Interview with Mario Serrano, Dominican JRMS Director
I am now in Haiti coordinating efforts together with Kawas and Miller, our Haitian Jesuit colleagues. My report on what we are doing is as follows:
• In Dominican Republic we have established relations with religious and civil society organizations to give a coordinated support. We have divided ourselves into several commissions (health, volunteer work, communication, relations with Haiti, reconstruction, contact with donors and donations) and we have based ourselves in five locations (Santo Domingo, Santiago, Da jabón, Elías Pina, Jimaní, Pedernales and Puerto Príncipe) where we organize and coordinate support, we assist the victims and gather relevant information.
• I have based myself in Puerto Príncipe, together with two other colleagues from Centro Bonó and Centro Poveda and we are here representing the network of civil social organizations of Dominican Republic and I coordinate work with the other Jesuits. It is my second trip and I am on my second day. I help with organization in channeling the aid coming in from Dominican Republic. We are still at the stage of responding to the emergency which means presence, nourishment, medicine, hygiene and a place to rest. We are directly working at eight points with victim camps. At the same time, we share the aid we get with other groups that come to us asking for collaboration. Slowly, we are improving organization to make aid more efficient. There are many emergency needs. In addition to the above mentioned, we need bathrooms, tents and vehicles for aid transportation. In the long run we will have to focus on a specific way to help and I think this should be education. We should help so that the children of Haiti may have good schools with good teachers.
I have many anecdotes to share with you, but I will tell you about one: we left Santo Domingo for Haiti and on the way we decided to ask the donation lorries, which that day were going to Barahona, to accompany us. We arrived at Jimaní, a village in the border with Haiti, we left a team with staff from Bonó and the Centro Poveda and we crossed the border with two big lorries with aid. We were accompanied by military security. We arrived at the Jesuit novitiate house at nightfall and we did not unload them for fear of the population´s reaction since we no longer had military protection...But we organized to have to police watching overnight.
Early next morning we unloaded and held a meeting to get organized. During the meeting many people started banging the doors asking for food. We stopped the meeting fearing the worst. We called the police but the people remained. The captain told us to give them a bottle of water and to ask them to come back in the afternoon. They accepted.
In the afternoon I went to see them. Our novitiate is at the entrance of where they live in very poor conditions and where many victims live. They understood that we needed time to organize distribution and we also understood that they should be our beneficiaries. I shared my fears with them and my feeling of insecurity and they told us that they would secure the area, get organized to receive the aid and they helped us to unload the lorries. I was really very happy with this process since I had a new understanding of the situation, concrete references of people, a new way of managing aid. It is important to integrate people in the process as much as possible. When they came banging on our door, I remember the face of Soucet, a very brave woman demanding food, angry and with a lot of courage. I remember my fear in front of so many people. Now I see friendly faces, people with whom to share and work for the same cause... Now we have a better protection than the one given by the military, we have the accompaniment of those we wanted to accompany and protect...