Canadian Catholic response to Haiti quake 'phenomenal' so far

By 
  • January 15, 2010
{mosimage}By 5:15 the afternoon of Jan. 14 — a day after a catastrophic earthquake collapsed buildings and killed thousands in Haiti — Catholics had overwhelmed the computer servers and phone systems at the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace.

The level of generosity "is phenomenal," said Development and Peace spokesperson Jasmine Fortin.

"In two days we've raised $150,000, and it's still going on," she said.

It took just over an hour for the Catholic aid organization to get its computer and phone systems back up and running, and by Jan. 15 it had installed extra computer capacity and more phones to accommodate the waves of generosity and compassion from Canadians. Development and Peace has also brought in volunteers to handle the calls.

Development and Peace is among the officially recognized agencies eligible for matching funds from the federal government. For every dollar donated to Development and Peace, Ottawa will kick in another dollar.

The agency has half a dozen long-term development partners in Haiti and a history of development work that stretches back to the origins of Development and Peace more than 40 years ago. Last year the organization spent $600,000 in Haiti on four disaster relief emergencies and ongoing development projects.

Only the sketchiest of details have begun to emerge from Development and Peace's partner organizations in Haiti. One of the partners briefly had Internet access at 3 a.m. the morning of Jan. 15 and relayed that they knew of one staffer's death. But the fate of Development and Peace partners and projects in Haiti remains mostly unknown.

Later that morning two D&P staffers with experience in Haiti and disaster relief experience were seconded to Caritas Internationalis and dispatched to the island nation. On disaster relief Development and Peace works with Caritas Internationalis, a worldwide Catholic network of relief agencies.

"The whole Catholic Church, the whole infrastructure is really mobilizing — and it's enormous support," said Fortin.

In Toronto, Archbishop Thomas Collins has requested that all 224 parishes take up a second collection for Haiti the weekend of Jan. 23-24. In the meantime, the archdiocese fundraising arm, ShareLife, has its secure web site (www.sharelife.org ) and phone lines (1-800-263-2595 or 416-934-3411) ready to take donations.

Cheques can be sent to ShareLife payable to ShareLife and your parish name, Haiti Earthquake Relief. The money will be channelled to Caritas Internationalis through Development and Peace. There are no administrative fees, ensuring that the maximum amount possible is used for relief efforts on the ground.

An appeal from Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops president Bishop Pierre Morissette has resulted in parishes across the country taking up special collections for Haiti, said Fortin.

Development and Peace's first $50,000 was already in the hands of Caritas Internationalis before fundraising began.

Development and Peace accepts donations at 1-888-664-3387 or www.devp.org .

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