A couple working on relief efforts in Haiti since the devastating earthquake there over 18 months ago figures the time may be right to let local high school students return to the country.
Lisa and Marc Honorat of Haiti Arise are in Nelson this week to update locals on their work. Marc was with Pastor Jim Reimer of Kootenay Christian Fellowship and a group of Mount Sentinel students when the quake struck last year. They were evacuated by the Canadian military several days later.
“It was quite an experience for us,” Marc says. “It’s an experience I don’t really want to go through anymore. Everything happened in front of my eyes.”
Haiti Arise spent seven years building a technical school and bible college in Grand Goave which was completed in December 2009. One month later, the building collapsed.
“We are heavily involved in reconstruction right now,” Marc says. “We have lots of students still waiting for us to get the school finished so they can come back.”
For the moment, the school offers limited studies in computers and English, but trades training in carpentry, mechanics, and electronics is on hold.
While trying to rebuild their institute, Haiti Arise is also leading the Each One Build One initiative, which aims to get affected Haitians out of tents and into permanent homes.
“The longer people are still living in tents, the harder it will be,” Marc says. “We’ve been heavily and actively involved in building solid, affordable homes for families.”
Lisa adds their visit to Nelson is to thank supporters and explain where their money went — especially since Haiti no longer receives as much news coverage.
She says signs of the earthquake are still evident — many collapsed buildings still haven’t been cleaned up. Still, she believes it’s safe again for students to travel there.
“I definitely think so,” she says. “The security level on the Canadian and US travel warning website has been bumped way down. It’s quite safe, relatively, in Haiti now.”
Lisa says young and old are needed to provide labour and teach others building skills.
Reimer, who plans to return to Haiti in January, is “quite confident” students would face minimal risk, but doesn’t know how the school board will feel about it.
(Mount Sentinel’s Quest for Community program has also gone to Cuba and Mexico.)
“Already some former students who were with us [in 2010] have asked if they can come with me again,” Reimer says. “There’s a real heart in the area for Haiti.”
The Honorats, who split their time between Canada and Haiti, will explain their vision and answer questions at an open house Friday at 7 p.m. at 806 Hoover Street.
On Saturday, they’re at Castlegar Christian Fellowship at 1801 Connors Road at 6:30 p.m., and on Sunday at 10 a.m. they’ll be at Kootenay Christian Fellowship.