George and Toni Fernhout were not surprised when they got an early-morning phone call the day after an earthquake devastated Haiti.
The call came from the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, asking them to go to Haiti to help manage the CRWRC’s relief efforts.
The Fernhouts, members of Trinity CRC in Edmonton, Alberta, had spent six months in Haiti after the 2008 hurricanes, so they were familiar with the area where they would be working and with the local Haitian partners and the Haitian CRC office.
They know firsthand what it takes to be international relief managers, having previously spent almost three years in Sri Lanka helping manage the relief effort after the 2004 tsunami.
“We had been taking courses offered by CRWRC to couples who were interested in volunteer relief work when the Asian tsunami struck. We were asked if we could retire (early) from our careers to volunteer in Sri Lanka, and we did. Our almost three-year stay there taught us the most about working in developing countries along with nationals to bring affected families unable to help themselves back to where they were before the disaster,” Toni explained.
In Haiti, they are partnering with Ken Little, senior project manager from CRWRC Canada’s office, and with experienced manager Lee Mys from Michigan.
“Together we assess and prepare proposals for the work we can do here in Haiti, in short-term relief, and then longer relief in regards to shelter, programs including psycho-social and children’s programs, rebuilding, and/or forming community groups and repairing or rebuilding damaged or destroyed homes,” Toni said.
At this writing they were busy arranging food distribution for 2,500 people camped on the grounds of a local college.
“There are signs of hope here again,” Toni said in an email. “We are encouraged by the laughter of children, the gossip of women, the men playing cards together. We pray that we who are so fortunate will continue to pray and to give to those of God’s people who are in such need.”