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The Jan. 12 earthquake devastated Haiti, but that doesn’t mean that everything accomplished there by the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) was destroyed.

For 35 years, CRWRC has walked alongside Haitians, helping them to transform their communities through literacy, microcredit, impoved farming techniques, and protecting the environment.

The key is to equip Haitian deacons from different denominations to meet physical as well as spiritual needs in their communities. “These deacons become the base of transformation in their community,” said Ad deBlaeij, a CRWRC staff member in Haiti.

For example, in the mountain community of Badyo, not far from Port-au-Prince, deacons worked with the local school to add a course for children in basic hygiene. Local leaders developed a plan to build latrines. An agriculture consultant taught soil conservation and improved farming practices by local families.

Local deacons recently encouraged 30 men and women in Badyo to form farming co-ops so they could buy vegetable seeds and fertilizer in larger quantities and at better prices.

While the physical efforts in Badyo and in many other parts of Haiti have been seriously set back by this latest devastation, the strength and leadership of local churches remains intact.

Schools, when they reopen, will include a hygiene class in the curriculum. Homes, when rebuilt, will include latrines. Farmers, when they return to their fields, will implement improved farming practices, and the members of the co-op will work together to purchase supplies, plant trees, and market their vegetables.   

“Development in communities starts with transforming people,” explained deBlaeij, “and that’s not something that an earthquake can destroy.”

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