Thursday 13 May 2010

Restoring Hope for Haiti - Africa for Haiti

These are the reflections shared at an Inter-Faith Special Service for Haiti that was held at St George's Cathedral, Cape Town, on 8 May 2010 It is almost 4 months since the overwhelming devastation of the earthquake that hit Haiti at 4.53pm on 12 January. Yet people still live in tents. People still beg for food. Classrooms are not rebuilt and for some ,their dearly departed loved ones are decomposing, under yet to be removed rubble, if removing the rubble should be the focus after such devastation. You will recall that close to a quarter of a million people are said to have died, 300,000 were injured and millions left homeless. Behind these numbers lies human tragedy on an almost ungraspable scale. Some of what we saw is almost impossible to put into words and on the last several occasions when I had an opportunity to do so, words just overwhelmed me. The devastation is overwhelming. Today, I speak as one of the Patrons of Africa for Haiti. Our resolve is to Rebuild Hope in Haiti through some of the following: to get Africa to care in a practical way, a loving and Ubuntu way; for Africa to be committed to long term reconstruction projects, such as infra-structure, economic activities; and for us to journey with the Haitians over a long period of time, beyond the current crisis intervention. There are however, serious immediate needs which if not attended to will compromise the credibility of any long term plans. The people of Haiti need food now, they need shelter now, they need water now and need our solidarity now. That is why we are here today, and we are very grateful to Gift of the Givers and our partnership with them in attempting to bring help now. I travelled to Haiti, with Dr Sooliman of Gift of the Givers and Revd Butterworth of our church, early in March. I have never seen such devastation in my life before. All was lost, all gone. The emotional pain of knowing and seeing your loved one buried in a precariously supported building, smelling his decomposing body every day, stabbed my inner-most part. It was sore. These are the 3 vivid pictures which were ingrained in my body, mind and soul:

1. A group of 8-10 year olds, dressed neatly, their parents dead – and these girls, posing as if saying, we are ready to be adopted and rescued from this mess. These children are crying for help: they want to be children, to play and learn. Their schools are gone. University students want to learn, yet their universities are gone and their friends are buried in rubble or mass graves at entrances of the university. 2. The second picture is of when I addressed a group of disabled children. They too touched me most deeply. Most of them are in wheel-chairs, living in small tents in a church yard, after their children home fell. Some were killed because they could not rush quickly to their wheel-chairs while others did not mentally comprehend the urgency to do so. 3. The third picture is that of hope. Everywhere we went it was the same: devastation, pain, distress. Yet, if you cared to look deeper and closer, a thin line, but deep ray, of hope was evident even in the midst of such hopelessness and loss. In some, the devastation was like a severe extension of their existential reality. They knew that as with corrupt leaders and previous devastation, this too, though not to the same extent, will also pass, and they will return to the 'normal' challenges of living in Haiti. As we know, no amount of evil, darkness and devastation will annihilate good, light and hope. Let us help the Haitians rebuild. Yes, we have our fair share of poverty, our hunger and disease in Africa but we must care beyond ourselves. We must reciprocate, for we have been recipient of the world's love, compassion and resources. We must share in the spirit of Ubuntu, especially corporate Africa, which benefits from our rich soil.

We can do more, especially in longer-term reconstruction – because creating much out of little is the area where we have worked so hard within our own countries in Africa. Building capacity, developing skills, growing expertise – these are the stuff of life on so much of our continent. Many individuals have given from their pockets, and please continue to do so. But now the time has come for Corporate Africa to come to the party in a big way. The call is especially to African multinationals.

In summary, I am asking:

1. Give money to relief agencies such as the Gift of the Givers

2. Give Money to Africa for Haiti and support its continental efforts and events.

3. Corporate Africa, think of investing in Haiti; Multinationals in Africa, give in a big way to the efforts of individuals, churches and Africa for Haiti.

4. Here in Cape Town, an individual priest is heading an innovate program of rebuilding a classroom in partnership with our Anglican schools. Please support her.

5. The Anglican Church of Southern Africa has adopted a theological student to study, free of charge at our theological college. We need to raise travel and subsistence money.

6. The devastation is immense; any little contribution goes a long way. I encourage each one of us to seize the opportunity to make a difference for others, especially those who will not repay us when we will not receive personal returns – for that is the core of sacrificial giving.

Thank you for coming here and listening. God bless.

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