Haiti gaining hope 'one life at a time'

Baptist Press
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Posted: Jan 12, 2011 5:45 PM
Haiti gaining hope 'one life at a time'
CROIX-DES-BOUQUETS, Haiti (BP)--Antonine Toussaint lived with her young children in a makeshift tent of tarp and scrap metal for 10 months after the Jan. 12 earthquake that devastated Haiti.

With a new baby on the way, the young mother tried desperately to care for her children in an unsafe area of Croix-des-Bouquet, located east of Port-au-Prince. Surrounded by crime, poverty and unsanitary living conditions, every day was a struggle for Toussaint to keep her youngsters fed and protected.

When workers with Rebuild Haiti learned of her situation, the Southern Baptist initiative began construction on a new home for the single mother. She moved in that new home in October, after having delivered her new baby girl only a few days before the home's completion.

Toussaint was the first homeowner through Rebuild Haiti -- a collaborative effort between the Florida Baptist Convention and SBC Disaster Relief. Now working in conjunction with Baptist Global Response and the International Mission Board, the Southern Baptist group is on target to build homes for 3,000 displaced Haitian families and very possibly another 3,000 homes.

One year after the Jan. 12 earthquake, 100 new homes have been completed for Haiti's homeless families.

The homes are built from Southern Baptist contributions by Haitian hands, as 180 local employees are on the Rebuild Haiti payroll, earning a living for their families and learning a skill for their livelihood. All building supplies are purchased in the country to help stabilize the local economy.

Toussaint's family was among the hundreds of thousands of Haitians who lost their home during Haiti's devastating earthquake, many of them still living in makeshift tent cities where food and water are scarce.

The family of Tony Saint Louis suffered a similar fate, losing all their possessions in the disaster. He lives with his family of 15 in Bon Repos, one of the poorest areas in Port-au-Prince, surviving in the humblest of circumstances.

Now employed by Rebuild Haiti, Saint Louis "works hard" to manage various facets of the construction efforts, including supplying work teams with materials and supplies and training new work teams.

Despite his own family's plight, the dedicated young man worked for weeks to help his fellow Haitian neighbors receive homes without mentioning his own need.

In December, Rebuild Haiti's staff learned of the family's struggles and began construction on two homes for them.

Now Saint Louis will have a home and a trade to prepare him for the future.

During the past year Florida and Southern Baptists have laid the groundwork for rebirth and transformation in Haiti, said Eddie Blackmon, coordinator of Rebuild Haiti.

"While there are many overwhelming needs in Haiti, God has brought us to a place where we have touched lives and changed lives," Blackmon said. "I believe Southern Baptists are changing Haiti, one life at a time."

Barbara Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention. Information about Rebuild Haiti can be accessed at the convention's website, www.flbaptist.org.

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