Haiti (MNN) — It's only been four months, but Haiti has already been forgotten by the news media. Unfortunately, the needs abound in that nation struck by a devastating earthquake in January, leaving thousands dead and millions homeless. Emergency relief has given way to redevelopment, which includes rebuilding schools.
Michigan-based Worldwide Christians Schools has been working with CRECH, a network of Christians schools in the country. Steve Guerink with WWCS just returned from Haiti on a fact-finding mission to see how they can help re-establish schools. He says while people have moved out of their homes because of the quake damage, "Just as they moved out of their homes, they've also moved out of their school buildings. There's tremendous fear that there will be another earthquake, and these structures will fall down on them."
All across Port-au-Prince, Guerink says, "You can walk into a school where you will see 20 different tarp locations where they have been teaching school since March 15."
Guerink says some of the school buildings are safe, but parents won't let their kids attend out of fear that the buildings will collapse. That's why temporary structures are being built. "It's something that looks like an oversized pole barn with a wood truss roof, with tin on it, which isn't the best substance for that climate because of the upcoming hurricanes. It's a structure that's temporary. It has no doors because people are afraid they can't get out of the buildings."
Worldwide Christian Schools is recruiting construction teams to help build something a little different. "We want to make a permanent roof with temporary support system and then come back later and put cement blocks underneath it so they will have a permanent building."
Worldwide Christian Schools needs funding to help with the construction, but also to help pay the teachers.
CRECH is having a profound impact on the students. Geurink says they established psychological social groups to help people deal with the tragedy. They talk about "the issues of God, how an event like this could happen, and then try to help these children try to deal with this devastation, and doing so in the name of Christ."
Geurink says CRECH is training Haitians to do this kind of therapy. It's needed because death hit schools hard. "Some of them, the entire structures were leveled. One was a four-story building that fell, and at least 500 children were killed in that school."
CRECH has 231 schools, 200 of which were either damaged or destroyed. Geurink says it's impossible to know how many students were lost in the earthquake. "They're meeting in temporary conditions. Some schools are actually increasing in numbers because other schools are gone. It was quite common to see a 10 to 20 percent decrease in the number of students who came back to school. Everyone wants to hope that [the missing students] are in the countryside. The fact of the matter is: many may not be coming back at all."
While funding is needed to help Worldwide's work, Geurink is asking you to pray for school leaders. "There's just great pain to know that so many children died in their schools. They need our hand of support financially, and they need us to come in there beside them. But they also need our prayer that God will help them through this trauma that they've endured."
While many Christians have asked why the earthquake hit a place like Haiti, Geurink says, "I think the more important question is, 'What is my responsibility to respond? How do I come alongside them? And what is the Lord calling me to do?'"
Construction teams will begin heading down in January. If you'd like to help, click here.