Fifth Anniversary of Haiti Earthquake

Five years ago today, we remember with deepest sympathy the people of Haiti and their great loss of family, structure and hope. Here are some reflections, including a short video from that time put together by our friends at City On A Hill.
January 12, 2010 was a Thursday. At 5:15pm, a friend called the office to give us a heads up that minutes before, a severe earthquake had ravaged Haiti.
We were concerned for the safety of our missionary family in the Dominican Republic and those we knew in-country. Immediately, a long night of phone calls was launched. We looked for our Haitian friends, contacted NGO partners and made sure our local supporters and churches knew what was happening. We turned up the volume on the news channels and watched with the rest of the world as the horror unfolded.
In the midst, The Salvation Army asked us to help them respond with water. As the hours passed, our thoughts turned toward a plan and the possibility of a larger effort.
The next morning, I came to the office early. Fifteen people were already standing outside the door; several were strangers. They greeted me and said, “We thought WaterStep (then EDGE Outreach) might be attempting to do something for the crisis in Haiti and we want to help.” Humbled, I unlocked the door. During the next 6 weeks, 24/7 and then beyond, our staff, friends, community and volunteers committed to bring water in a sustainable way to those people living in an upheaved land.
It seems selfish at the price of such loss to others saying those moments changed us, but they did. Winston Churchill said, “The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” Transformation can be a choice. But earthquakes force transformation upon us with no regard. A man once told me, “It’s better to move through tragedy than past it.” It’s true, but messy. This perspective reveals past pain that’s a part of us, clearly seen and felt in our hindsight.
The people of Haiti didn’t choose their transformation, but continue to live it by allowing its memory to dictate hope or despair. As a global community, we remember too. While we embrace all things tragic and celebrative, it would be a great loss to waste this moment not reflecting on its impact in our own lives.
It has surely transformed me. I owe it to the people of Haiti to ponder that.
Though these past years have seen much good happen, the scars are deep. The earthquake blast peppered its devastation into the life of every single Haitian. Its impact continues to vibrate like the rumblings of rolling terrain as a part of their history. Today, I simply ask that Haiti remember less and less the reverberation of the land and more and more echoes of renewal that could pour within their hearts.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
To all the people of the WaterStep team who sacrificed their time, talent, treasures and knelt in prayer during those months of 2010.
To our Haitian friends who have given their lives to the dream of a healed country.
To the NGO’s and churches who worked along side us equipping, enabling us, empowering us to be better.
To the community of Louisville for believing that ordinary people can make a difference.
To the men and women who joined our teams on the ground from Haiti, Canada and the U.S. at great risk – there are no words.
And to God. May we eventually see your hope on the other side of all calamity.
I invite your response on how the earthquake five years ago impacted your own life and the lives of those you care about.

Mark Hogg
Founder and CEO

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. Garrison

    I remember well WatetStep’s initial response in Haiti and the galvanizing effect it had on many minisry choices that followed. Two years after the quake, I was part of a mission team, mostly from St.,Paul UMC, that spent over a week installing water systemss and doing free vision clinics there.
    After two years, main roads were passable, and we did not have to confront directly the terrible results of so many deaths that first responders had. But Port-au-Prince and outlying towns were still a flattened mess.
    I know our team did some good for some Haitians. And I returned to Louisville with a sobering sense of the immense privilege that most Americans float upon unknowingly every day. But my heart hurts that, five years out, so very much remains to be done to improve life in Haiti.
    Fortunately, WatetStep does not get “compassion fatigue.” It keeps doing what it does best — bringing both hope and access to clean water to people wherever both are in short supply.

  2. Meg

    Though we have seen the ravaging effects of natural disasters in the past, the faces of Haitians brought the disaster to our own doorsteps. With the changes seen in world climate in recent years, we are to expect more tragedies. WaterSteps work in Haiti, the Philippines, and so many other places in the last 5 years offers a way to reach out to others around the world and help revive the potential within individuals and communities around the world.

  3. Jennifer Poe

    Reflecting back on this devastating day I am so thankful that God put the right people in the right place at the right time to help serve during this tragic time. This was a pivotal moment of on the job training in saving lives with safe water. Keep up the good work, the world is a better place because of the hearts of the staff and volunteers at WaterStep.

