Out of the Rubble: Helping Haiti Rebuild Lives

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The people of Haiti are still working to recover from the unforgettable 7.0 earthquake that killed more than 300,000 people and left more a million homeless. It's been exactly two years for the survivors.

But the signs of that devastation are slowly disappearing from the streets. And the spirit of the Haitian people is stronger.

Thanks to organizations like Operation Blessing.

"The last two years have been just flat out. We have been working non-stop on relief projects and development projects - saving lives after the earthquake," David Darg, director of international relief for Operation Blessing, told CBN News.

"I mean we have lost count of how many lives we have saved from the doctors we've brought in," he said.

Outreach that Matters

Operation Blessing brings in medical teams from the Mayo Clinic each month, administering anti-parasite medication to people in need every day.

And, it's one of the leading organizations tackling the water crisis in the country.

David Darg, with Operation Blessing International, discusses Haiti's humanitarian problems still evident two years after the devastating earthquake and how they are helping, on CBN News Channel Morning News, Jan. 12.

"With the introduction cholera in 2010, it became a crisis," Darg explained. "Still today, Haiti is the world's largest cholera epidemic. So clean water is essential. It is probably the biggest need for the nation right now."

While water is still among the country's immediate needs, the relief organization is also focused on its future. Workers have recently built a school here in one small village.

"In a very remote village. It is one of the poorest villages that we've found in Haiti," Darg said. "And so you have the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, the poorest village in that country."

"It's just extreme poverty and need and Operation Blessing is moving beyond providing relief items," he said.

Building a Future

The look on these kids faces when it comes to getting that education and being taught. There is no comparison in terms of the excitement of being there.

"When we first went to this village, it was very different story to what it is now. Extreme malnutrition. A lot of the children weren't even wearing clothes. I mean, it was just about as bad as you could get," Darg told CBN News.

"And to see now where they have come, just in the few years that we have been working there," he said. "It's amazing for us to see and of course, wonderful for all of them."

The change in this village is just one example of the community development projects Operation Blessing is working on throughout the country.

Teach a Man to Fish

Another example: little tilapia fish. The fish are part of the organization's growing aqua-culture project.

"The tilapia that we are growing are a very resilient fish," Darg explained. "Tilapia come from the Middle East. Some people say it's the loaves and fishes, it's the biblical fish."

"And so it's a strong fish. It is very fast growing. It's perfect for Haiti," he said. "It's perfect for the Haitian environment, and so that is the fish of choice."

These 150 feet long, 40 feet wide aqua cells are growing even more tilapia these days. But more importantly, they're producing much-needed jobs.

"In the city of Port au Prince, we have aqua cells, which is essentially large fish ponds which have very high densities of tilapia fish in them," Darg said. "We are growing high volume, 25,000 fish in one of these aqua cells."

"And that is one model of aqua-culture that we are using as an example to show what's possible in Haiti. They need to see where they can be at," he explained. "So were creating the aqua-cell project as model of development for Haitians, the Haitian government, to see what is possible in the country."

In for the Long Haul

Looking to the future, Operation Blessing is still in Haiti. Lots of organization have left in those two years, increasing the work load.

"As different organizations pull out, it certainly increases the burden on the organizations that remain in Haiti," Darg admitted. "There is always work to do. So the burden is tough anyway."

The burden is why Operation Blessing joined forces with partners-in-health right after the earthquake to build orphans a home in Croix-des-Bouquets.

It's called Zanmi Beni.

Zanmi Beni is Creole for "blessed friends." This home is indeed a blessing for at least 50 children. And believe it or not, it all started with just one building.

"Orphanages are being shut down because the conditions are terrible. And then there are more orphans in circulation," Darg said.

"We are now being asked to absorb some of those children into our facility, just as an example," he said. "As money dries up for different organizations and they leave, there are still needs that aren't being met."

"And so Operation Blessing is perfectly positioned to be able to respond to emergency needs and the infrastructure development that is so essential to the nation," Darg said. "And so we are just calling on our supporters to back us to enable Operation Blessing to be a lasting impact in Haiti."

--Originally aired January 20, 2012

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Efrem Graham is an award-winning journalist, who comes to CBN News from the ABC owned and operated station in Toledo, Ohio.  He received his master's degree from the Columbia University Journalism School. He also holds a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.  Follow Efrem on Twitter @EfremGraham and "like" him at Facebook.com/EfremGrahamCBN.