More than one year after a devastating magnitude seven earthquake flattened much of Haiti, the rebuilding process is still a long way from complete. Oxfam has recently reported that only five per cent of all the rubble has been cleared, while the reconstruction process has been crippled by indecision. Approximately one million people still live in tents – down from a peak of 1.5 million in July – and the Caribbean nation has been devastated by a crippling cholera outbreak and political turmoil.
In an effort to remind the Woolwich community of the ongoing struggle in Haiti, Floradale Mennonite Church has organized a second benefit concert for Jan. 29 at 7:30 p.m. entitled “Hope for Haiti.”
Like the church’s first benefit concert last January, all of the proceeds will go towards the Mennonite Central Committee’s efforts in Haiti.
“Our congregation is really connected to the Mennonite Central Committee, and they keep us updated on the work they are doing, and we found that things were going slowly and wanted to raise a little bit more money and awareness,” said Rev. Fred Redekop.
The concert features the return of singer-songwriter Kevin Coates and his band, The Interesting People. Coates played at the first benefit concert as well, sold CDs and donated the proceeds from those sales to the rebuild effort.
His wife sold copies of her book, and his daughter also made jewelry to sell. All three will be repeating the gesture this time around as well.
“It’s such a heart-breaking story, and a year later you start to read the personal stories of struggle and how people are trying to survive on a daily basis,” said Coates of why he chose to become involved again. “It’s a story that still should get huge recognition and requires so much money to put these people back on their feet.”
Coates will play a wide range of music, from Bruce Cockburn to Elton John and Bob Marley.
To date MCC has donated about $4.6 million to the reconstruction effort, with approximately $10 million more waiting to be sent. The organization has also sent $500,000 worth of material aid such as blankets and food.
MCC Ontario executive director Rick Cober Bauman was at the first benefit concert last year. The concert managed to raise about $7,000 and with the government matching all donations, that amount rose to $14,000.
He plans to attend the concert next week as well.
“I was intrigued by this request when folks from Floradale called us,” recalled Bauman. “By June of last year our response to Haiti was fully funded and we requested people to help fund MCC’s other work around the world. So when they approached us again, I said ‘I think there are some other good reasons to do this concert again.’”
Bauman said that the funds raised at next Saturday’s concert would be used to help move past the initial earthquake response and to aid the Haitian people in rebuilding their lives and their communities. Bauman said that MCC is now aiming to help replenish the very modest capital stocks and small businesses in the country to help the Haitian people to help themselves.
“People that need $100 or $200 so that they can continue to sell produce or other goods in their small business, that (money) will allow them to have some economic self-determination moving forward.”
Bauman also said the concert is an affirmation to the people around the region and the world that Haiti has not been forgotten through the passage of time.
“That is the reason why we were excited to work with them. First to remind ourselves and the Woolwich community that this was a year ago and that we are not so forgetful. Second, we communicate this to our staff and partners in Haiti and it becomes a reminder to them that the people who really gave in a remarkably generous way a year ago have not forgotten them.
The youth group will also be selling pizza by the slice an hour prior to the start of the 7:30 p.m. show. There is no charge for admission but free-will offerings will be accepted. For more information call Steve Bauman at (519) 669-8630.