  4. Pam

    I worked in WaterStep’s reception area answering the phones in those days. I remember a crew from the Courier Journal being with us those first days.
    I gave them a tour and explained that our mission was to assist the people of Haiti to have Safe Water during the crisis and for years to come. He looked at me and said, “Your days from here on out will never be the same. Be prepared for an onslaught of phone calls, emails and drop-in’s from the Louisville community.” He was right. We had volunteers who cooked for us, cleaned our offices, traveled overseas, trained, and performed errands. Anything and everything to help WaterStep and the people of Haiti. I was amazed the amount of generosity we were blessed with to complete our tasks. Every day the volunteers wanted to know what they could do to help, but also asked, “How are the people?” They knew why they were doing this work each day. They were Saving lives. “Bringing Safe Water to save lives,” they would say.
    During this process we assisted our partners in Haiti and developed new ones. During the crisis, we assisted the Haitians with installing over 70 installations of the M-100 WaterStep chlorinator. These chlorinators had the potential to provide over 750,000 Haitians with Safe Water. The people of Haiti taught us patience, perseverance and keeping a positive attitude in the face of catastrophic losses. I wish to thank those many individuals who worked side by side with us, night and day for months. They did Save Lives and I am blessed to of worked with each and every one of them.

  5. Dee Dee Hurt

    Last night I was reminded by a Facebook post that today would be the anniversary of the Haiti earthquake. It is hard to believe it has been five years since that tragic day. I remember when I heard about it. Since my family have so many people there that we know from past mission trips a sense of panic set in. Is everyone ok that I know there? What can I do to help the people there? When can I go ?
    I ended up going to Haiti that July on a medical mission trip. We saw many with scars, wounds and afflictions they had sustained from the earthquake. The effect of earthquake hit me hard as I looked around the clinic we held that first day in Port au Prince but what blew me away was the resilience that I saw in the people there. At noon every Haitian at the makeshift building we were at stop what they were doing and began singing. Singing praises to God for how he had protected them, praising Him for sustaining them and thanking Him for all that He was going to do for them.
    They had so little left. Their country had be destroyed. Many of them lost their homes and friends and family members. But they were able to bounce back, pick themselves off and continue on. I learned so much during that trip. I learned to appreciate what I have, not to complain so much about things and praise God through my difficult times.
    To the people of Haiti THANK YOU for teaching me what it is looks like to live through a tragedy and be stronger because of it.

  6. John Cutler

    I was in San Francisco during the 1987 earthquake and I have worked in some war zones, like Kosovo, but nothing was as bad as Haiti from everything I have seen and heard, including your video above and also from stories I have heard from people I know who ran one of the cell phone systems there (Voila). Haiti has its own special characteristic of already being very chaotic before the earthquake, and it is a testament to WaterStep and a certain kind of person who runs toward the action that needs to be taken, who faces what horrors the world throws up on the land and works to fix whatever can be fixed, no matter the danger and difficulty of laboring to do so.

  7. Steve

    The phone rings and you drop whatever it is you are. doing. You go at all cost to the hospital. Why? Because a new birth is on the way. I have experienced this with my children and now with my grandchildren. When I read this today what I remember is the birth of this ministry. At birth you have great dreams of all the possibilities. We seldom get to witness those dreams being meet. Even more seldom is it that we see them exceed beyond your wildest dreams ever. How does this happen? It happens when a group of people come together to seek God’s will at all cost. When a community sees the dream and gets behind it. When I read this today I remember that it was not that day ( the day after the earthquake) that this dream was first dreamed. No it was just the day that all the parts that were already in play came together to do something that only our God can do. The impossible. Doors open. Money comes in. Schedules open.. Gods people change their nice comfortable life’s, WHY? Because they have a dream that they can do the impossible when it aligns with the will of God. And of course. They are right. Five years ago the phone rang and Water step went at all cost . Dream on People of God. There is new birth all around us. Are we ready for it??

  8. Sam Lee

    “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” – Henry Ford
    When reflecting on the earthquake in Haiti 5 years ago, this natural disaster unleashed a massive amount of physical destruction that caused ripple effects that are still felt today on the island and off. It is hard to imagine the utter torment of the Haitian people suffering through the loss of family members, homes, and the basic necessities to survive in the blink of an eye. From the initial loss of a basic commodity such as clean water, the effects of this tragedy only magnifies the ripples into waves. WaterStep helped to bridge that gap to preserve lives during this very crucial time of need. WaterStep’s work continues to save lives even 5 years after the earthquake.
    This simple quote by Henry Ford is so easy to say, but so hard to do. Henry Ford would deem the ability of WaterStep and their staff to selflessly work together with the members of the community in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti as a testament to their organization’s success. I am glad we have organizations like WaterStep in the world that maintain their unwavering vision of helping and serving the world around us. I am glad and proud that organizations like this are located in my hometown, Louisville, KY. I am glad their vision is not just a “fad” but a passion to help people around the world.

