The earth heaved and the history of Catholic Relief Services was reshaped yet again. After the calamitous Indian Ocean tsunami and the Haiti earthquake, Catholics in the United States showed the world what faith and innovation can accomplish.
"I will fish again. My sons will cast their nets into the sea."
Sitting amid the crumbled walls of his home, surrounded by scattered possessions and uprooted trees, S. G. Herbert was undaunted. "I am a fisherman," he said. "I will fish again. My sons will cast their nets into the sea."
Just days before, the Indian Ocean tsunami had washed away his community in the coastal town of Galle, Sri Lanka. He was one of the lucky ones.
On December 26, 2004, the day after Christmas, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake 100 miles off the coast of Sumatra triggered tsunamis that slammed into the coastlines of 11 countries. In Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India alone, more than 200,000 people died and nearly as many were left homeless.
Within hours, Catholic Relief Services and our partners had begun relief and recovery work. And people across the United States, moved by the suffering they saw in news reports, began a massive effort to help those who had lost everything.
Catholics in the United States gave an unprecedented $170 million to CRS—and made possible one of the largest emergency and rebuilding efforts in our history. A 5-year plan to rehabilitate the hardest-hit communities in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India was put into place that would help well over a million people.
The fruits of that compassion were astounding—from lifesaving food, emergency supplies, shelter and medical treatment to permanent homes, water and sanitation projects. Your generosity also made possible roads, schools, livelihoods programs and the first women and children's hospital in Banda Aceh, Indonesia.
Schools, parishes and dioceses prayed, took up collections and held bake sales to help their brothers and sisters a world away. "If I help, they might get through this," Allie Zito remembered thinking as she sold beaded pens she crafted as a third grader at St. Anastasia School in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. She donated $5,300 from the sale of those pens to CRS.
The relationship between the dioceses of Metuchen, New Jersey, which contributed $700,000 for a CRS rebuilding project, and Thanjavur, India, continued long after new homes were built there. Since then, Bishop M. Devadass Ambrose of Thanjavur has visited Metuchen, and members of the Metuchen diocese have visited Thanjavur. The diocese continues to help Thanjavur with emergency preparedness, job training and nursing scholarships.
"It grew from wanting to help with the tsunami," explains Ernie Revoir of St. Veronica Parish in Howell, New Jersey. "We [had] a sense that we are one Church. It is a universal Church. We are all brothers and sisters across the world."
And Mr. Herbert? Just days after the tsunami leveled everything he had worked his entire life for, he began to envision his future and rebuild it, one splintered board at a time. Thanks to overwhelming support in the United States, CRS and our local Caritas partners were there to help his family with emergency supplies, a new home and a fishing boat.
"In Haiti, the parish supports the believers—their water, their health, their education. If we don't, they have no one else."
The Haitian village of Baudin couldn't feel farther from the heaving city of Port-au-Prince. Remote and picturesque—it sits on a foggy mountaintop—the steep gravel road requires a four-wheel drive vehicle.
That's why it's so surprising that some of the people who describe Baudin with such affection and familiarity come from West Lafayette, Indiana. Or maybe not so surprising.
In January 2010, the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that decimated Haiti's already decaying infrastructure—killing about 230,000 people and leaving nearly 2 million people homeless—launched a wave of compassion and generosity from Catholics in the United States.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. A staggering 80% of Haitians live on less than $2 a day. Catholic Relief Services has been working in the country since 1954, and many U.S. parishes have committed their time and talent for generations. These existing relationships were a godsend when the earthquake hit and continue to be a lifeline as Haiti recovers.
Much work is being accomplished in the name of Catholics in the United States. CRS is in the middle of a 5-year relief and recovery plan to help the people of Haiti build back better. We're working with Church and university partners on projects including shelter, water and sanitation, employment, protection of women and children, education and quality health care.
One example is a state-of-the-art Catholic teaching hospital under construction, with an expected completion date of 2014. The new St. François de Sales Hospital, a partnership of the Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince, the Catholic Health Association of the United States, Sur Futuro Foundation and CRS, will do more than replace the original facility, which was destroyed in the quake. It will also provide doctors and nurses for Haiti's future, while continuing to serve poor men, women and children.
Back in the village of Baudin, Father Delma Camy, pastor at St. Francis Xavier Parish, painted a picture of his reality.
"Here, it's not like in the U.S. where the believers support the parish," he said. "In Haiti, the parish supports the believers—their water, their health, their education. If we don't, they have no one else."
With your generosity, CRS is ensuring that the Haitian people can build a better future for themselves and their children.
Learn more about what you've helped make possible for the people of Haiti.Back to Top