Geri Sicola, AFSC Associate General Secretary and Jorge Laffitte, director of the Latin America/Caribbean region have been in Haiti for several days and are continuing their assessment to find potential longer-term projects for AFSC.
The AFSC’s assessment team arrived safely in Haiti earlier this week. They have been visiting sites where AFSC’s initial response of medical and shelter supplies and food are being distributed. They are visiting informal "neighborhood shelters" and talking with people who are now homeless after the earthquake, as well as meeting international and local Haitian organizations to identify where AFSC’s expertise can best be used long term.
Our staff report that the city is surprisingly calm, the damage to the infrastructure and government is immense, and many residents are resiliently continuing normal daily life among the rubble. Traffic is heavy and slow moving, so cars can avoid people living on the street. People are sleeping under the open sky or in tents and remain afraid of sleeping indoors. Those who can are giving tent space in their yards.
AFSC’s initial funds of $100,000 for immediate aid have been gratefully received. With $50,000 from AFSC, Swiss Interchurch Aid is providing 10,000 meals in three of the most needy neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince. Our second disbursement of $50,000 helped transport medical supplies and kits with Handicap International: about $3,000 for medical freight shipment and $47,000 for emergency shelter kits that include blankets, plastic sheeting, ropes, mats, water filters, 15 liter Jerrycans, and cooking sets.
The assessment team will spend a few more days in Haiti and they expect to bring back ideas for AFSC to consider for next steps in Haiti.
In addition to our direct response in Haiti, the Service Committee is helping immigrants, particularly in the Miami and New York metropolitan area. Both locations have significant numbers of Haitians who, under President Obama’s recent decision, now quality for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for up to 18 months. Haitians who resided in the United States as of January 12, 2010, and whose paperwork is approved will be protected from detention and deportation, and they can obtain employment authorization.
Since the announcement of TPS for Haitians, AFSC staff have "spread the word," offering up-to-date and accurate information to immigrants via the media, a Creole-language radio show, and community meetings. This is particularly important since we have heard reports of many attempts to defraud Haitians attempting to file TPS applications. AFSC volunteers and staff are already processing applications and fielding questions.