  9. Chandler ?=^)

    Watching the video reminds me of how God uses everyday people to do extraordinary things. Over the years of watching EDGE transform to WaterStep, I see how each event they do, each trip they take, each relationship they build, each workshop they hold, and each endeavor they throw themselves into, is all at God’s leading and direction. They meet God where He is already at work and says, “Can we join You here? What do You need us to do?”
    Tony Compolo gave an excellent talk at an EDGE/WaterStep event that changed my perspective of missions. My takeaway: Give the people what they REALLY need, not what you think they need. WaterStep gives people what they need — life sustaining, clean water. While they do it, they demonstrate the eternal love that Christ offers.
    WaterStep cannot do what they are doing without everyone’s part. I may not have an engineering background, but I can tell my engineering friends about the things WaterStep is building and their desire to make them better. I may not be able to go to the training sessions, but I can proclaim from the rooftops what WaterStep is doing. I may not be able to go to other countries, but I can rally my church, my friends, my coworkers, and my family from all over the US, to collect shoes and (most importantly) PRAY as they continue to change lives.

  10. Tina Ward-Pugh

    To our neighbors, friends and families in Haiti, the USA and throughout the world, we pause to remember you and countless others unknown who were effected by the devastating earthquake five years ago today. Though I had not yet begun to volunteer with EDGE Outreach (now WaterStep), I recall all too vividly the death and destruction in the aftermath. For me, this horrible, horrible tragedy put WaterStep on MY map. I learned of their quick response to adapt their own technologies for emergency disaster deployment. Their shear determination was remarkable. It put WaterStep on the map, not just in Haiti, but in our own hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. I will never forget that tragic day for two reasons: one, that it opened my eyes to the on-going need for our efforts in Haiti; and two, that it propelled WaterStep onto the international stage where it can now have a global impact in the lives of millions around the world and here at home. Remembering Haiti on this fifth anniversary of the earthquake reminds me that we are all, everyone of us, neighbors and families in this global village; that water is diplomacy; and that we are ALL diplomats. Let us always remember.

  11. Barry Hart

    A small group of Canadians had joined a WaterStep team comprised of students from Berea College. The original destination for the water team was supposed to be Haiti. Months before, during planning stages, the parents worked with WaterStep to go to Costa Rica and not Haiti. While doing water systems there we got a scattering of information about the earthquake. Why we were in CR and not Haiti caused us to ponder, pray and reflect.
    Over the next several months, Water Ambassadors Canada joined with WaterStep teams to continue providing clean water in Haiti. I had the privilege to work in the Grand Guave region. The astonishing thing for me was that despite being surrounded by unimaginable devastation and hardship, the locals were friendly, resilient and helpful. Quite a juxtaposition.
    The UN estimates that there are around 1 billion people who lack access to clean water. for several months after January 2010 I signed my emails with ‘Before Haiti, there were a billion people lined up for clean water.’
    May God bless the people of Haiti, the relief workers, the donors world wide.

  12. Holly

    While I was not a part of work in Haiti, I was still impacted. 5 years ago, we had a new daughter, recently brought home through adoption. We were learning firsthand what happens when you drink unsafe water, for our daughter was filled with parasites. When the disaster hit Haiti, we were in the midst of meds to rid her body of parasites.
    I remember reading of the scores of people in Haiti struggling without access to clean water, and looking at my little girl- still emaciated and sick from the results of that same fate. It was surreal, and I knew in my heart that WaterStep was fulfilling so much more than a relief effort. This was life and death. This was a call for justice among the hurting, our brothers and sisters.
    Over the past few years, we have been honored to work with WaterStep and One Child Campaign in Ethiopia to do there what was done in Haiti- bring hope in the form of clean water. I’m not sure there have been many sweeter moments in my life than those shared with my friends there tasting their first sip of pure water.
    This work is vital. It’s powerful. It’s beautiful. It’s compelling. I’ve often said that every mother everywhere deserves the right to be able to provide for their children what is needed for a safe and heathy life. And if we can help provide that opportunity, we must. It’s my privilege, honor and duty to help carry out the work of WaterStep.

