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Clare Wolfarth, our woman in Haiti

8 June 2010 by Sam

two Haitian children in a tarpaulin shelter

Two of Oxfam’s beneficiaries near one of the canteens.

Our thoughts have been with the people of Haiti since the earthquake earlier this year shattered so many lives there. As you will know from Richard Benjamin’s previous blog posts, the International Slavery Museum in particular has close links with the country.

Wanting to do her part to help, Clare Wolfarth, our Human Resources and Organisational Development Manager, has taken a six week sabbatical to go to Haiti and provide on the ground support for Oxfam, her former employers. Here’s her first report back giving her first impressions on arrival back in May:


“On arrival in Haiti I went to see some of the work that Oxfam is doing here and to meet some of the beneficiaries of the livelihoods and food security programme. Even by comparison to some of the other disaster areas I have worked, the situation here is mind blowing. 1.5 million people lost their homes and the UN has estimated that 3 million were directly affected by the earthquake and need assistance in one form or another. Even when you’re here and you can see the extent of the devastation with your own eyes it is still a humanitarian crisis on an incomprehensible scale. I met a woman today who lost her husband and all 7 of her children. Two of Oxfam’s staff died in the earthquake when one of the office buildings collapsed. Everyone you meet has lost someone. It’s just staggering and most of the local people are sleeping in cars or tents at night as they’re too scared to sleep in their homes at night, even if they were left standing. I went to some of the parts of the city that have been the most affected by the earthquake where up to two thirds of home have been destroyed and another sizeable proportion are no longer fit for habitation because of structural damage caused by the quake. There were schools, hospitals, universities, blocks of flats all reduced to nothing more than rubble.  But Oxfam is doing some amazing work here. I met several women who’d been given a cash grant to restart the business they lost. When I say business, it’s basically a barrow by the side of the road but the idea is that it helps to regenerate the local market again and therefore makes the recovery more sustainable than just doling out food. I also saw canteens (areas under sheets of tarpaulin) where local women have been employed by Oxfam to cook food for the most vulnerable in the community. One meal costs 20p to make and thousands are being fed every week in this way.

I was absolutely blown away by the resilience of the people here after what they’ve been through. They get on with their lives because they have to but with so much strength and dignity, it’s so humbling. I feel so privileged to be here in a capacity where I can do somethingin a very small way to contribute to supporting the people here.
 
Anyway, I need to sign off and go to bed now. We get collected for work at 6.45am every morning which you will all appreciate is a bit of a shock to the system for me, especially after a long journey and a day in the field today.”

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