Thursday, January 21, 2010

New Orleans Recovery Organizations Combine Efforts for Haiti Relief

The people of New Orleans continue to strive for ways to support the people of Haiti.

Today a group of more than 40 individuals representing almost as many organizations held an all-day strategy meeting to marshal critical relief resources, recovery experience and reconstruction capacity to help the people of Haiti recover from what will likely become the most deadly natural disaster the Western Hemisphere has seen in more than a century.

The gathering was convened by Louisiana Justice Institute's Co-Director Jacques Morial and Charles Allen III, Director of the Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development and chairman of the Holy Cross Neighborhood Association and hosted by the Make It Right Foundation at their downtown offices. Dr. Austin Allen, a landscape architecture professor who has worked on recovery and empowerment initiative in the Lower Ninth Ward and Tim Duggan of the Make It Right Foundation conceived the initiative along with Jacques Morial and Charles Allen III.

The goal of this convening was to develop a plan on how to best apply the capacities, experience, understanding and resources of those assembled, to help Haiti on a range of issues, including emergency and replacement housing, water, wastewater and sewage treatment, power, telecommunications, and healthcare.

“While we can’t imagine the epic scale of devastation and death, we’ve learned some painful lessons in our own struggle to recover from the floods that followed Katrina, and it’s our spiritual responsibility and moral obligation to offer the benefit of our experience, understanding and capacity to help the Haitian people in any way they find useful and appropriate,” said Jacques Morial.

The assembled group included recovery and reconstruction leaders, nonprofit providers of emergency housing, architects, engineers, scholars, technical experts, human rights lawyers, arts and cultural organizations, and grassroots efforts like Common Ground Relief Collective.

"People are dying and we need to take action," said Common Ground founder Malik Rahim. "We can't waste time."

The assembled organizations are moving forward together on many fronts from direct emergency relief to long term rebuilding, and are in direct contact with Haitian organizations and individuals as well as Haitian government officials to make sure that their plan is guided by those most affected.

New Orleans and Haiti are connected by geography, history, architecture, and family.
In 1809, half of the population of New Orleans was from Haiti, and their influence is still felt in our city. Their revolution has inspired us, and shaped US history.

The US would not have been able to purchase the massive amount of land that included Louisiana from France if not for the losses France faced from the efforts of Haitians to free themselves. We owe the people of Haiti a massive debt. But instead of supporting Haiti, the US has given Haiti two centuries of military oppression and economic colonialism.

We hope that Haiti is not just rebuilt, but that it receives the reparations it is owed.

For more information on this recovery project or to get involved, contact the organizing committee of the Haiti Emergency Village Project at 866.728.3522.

Photo: Jim Belfon / Gulf South Photography Project.

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