Money will help Haitians to rebuild homes and churches

Catholic agencies around the world have collected more than £195million for Haitian earthquake relief with additional funds continuing to arrive daily.

The amount – totaling £194,573,054 as of August 10 – reflects money from special collections sponsored by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the worldwide network of Caritas Internationalis agencies and other Catholic-connected agencies sponsoring ministries in Haiti.

The total is likely to be significantly greater because the figures provided by Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican-based umbrella organisation for Catholic humanitarian and development agencies, exclude money raised by organisations and religious orders and congregations outside of the Caritas network.

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Of the amount, nearly half – £94,590,757 – came from American Catholics. A total of £52,768,278 was donated during special collections in dioceses in the weeks after the quake, according to figures compiled from the USCCB and CRS.CRS has collected an additional £41,833,781 on its own, making the US Catholic community the largest contributor in the world to earthquake relief efforts. Non-Catholic American non-profit agencies collected an additional £700million for Haiti, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported on July 9.

The USCCB thanked Catholics for their generosity for responding to the needs of Haitians after the January 12 disaster even as they may have been confronted by the worldwide recession.

Fr Andrew Small, director of the Collection for the Church in Latin America for the US bishops, said: “American Catholics are not just fair, I think they’re more than fair. When you see someone suffering, you try and help them. When you see someone desperate, you do everything you can to help them. Given the unique nature of the devastation, we saw a unique outpouring of compassion and concrete generosity.”

Outside of the US effort, donations to the network of Caritas Internationalis agencies around the world totalled £97,065,592, the agency reported to Catholic News Service. Major funding was collected by the Church in Netherlands (£27million), Spain (£13million), Germany (£10million), United Kingdom (£8.4million), Canada (£7.7million) and Austria and France (£6.7million each). In the United States, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that two Catholic-related agencies collected more than £3million for recovery efforts. The Catholic Medical Mission Board collected £1,583,042, while Fonkoze USA, a bank for poor Haitians started by a Haitian priest, collected £1,396,461, the publication reported in July.
Those amounts are included in the total funding figure.

As for how the funds are being spent, only information about the US funding is available. Fr Small said the bishops’ administrative committee decided in March to allocate 60 per cent of the special collection to CRS for humanitarian needs and use the remaining 40 per cent for ecclesial needs, such as the rebuilding of churches and parish schools and restarting ministries. That means, of the £53million collected, £31.6million will go to CRS while £21million will be used for rebuilding the Haitian church.

“The bishops recognised that in their initial appeal they were aware that the church is really the only group that’s going to look after church needs,” Fr Small explained. “So it was important that that be made clear at the outset of the initial appeal.
“So the question was, ‘Who needs what?’ I think [the bishops] realised that no matter how much of an assessment was done on the needs, not even the money we collected would really adequately address what is needed. They decided what seems like a fair division so that the entire church … can start planning what needs to be done. To wait for a so-called comprehensive assessment to be done, we’d still be here in 10 years,” he said.

Members of the American bishops’ Haiti Advisory Group and a team of US-based engineers have met Haitian church Officials and Archbishop Bernardito Auza, papal nuncio to Haiti, to begin planning how to prioritise spending. The effort is emphasising appropriate construction methods so that new structures can withstand earthquakes as well as strong hurricanes.

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