The devastating earthquake in Haiti has shattered millions of lives, but the relief efforts and outpouring of support by organizations and individuals worldwide offer hope. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been working diligently since the disaster to provide aid to the people of Haiti through its humanitarian aid program. Hundreds of thousands of pounds of relief supplies have arrived already, and more are being shipped.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is one of the fastest growing Christian faiths in the world, with over 13 million members world-wide. As committed Christians with strong traditional values, the Church actively participates in humanitarian efforts, from small-scale local projects in hospitals, schools and communities, to large-scale emergency relief efforts such as the recent Haiti earthquake.
In the Caribbean islands, there are more than 150,000 members of the LDS Church, in 369 congregations. Over 15,000 of these members live in Haiti, half of these calling Port-au-Prince home.
“Our hearts ache for the people of Haiti and our prayers are with them as we witness the unimaginable suffering they are experiencing,” said Bishop H. David Burton, presiding bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who oversees the Church’s humanitarian program. “We are grateful for the many generous donations that enable the Church to provide extensive relief in Haiti, as well as other parts of the world.”
Relief Supplies Provided by the Church
Five air shipments of aid provided by the Church have arrived and are being used in Haiti. They include food, medical supplies, communications equipment, tents, tarps, water filtration bottles, blankets, newborn kits, wheelchairs, first aid kits, portable toilets and other items. Those five flights include a total of nearly 375,000 pounds of relief supplies. Partners United Airlines, Islamic Relief USA, Airline Ambassadors and UPS have worked with the Church to provide transport for these shipments.
Additionally, four truckloads of relief supplies have arrived in Haiti with supplies the Church procured in the Dominican Republic. On the ground in Haiti, the Church is working with partners Food for the Poor and CARE to distribute supplies.
Local Church leaders closest to the situation provide the direction for what supplies are most needed for people in their areas. Future shipments will continue to bring those relief supplies.
“Normal daily activity has come to a stop in Haiti. Helping to restore normalcy in the midst of devastation will be our greatest goal. Our focus will be on helping people become self-reliant again,” said Elder Francisco J. Viñas, the LDS Church area president who oversees the Church in Haiti.
A team of five medical personnel coordinated by the Church arrived on Friday, 15 January, from the Dominican Republic to assist the injured. Another team of 16 medical professionals from the United States arrived on 18 January and provided emergency care for those needing medical attention. A revolving core team of doctors from the Church remains in Haiti providing general health care, follow-up care for injuries, as well as for sickness and communicable disease common after disasters.
Church Meetinghouses as Shelters
All of the Church’s meetinghouses in Haiti have been left largely undamaged. Local Church leaders report that nine chapels in Haiti have been used to shelter as many as 5,000 people in local communities where the chapels are located. Several truckloads of food and other relief supplies have been shipped to the chapels, and doctors sent by the Church have provided treatment to injured and sick individuals who are taking shelter there.
Generosity of Members and Friends of the Church
In the first few days after the earthquake the LDS Church received donations in the millions of US dollars from concerned members of the community, specifically for aid in Haiti. Church members in the Caribbean Area have been invited to dedicate their February monthly fast offering to the Haiti relief effort. When fasting, members traditionally donate the money they save by not eating two meals to the church for providing financial help to those in need; those who can donate more are encouraged to do so.
An official statement from the Church on January 22, 2010 also addressed the emotional trauma the Haitian people are experiencing in the wake of the devastating earthquake.
“Money is not the only need in Haiti,” the statement explains. “People are frightened, bewildered, and wholly uncertain about their future. In addition to what people can do in helping with food, water and shelter, there needs to be a calming influence over that troubled nation. We invite people everywhere to supplicate God for a spirit of calm and peace among the people.”