Haiti has long road ahead, says local man

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SUMNER — A local man who has just returned from a week in Haiti said said the task of returning life to some form of normalcy on the Caribbean island nation will take time.

Bill Glass, a member of East Sumner Congregation Church and president of Haiti Outreach Ministries, said there is at least one immediate need of the Haitian people dealing with the effects of the devastating earthquake that struck an area near the capital of Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12. An estimated 213,000 to 230,000 have been confirmed dead.

 “When I met with the leadership of the community,” Glass said, “they asked how they were to deal with funerals. Yes, we have to meet their needs such as food, shelter, medical, education and worship, but what about funeral expenses?”

Americans are addressing the basic needs, but haven’t approached the need of tending to the dead, he said. Local churches have used up their resources dedicated to funerals, and now there is no money available for burials, he said.

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The people have no money and the economy has tanked, according to Glass. His organization is working on the economy problem by hiring Haitians in the Haiti Outreach Ministries rebuilding program. So far, they have more than 70 people working at rebuilding individual homes and repairing the buildings in their compound.

In Haiti it takes about $5,000 to build a 450-square-foot house and the goal is for Haitian Outreach Ministries is to build 100 houses in 2010.

 The organization also needs $100,000 to repair another 100 homes, Glass said. There are tens of thousands of houses that need repair and replacement in the immediate area, he said.

Glass told the story of a home he went into on his recent trip which only had two walls standing. The people had hung blankets up for the remaining walls and continued to live there.

He said one man had spent seven years building his home only to have it flattened in the earthquake. His best advice for the man was to simply buy new land and just start over because it would have taken the man the rest of his life to demolish the ruins with a 16 pound hammer and haul the rubble out in a wheelbarrow, hesaid.

The need from medical care remained high as well, Glass said. His clinic has a permanent Haitian staff plus visiting American doctors who come for one to two weeks at a time. The clinic can see between 200 to 300 patients daily.

“We must partner with these people,” Glass said. “The breadth of what’s needed is staggering. We are there to listen to the people and see what they think needs to be done. We are their support. They don’t have the resources, but they will solve their problems and in time begin to return to normal lives.”

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