The JRS continues to support the Haitian refugees with a new office in Puerto Príncipe
After more than seven months of the tragic earthquake in Haiti, the Jesuit Refugee Service continues to work with the displaced. Thus, on August 19, it opened a new office in Puerto Principe, headed by JRS Director Wismith Lazard SJ., who explained the new opening as "a way to reinforce the work started with the victims and at the same time to work on the Haitian-Dominican problem, border issues and migrations in general". The presence of the JRS dates back to 1999: more than a decade accompanying, serving and defending the migrant´s rights and those of the border communities of North Western Haiti, that face very difficult situations at the border or in Dominican Republic.
If life was difficult for Haitians before January 12, today thousands of them have no place to shelter in the hurricane and rain season. This is why Lazard invited to " work together in order to improve life conditions for the vulnerable population and to build a fair, democratic and equal Haiti; where fundamental rights and the dignity of all may be respected and protected".
Precisely the reflection regarding this issue focused the inauguration of the new office, which was held on World Humanitarian Day. Members of the displaced camps and representatives of civil society, NGOs, agencies and local and international media attended the two conferences by the Haitian economist Camille Chalmers, executive director for the Platform of Alternative Development and the priest Jan Hanssens, director of the National Episcopal Commission “Justice et Paix”.
Representing the country´s government, to which more participation and responsibility in the reconstruction works was demanded, Foreign Minister Edwin Paraiso attended, and expressed his satisfaction because " the Jesuits´ work in Haiti has helped greatly and will continue to improve the situation".
Debates focused on criticism and denounces on violations of human rights after the catastrophe, the State's inefficiency, the international actors taking advantage of the situation, the impossibility of the Haitian people to implicate themselves in the reconstruction process and the unfair global growth model that provokes poverty and natural disasters due to climate change; the issues alternated with gratitude for the international solidarity and the call for citizen mobilization in order to defend their sovereignty and the right to decide in development plans.
Thus, the new office in Puerto Principe, started its work, with constructive criticism and the search for alternatives to re orient human aid in Haiti and achieve a broader participation of its people in the reconstruction process.