A 7.0-magnitude earthquake in 2010; a hurricane in 2016; the double whammy of a 7.5-magnitude earthquake and a tropical storm just last month. Haiti — specifically, the southwestern region of the country — has experienced one natural disaster after another.
The string of catastrophic events has rendered more important than ever the work of Haiti on the Rise, a San Rafael-based nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of Haitians.
“On the ground, things are really bad [right now]. I know it seems like Haiti is always featured in the news — Haiti again, again, just now. But they really need our help,” says the organization’s co-founder, Jaqueline Lee.
Haiti on the Rise provides ongoing aid to Haitians in multiple forms: education, reconstruction, health care and pastoral endeavors (as faith is a fundamental component of Haitian culture). The nonprofit was founded in late 2014 based on Lee’s assessment that Haiti required more assistance — much more assistance, and in a consistent format — in order for Haitians’ living conditions to improve.
A few years after the 2010 earthquake, Lee had returned to her homeland of Haiti and found that conditions there remained poor and donations were not going far enough. She spoke with locals to get a better sense of what they were going through and what they needed, helping as much as she could.
“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh. I have to put my hands in there. I have to be active and take action,’” Lee says.
She and co-founder Randall Lee, her husband, are devoted to seeing what they are able to do in that regard. They connect with locals in Haiti, those “on the ground,” to organize relief efforts effectively and ensure Haitians receive the aid sent to them, such as emergency relief packages.
On Aug. 14 of this year, a major earthquake killed many Haitians and destroyed and severely damaged thousands of homes and other structures, such as schools and churches. This recent earthquake, along with Tropical Storm Grace and its heavy rain and flooding, exacerbated Haitians’ already prevalent need for basic resources — food, water, hygiene and medical items and shelter.
After hearing about the devastating circumstances, Haiti on the Rise quickly contacted local vendors in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, to arrange the assembly of emergency supplies for Haitians. The tropical storm’s conditions made it difficult to deliver immediate relief, but Haiti on the Rise did what it could as soon as it could. On Aug. 21, volunteers distributed emergency relief packages in the commune l’Asile, where the aid was desperately needed.
“It was so beautiful to see,” Jacqueline Lee says. “The people were really happy.”
Such partnerships with locals in the Haitian community also guarantee that when Haiti on the Rise proposes to build or rebuild a structure in Haiti, that plan is put into action. The organization has already successfully rebuilt two community centers and is in the process of overseeing construction of an emergency shelter, as many Haitians are still without homes and in need of a roof over their heads.
““It will help them to have a place — to have something they can rely on for now until they are able to get back on their feet,” Jacqueline Lee explains.
Haiti on the Rise is focused on helping Haitian families afford their children’s education as well. As a farming-focused region, southwestern Haiti’s agricultural and ranching production has essentially shut down because of the slew of natural disasters and an accompanying drought that has persisted since Hurricane Matthew. It’s been a hard hit on the local economy, and the unfavorable conditions have also affected farming families’ incomes. Haiti on the Rise has awarded scholarships to children of these struggling families.
“We’ve been able to put dozens of young students into school so that they can get an education that their families would not be able to afford otherwise,” Randall Lee says.
The source behind Haiti on the Rise’s efforts to improve Haiti’s living conditions and transform its fractured communities? Donations. The Lees emphasized how valuable contributions are to the relief they are able to provide.
“As the donations come in, we’ll make as many local purchases as we can to aid the local economy. We also have the logistical support to get the much needed items there. We hope to do this every two weeks or so, for however long we can do it” says Randall Lee.
And consistency, particularly in the case of humanitarian aid, is what matters.
To support Haiti on the Rise’s relief efforts in Haiti, go to https://haitiontherise.org/donate/.