Letter from the ground: update from Haiti

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January 17, 2010

Anne H. Hastings, CEO, Sèvis Finansye Fonkoze (a Grameen Foundation microfinance partner in Haiti). With communications just beginning to come online, Anne was able to send this quick report on the situation of Fonkoze, a microfinance organization serving Haiti.

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Dear friends, partners and family,

Thanks to every single one of you who has sent your messages since 12 January, the day of the horrific earthquake. Today is the first day that I have had access to internet, except for 1.5 hours when my Blackberry was working. I know that you all want the news:

1. I am personally fine, as is the rest of the leadership of Fonkoze.

2. We have only one confirmed death among our 750 employees, but many, many of them have lost family members.

3. Of our 3 buildings in Port-au-Prince, one is completely destroyed (Bizoton), one is uninhabitable (Headquarters), and one we are hoping we will be able to repair and reopen (Port-au-Prince).

4. Most branches in the provinces have been spared from serious damages, but not all.

That is where Fonkoze is. But it doesn’t tell the whole story:

Food is scarce. The majority of grocery stores are not open, nor are the informal markets.

1. Fuel is even scarcer. For instance, I have two inverters – one is my own to run my refrigerator. The other is the landlady’s. Both will run out in a matter of hours, at best days. There is NO source of power to recharge these. The government power company will take months to restart. My building has no generator. Those that have, have no gas to run them. Almost no one has solar power (those in my building were stolen several years ago).

2. Most people are sleeping in the streets – literally. They have no homes left or if they do, they are afraid of the aftershocks, which have not stopped yet. Everywhere the people are singing and praying that God will spare them. Many of them have had no food or water for days.

3. It is impossible to distribute anything – food, water, cash, fuel -- because as soon as any of them appear, throngs of people arrive and fight over whatever is there! It will only get much worse in the days to come.

The country is in much, much worse shape. Many government buildings were destroyed, including the palace, the ministry of justice, the parliament and many more. The U.N. forces headquarters collapsed killing the head of the forces, as well as his assistant, a very dear friend of mine. The archbishop, a great supporter of Fonkoze, was killed. The prison collapsed allowing all prisoners to escape! In effect, the entire leadership of the country is very, very fragile.

The problem is how will the country ever rebuild? This is SO much worse than the worst hurricane, because in Haiti, hurricanes bring flooding but they do not often DESTROY buildings.

At the moment, it is next to impossible to distribute anything … drinking water, food, gasoline, cash – because as soon as any of them appear, throngs of people arrive!

At Fonkoze, we are trying to reassure everyone that their money is SAFE, even though it is not immediately accessible. We are doing everything we can to reopen as quickly as possible. But we cannot reopen without cash liquidity, security and employees – all of which are difficult to find in these days. And those three elements are only the start – we also need internet connectivity, fuel, transportation for our employees, etc. Some of our branches in the provinces escaped with nary a blemish – but even they cannot function without cash. So while we are doing everything we can to reopen, we don’t know how long it will take.

What we know is that our website – www.fonkoze.org – will be the best source of information internationally and for those who don’t have an internet connection, the radio stations locally will carry our news.

Please understand that my first internet connection came today and I had 654 messages to download. I waited over an hour and only 278 made it through. Every time there was a wrinkle in the connection, Outlook started over! So I never was able to get to the rest of my messages. Hopefully tomorrow will bring better luck. Please forward this message to anyone you think may be waiting for it, as I have not gotten to everyone yet.

Our clients and our employees are going to need our support for many months to come. We hope you will be with them in your prayers, in your solidarity, and in your giving. We will NOT give up, and we hope that you will not either.

With sincere thanks,

Anne

Comments

Dear Haiti Rescue Workers,

Yes, the world is watching and applauding your efforts to help the people of Haiti, but GOD is watching you closer and will surely keep you safe from harm and is pleased with the love and concern you are showing your fellow man. I can not be there, but I sincerely thank you for your courageous work. You will receive Blessings three fold.

Thelma Noble
Hilton Head Island, SC

I humbley ask the Creator of the universe to shine the light of healing and peace upon all of you, who are working and living in this land that has just been struck by such devestation.

May God be with all the people in Haiti during this tragic time.
Praying for all of the families who have lost someone in this
very terrible earthquake.

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