On January 12, 2010, an earthquake measuring seven on the Richter scale hit Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. The earthquake, described as the most destructive in the past 200 years, cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of individuals. Approximately three million people were affected directly or indirectly from the earthquake and its aftermath and became refugees in their own country.
Humanitarian Relief Delegations:
Two days after the disaster, Natan sent the first humanitarian aid delegation of experienced volunteers to the area. The delegation was based in Port de Prince and provided humanitarian aid, medical assistance, and help in the Israeli military hospital.
Natan sent a total of six delegations made up of doctors, paramedics, mental health therapists, community workers and trauma support staff to assist with humanitarian efforts. Volunteers successfully delivered life-saving materials and launched a monthly humanitarian aid delegation comprising of Israeli volunteers. Each delegation consisted of approximately ten volunteers practicing medicine, trauma care, childcare, and social and community rehabilitation and assisted with the multidisciplinary rehabilitation needed in Haiti.
The first delegation included medical and mental health professionals who arrived in order to provide life-saving and life-preserving aid for the local population. The volunteers established themselves in a tent site populated by hundreds of families in a Catholic Church yard. The delegation provided medical and mental aid and organized an improved living space for the local people that facilitated basic services. A few days before the end of this delegations’ mission, it was joined by a second delegation, which included medical and mental Trauma specialists.
The third delegation arrived about a month after the earthquake, when the emergency state ended and was replaced by a rehabilitation stage. This delegation collaborated greatly with the local Catholic Church and a local educational organization in order to establish a school for the hundreds of children in the camp. In addition, the delegation members provided enrichment and support activities for the local children, for the school staff and for the nearby orphanage. During its stay, this third delegation also assisted in another camp, “Rue de Batimat,” which was inhabited by hundreds of families. After mapping the needs of the community, the delegation established a school there as well.
About three weeks later, a fourth delegation arrived to continue this work. The fourth delegation saw the opening of the new school. Hundreds of children, smiling and wearing uniforms, gathered in the place, excited for a new beginning and the change it was bringing to their lives.
A fifth delegation remained in Haiti for additional time. This group continued to support the educational staff, identify community needs and devise appropriate responses, initiate activities for the children and establish football courses that inspired much joy and vitality in the camp.
The sixth delegation stayed in Haiti for four months, and maintained the activities of the former delegations in the camps and in the orphanage. In addition, this delegation successfully managed a psycho-social program in collaboration with the Israeli Coalition for Trauma and the JDC. This program trained over 300 local people – laymen and professionals from various fields – in methods for assisting local residents to cope with their trauma both on the individual and on the community level. The program also provided the trainees with tools for developing community projects in response to the local needs. The training was carried ou by ten of the top Israeli professionals in the field of trauma and community rehabilitation with the help and support of Israeli students from Tel Hai and Sapir colleges who were doing their internship in trauma and community resilience studies.
The psychosocial program continued to train dozens of Haiti professionals. A Local coordinator trained by Israeli professionals now operates the program.