Maine groups, businesses continue relief efforts in Haiti
SCARBOROUGH — Several groups of Maine people and businesses want the residents of Haiti to know that they have not been forgotten in the six months since the earthquake that devastated the country.
A group of 40 local businesses, including Preti Flaherty, Reed & Reed and UNUM, banded together not long after the earthquake to form a coalition called MaineLine, which aims to assist in rebuilding efforts in Haiti.
However, rebuilding in the country has been slow because of the political system, a lack of infrastructure to support construction and few skilled workers.
"The presidential palace, their version of the White House, is still in ruins," said Darcy Pierce, a senior partner at Envoy, the company MaineLine hired to act as the go-between for the non-profits on the ground in Haiti and the business donors in Maine.
Pierce recently returned from his second trip to Haiti since the earthquake and said he saw very little progress between April and June.
"I didn't see what I had hope would have changed," Pierce said. "Six months later it still looks virtually the same."
However, MaineLine and its non-profit partner in Haiti, Samaritan's Purse, want to change that. The organizations have teamed up to build 10 schools outside Port au Prince, the city hit hardest by the earthquake.
The first school, which will be built in the village of Cabaret, will begin construction in the next few weeks. The building will not only function as an elementary school, it will also be a community center, have a soccer field and include vocational training for adults.
"The Samaritan's Purse already has built 100 shelters in Caberet," Pierce said. "They've already invested in this community."
He said people from all over the region are coming to Cabaret because some progress has been made there. The shelters, which are made of wood with tarps wrapped around the outside and a tin roofs, are better than the homes many Haitians are currently living in.
"These shelters are probably going to be a lot more permanent than they intended," Pierce said. "And we're coming into hurricane season now. There's really an opportunity for another major disaster there, if a hurricane comes through."
Despite the dire circumstances, MaineLine is moving forward to finance as much rebuilding as possible in the area. The organization waited to find a non-profit that Envoy could work with to confirm the money is being spent the way the companies intended. Pierce said he is confident Samaritan's Purse was a good choice.
So confident, in fact, that the president of Samaritan's Purse is coming to Maine for a golf tournament at Nonesuch Golf Course on Sept. 13 to raise money for the rebuilding efforts.
But MaineLine isn't the only group working to help disaster victims.
Parishioners of St. Alban's Church on Shore Road in Cape Elizabeth have joined forces with a church in Wilton to help finish the construction of St. Luc's school.
Together, the two organizations will help repair the school, which has been in disarray for years. In May, St. Alban's was awarded a $74,000 grant from the United Thank Offering program within the Episcopal Church to complete the necessary construction.
Sara Merrill, a Cape resident, said members of the congregation have pledged to raise an additional $21,000 from the general public.
"The school is in dire need. There are no doors, no windows and it's starting to crumble," she said. "We would like to rebuild the school, add more grades and increase the student body."
After construction, Merrill said the school will be able to provide a lunch program for its students.
To help raise the money, the church will host a guest bartender night at The Local Buzz on Ocean House Road (Route 77) on Monday, Aug. 2, from 6-9 p.m. Ten percent of the proceeds will go toward the school project. Merrill said there will be Haitian coffee and artwork for sale, too.
"We are very excited to raise this money and help secure and complete the school construction," she said.