Empowering Haiti: A grassroots plan for disaster response six months after the earthquake

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On January 12, 2010, a devastating earthquake-the worst natural disaster to hit the Western Hemisphere in two centuries-struck Haiti, killing approximately 300,000 people and leaving as many as one million homeless. Within 48 hours, AJWS sent funding to our grantees in the region who were providing aid on the ground-distributing food, water purification systems, temporary shelter and medicine. These grassroots groups were among the first responders to the earthquake, and in some cases have provided the only help that people in outlying towns have received at all.

The outpouring of contributions from our donor community has enabled AJWS to mobilize on all fronts, prioritizing Haiti in our grantmaking, advocacy, education and outreach to the Jewish community. The grantmaking plan detailed in this report was designed to address the complex challenges of reconstruction in a country already crippled by devastating poverty. Our experience responding to other natural disasters like the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 has taught us that post-disaster development takes time. We have therefore committed to at least four years of intensified grantmaking in Haiti followed by a return to our regular level of support in the region, to ensure that these communities not only recover, but thrive in the long term.

Domestically, AJWS is advocating vigorously in Congress and on the international stage for increased financial support to Haiti and a more just, inclusive approach to aid. Our decade of experience in the country has taught us that Haitian grassroots organizations are best positioned to determine the course of Haiti's redevelopment, yet their voices have largely been excluded from the decision-making table and their efforts have been stymied by inefficient and misguided aid practices. We believe that Haiti's future should not be steered by the international community, but by the Haitian people themselves, and we are working hard to make this a reality.