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Focusing on recovery -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Focusing on recovery

By Jonathan Reckford



Habitat CEO Jonathan Reckford visits with Habitat Haiti national director Claude Jeudy.

Where do you start?

I walked through the streets of Port-au-Prince a few days after the earthquake in Haiti and saw devastation everywhere. It was among the worst humanitarian disasters I had ever seen. Piles of concrete were everywhere, and on the hillsides, sheets, quilts and scraps were pulled together to provide shelter. No one wanted to go indoors. They were afraid.

Upon my return to the United States, I was convinced that Habitat for Humanity had to make a bold response to help, and I was determined to garner the necessary support to make it happen. It was the right thing to do. It was the only thing we could do. As a result, we have committed to serve 50,000 families in Haiti with a mix of emergency shelter kits, transitional shelters and permanent core homes that can be expanded over time.

And then, a little more than a month later, a powerful 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit the country of Chile, deeply affecting a country where Habitat has built since 1998.

As difficult as it is to witness the pain and destruction of natural disasters, they are the reality. That’s why disaster response is a core part of Habitat’s strategic plan. The goal is always twofold: to move families toward permanent, disaster-resistant homes and to be a continuing force for affordable housing.

In Haiti and Chile — as in post-tsunami Asia and along the U.S. Gulf Coast after hurricanes Katrina and Rita — Habitat has the chance to help families set the direction for their recovery. We are determined to draw in more partners and attract the financial support to help families build back stronger than ever.

Keep in mind that helping disaster-affected families today can mean helping even more in need of affordable housing down the road. Responding to disasters builds our capacity. We have served 23,000 families in Asia following the tsunami, for example, and now our Asia/Pacific operation is our largest program.

When resources are limited, sometimes it requires a bold leap of faith to make commitments such as we have made in Haiti and Chile. However, our experiences tell us that in the face of disaster, people respond with compassionate hearts. We trust that God will bless the generous gift s that are offered as we continue to help families around the world build better lives and stronger communities.

Jonathan Reckford is the CEO of Habitat for Humanity International.