that take people’s lives. People are afraid to go home; afraid to cook in their kitchens; afraid to sleep in their beds… Trauma like that can have a real impact on both the children and their caregivers. I remember, after the 2010 earthquake, our teams met with local church leaders to assess the situation, as they’ve done now. When they visited those impacted, one little girl raised her hand and said: “Please pray for my mom that she would stop crying.” For a child to see someone they love and count on, overwhelmed and distressed, it is just as traumatic for them as when the earth shook.
After the earthquake of 2010 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016, one of the most important things Compassion has done for the community is work with our local church partners to rebuild homes, using paraseismic standards to stand up to future storms and earthquakes.
When visiting a church in Torbeck, after Hurricane Matthew, we went in and rebuilt a school that had collapsed, which is now used for the children to gather as part of their Compassion development activities. In 2010, we relied on foreign engineers and technicians to build the schools that had been destroyed, because we had a hard time finding that competency in the country; but, in 2016, we used the Haitian engineers who had learnt from the expatriate engineers. Fast forward five years and that same school building survived the recent earthquake. However, the church building we did not touch has crumbled. Buildings all around the school have disappeared. We praise God for the work that we were able to do.
Even so, we grieve for those we have lost. The earthquake took over 2,200 precious lives. Among them were 18 children supported by Compassion – their young lives, full of potential, cut devastatingly short; as well as another 70 lives of caregivers and siblings of children and families we work with through our local Haitian church partners.
Trauma and loss have been experienced by so many, yet I am always in awe of the resilience of our people. Together we can make a difference, and together we are indeed making a difference. We have the foundations for change, but we need support. I strongly believe that the Church worldwide has an opportunity to come alongside fellow believers to bring about effective change and support, by helping with the immediate needs of children and families, but also building on the foundations that have already been laid to protect families for the future.
Amid the despair around us, as Christians, we can be the arms and the feet of Jesus; we can make a difference in the lives of many. This, for me, is what gives me hope in the midst of tragedy.
To find out more how you can support Compassion’s efforts to rebuild for the future of the children and families impacted by the earthquake, go to compassionuk.org
Edouard Lassegue was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He studied abroad, earning a bachelor’s degree in Bible education and a master’s degree in both School Administration (1987) and Organisational Leadership (2011). He started a church in Haiti in 1987, which resulted in many ministries that still serve the community today. Edouard was named Vice President of the Latin America and Caribbean Region of Compassion International in January of 2007. Prior to this, Edouard served as the country director of Haiti for nearly 11 years and was then promoted to Central America and Caribbean Director. The Latin American and Caribbean region has approximately 690 staff in 12 countries. The work that Edouard and Compassion International staff do directly impacts nearly 930,000 registered children in more than 2,900 projects throughout the region.
Written by Edouard Lassegue