January 2010 earthquake

January 2010 earthquake
May 23, 2022
Disaster Relief

Just weeks after settling in Ganthier, the earth beneath our feet moved. In less than 30 seconds, the January 12th, 2010, earthquake devastated the overcrowded capital and the surrounding areas.

More than 250,000 died, and a million and a half became homeless.

The fact that we were already in the country and experienced in disaster relief projects allowed us to respond very quickly.

First, we temporarily closed all our activities in Ganthier where, thankfully, the damage was minimal. We then moved to the Bernard Mevs Hospital in Port-au-Prince, the country’s leading trauma and surgical center. We knew that an earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale striking an urban area would result in a heavy toll. Even so, the utter devastation all around shook us to the core.  

Thanks to a major grant from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the numerous donations from individuals around the country and beyond our borders, and the support of American and Haitian volunteers, we were able to respond effectively:

  • We immediately established a temporary cooking facility in a toy company’s courtyard, hired staff, and despite the almost total food shortages, we found meat, rice, and vegetable sources, and provided daily nutritious meals and water to all patients and their families, and hospital staff. The best we could do was to offer one meal per day to all, including our team.  
  • Next, we renovated a wing of the hospital, providing the equipment to establish the country’s first in-hospital physical therapy center to help rehabilitate severely wounded and the newly amputated victims.
  • We brought a team of top Israeli physical rehabilitation specialists to train the local medical staff. We also invited the Afya physical rehabilitation team to provide first-class therapy to patients.
  • We also organized a continuous flow of rotating medical teams from the US to provide support to the Haitian medical staff.
  • We donated an ambulance
  • Helped provide a steady flow of medical supplies, despite shortages. The US nonprofit, Americares, was exemplary in providing much-needed medical supplies through a well-organized system.

We provided food to three orphanages and installed a water pump in one of the most devastated neighborhoods.

When we returned to Ganthier, we realized that hundreds of internal refugees from the capital had flooded into the area to find safety from the aftershocks, crumbling buildings, and some relief from the trauma. We took care of several groups for the duration of their stay.

Credit: David Gilkey/NPR

To help re-start the local economy, we established an interest-free microloan program for small merchant women who needed to replenish their inventories. After training, they were able to manage the program and repay 100% of the loan.  

We were later hired by the Prince Charles Foundation for the Built Environment (UK) and the Duany Plater-Zyberk international urban planning and architecture firm (USA). Our assignment was to provide logistical support in their commission to design the reconstruction plan for the capital, Port-au-Prince, and its port. Contracted by the then Prime Minister, Jean-Max Bellerive, the well-thought-out plan was based on community input and was delivered on time and on budget.

A year later, we resumed our regular activities in the Lake Azueï region.