Heifer International issues appeal to aid Haiti earthquake victims

Aid will follow first-responders to help families rebuild lives, livelihoods

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Heifer International is issuing an emergency appeal for funds to help families in Haiti recover and restore their lives in the wake of the catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck the tiny Caribbean nation on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010.

“Heifer is by no means a traditional first responder,” said Steve Denne, chief operating officer of the global hunger and poverty organization, “but we have projects and partner families in Haiti who likely have lost everything, and now, with this devastation, the need is even greater than before. This appeal will help us help our current families begin to rebuild their lives, and provide the chance to help even more families recover from this devastating blow.”

The massive 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti was the strongest to hit the country in 200 years and was felt as far away as Cuba. The quake brought down buildings including the presidential palace, hotels, a hospital, and the UN headquarters in the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince

“It's really a catastrophe of major proportions,” Haiti's ambassador to the United States, Raymond Alcide Joseph, told CNN.

Heifer International has worked in Haiti for 10 years, and currently has 16 projects under way with more than 16,000 families and several farmer associations. The projects in Haiti, which are scattered around the country, with some as close as 12 miles to Port-au-Prince, range from training in sustainable farming and crop diversity to gifts of livestock, seeds, trees and grains to training in nutrition, aquaculture and fish production.

“It’s essential that we prepare to follow the important work of first responders,” said Denne. “While they provide emergency food, medical care and aid, we offer our hopes and prayers for the victims and the families, but at the same time, we must prepare for the next wave of help—giving people the tools and the ongoing help rebuilding their lives and their livelihoods as we did in 2004.”

Following Hurricane Jeanne, which struck Haiti in September 2004, Heifer responded, providing training, poultry, plants, grains and seeds to help in the recovery and to prepare families to prepare for and to deal with future disasters.

Heifer International has six employees in Haiti, with offices in Cap-Haitien in the north and Les Cayes in the south. The epicenter of the earthquake was near the capital of Port-au-Prince, where Heifer’s offices had been located until June 2009.

At the time of this writing, there has been little contact with Heifer staff or partners in Haiti, though efforts continue. “Our thoughts are with them, and we are preparing to respond with the most appropriate and most needed help we can,” said Denne. “This is a country that even in the best of times faces hardships most of us cannot imagine.

“We, all of us, have an obligation—a duty—to help any way we can.”

Funds raised in this appeal will be used in the recovery and rebuilding effort in Haiti in the wake of the earthquake. Any funds that exceed the level needed to provide relief in this rebuilding effort will go toward the disaster relief fund and for the entire mission of Heifer International.

To donate to help provide sustainable relief and development following the earthquake in Haiti, or for more information, visit www.heifer.org or call 1-800-696-1918.

Heifer’s mission is to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth. Since 1944, Heifer International has provided livestock and environmentally sound agricultural training to improve the lives of those who struggle daily for reliable sources of food and income. Heifer is currently working in 50 countries, including the U.S., to help families and communities become more self-reliant.

For more information, visit www.heifer.org or call 1-800-696-1918