One morning this spring, Canadians George and Toni Fernhout sat down for a long meeting with community-development officials in the village of Masson, Haiti. The event that brought their worlds together was the Jan. 12 earthquake.
Masson is a small community amid sugar cane fields near the city of Leogane, the epicenter of the massive Jan. 12 earthquake. The Fernhouts are international relief managers for the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee.
In the meeting, which covered a range of issues, the Fernhouts explained that CRWRC desired to work closely with the people of Masson and other communities hit by the quake. “We want to impact the entire population,” said George Fernhout. “We are working for all of the people in this area. We need your participation.”
During the meeting the Fernhouts spoke of problems that had arisen in food distribution, the issue of how many latrines had been built and how many new wells had been drilled, and the criteria CRWRC would use in assessing damage to homes and helping residents to either repair or rebuild.
Besides Masson, CRWRC is working in Macombe, Luitor, Croix des Pere, and Flon, where an office to help coordinate relief efforts has been located.
“The area was still quaking when we arrived here,” said Toni Fernhout. Retired from their jobs, she and her husband are seasoned international relief managers who are called on in times of major devastation to survey the needs of an area, hire local people for staff, and determine the most effective ways for CRWRC to help.
“My first thought was that everything would be down,” she said. “I heard about the vast and horrific damage. But it was wonderful to see some houses here and there still up. . . . This earthquake affected everyone: the rich, the middle class, and the poor.”
The village representatives asked many questions. They told the Fernhouts they appreciated that a sanitary engineer working for CRWRC had overseen the drilling of wells and placement of temporary latrines, and they expressed a need for more. “[CRWRC is] very much welcome in our community. They are doing a good job,” said Joanel Toussaint, a member of the committee.
This story is part of a series on how the Christian Reformed Church in North America is working with the people of Haiti in the wake of the January earthquake. To learn more about how the CRC has been active in Haiti for more than three decades, see www.crcna.org/Haiti.