  13. Brisenault Jean Prenor

    To all my friends and partners of water Step. Today is the time to thank you and thank you again. I remember one week after the hearthquaque I was hopeless, I did not know where help will come from. My country has been destroyed, my job, my church , bodies were everywhere in Haiti. I was tired of thinking about what I will do to survive, it was in this time of darkness and hopeless EDGE OUTREACH through my good friend Jim Keaggy came to help. It was really help not a show or show business it was Help. I have learned a lot lessons from AMERICAN PEOPLE at that time. I have learned solidarity from EDGE, I have learned compassion, I learned how to love others by seeing the EDGE team member claiming the third floor of cracked houses while the aftershocks continued they put their lives in danger for the Haitian people. I have seen the EDGE team members sleeping without taking shower, sleeping in open air at Leogane area, while the Haitian people were burning the bodies from the hearthquaque we could smell dead people burned, I have seen the EDGE team member eating for almost 4 weeks soldiers food. I know how much comfort an American have today and I know how important it is for an American to take shower and brush their teeth but they did not do it for 5 weeks because no place .
    The EDGE supports to Haiti have been an effective support, it was one organization witch reached the Haitian people at 100% for sure because the support did not go through the politician but trough the community leader, church leaders and any other organization. I can testify because I have seen it and I was the one who put them in touch with the communities I know what I’m talking about. The presence of the EDGE team was more than benefic for the Haitian communities this is for 3 reasons: EDGE has helped build up the financial situation buying a lot of stuffs in the country, hirering Tap Tap driver, paying translators, purchasing any other stuffs they did need to do the work. Over 50 water system have been installed in Haiti; that was good for health and the human resources about 120 young people have been trained in how to purify the water and how to fix broken hand pumps. Several thousand people have access to pure water in fact when the cholera disease rise up EDGE was already on the grown and save a lot lives by providing pure water, also we have reinforced our works by teaching hygiene in the idea to help with Cholera.
    Individually I’m very thankful to all EDGE people for what they have done for me, they gave me a job and provide a truck for transportation and today a lot of these water systems still in Haiti helping the population.
    At the end to be honest I must tell everyone that I don’t think water steps mission is over for Haiti we lucking of building a water training center for the all country students can come from the 10 cities to learn and go back to help they community. 5 years after the hearthquaque, the water steps mission needs to continue so that we can become more self-sufficient ou country is waiting for a decision from the water steps board to extend the works for the next 10 years, because we have hundreds churches witch have big needs for water, 20 prisons, hundreds school and clinics, orphanages, and communities, the all country needs help in water, some places people only have access with rain water, we need you guys coming to help.
    Thanks again
    May God bless you all
    Works hard remember that : “if our existence cannot be a blessing for other people there is no reason to live”
    Brisenault Jean Prenor/ Haiti

  14. Victoria Shover

    What I admired most about WaterStep after the devastating earthquake in Haiti was their collaboration with strategic partnerships and relationship-based approach. The amount of hours dedicated to mapping out locations, allies and resources to respond to the disaster proved to be efficient, logical and effective. And those hours were fueled by the genuine and compassionate love WaterStep employees and volunteers devoted to empowerment of individuals to rebuild their homes, communities and lives. It is appropriate WaterStep became a local and internationally recognized name after their efforts in Haiti, because their technology, training and loving theories for social good can be an example to the private and public sector. The next disaster will unfortunately come soon enough, but with organizations like WaterStep there is always hope for reconstruction and empowerment.

  15. Bob Holden

    Wow, it has been five years since the devastating earthquake hit in Haiti. And that was the first time that I had heard of the work that Edge Outreach was doing. Their quick response surely brought peace, hope, and the sense of rescue, when surrounded by a disaster that forever changed the lives of so many of the people of Haiti.
    It started with a small project to assist Edge Outreach-(Now called WaterStep), with their work of bring a basic need of survival, being safe water. As another blogger posted, tragedy reveals many ministry choices. It became apparent for my family and me that God was calling us to continue to assist in many ways.
    Two years later my wife and I traveled with WaterStep to Haiti and spent a week doing safe water installations, health & hygiene training, and vision clinics. The people of Haiti were gracious and appreciative, but more than that in my heart I knew that the work that we had been doing for 2 years prior was being blessed, and many people’s lives were being changed right before our eyes from safe drinking water.
    God provided and unplanned visit to an orphanage that was under construction and was set to be fitted with a cistern to store water trucked in from a polluted river. As four of us sat in a pick-up truck during a rain storm so heavy you couldn’t see the hood, we prayed for the opportunity to return on completion of construction and set up a purification system. Later that was done, and I knew that this work was being God lead.
    Thank you to WaterStep Staff and those that I fondly call family, and to all of the volunteers you are priceless. And the community of fantastic support, we are all one heart. In 2015 Lets “Pray – With our eyes open” – And see what God is calling us to do together.

  16. Bill Parker

    The Haiti earthquake and it’s aftermath forced us all to recalibrate our notions of death, destruction, privation, and utter human misery. Yet despite the horror we saw, for me the most remarkable thing about those days was what I observed and experienced in the people of Haiti and in the people of WaterStep. We have much to learn from the people of Haiti who in the midst of such devastation continued to smile, live, hope, and love. I was so encouraged by the many aid workers I met who refused to loose hope and who saw in that tragedy a mission and a chance to join God in service. But it was the good people of WaterStep; their response to this tragedy, and to the call placed on their hearts that remains my most enduring memory. It would do to remember that in those early hours following the disaster we had no real idea of what we were called to do, how we were to do it, or even how we were going to get there. And yet in the midst of all that confusion and the many uncertainties the good people of WaterStep rolled up their sleeves, walked humbly with God and set about doing justice and mercy. I remember Mark’s enthusiasm, the quiet professionalism of Kurtis, the sheer competence of Claudia, Bob’s steadiness and wise counsel, Mike’s wisdom and leadership, Terry’s positive attitude, and the willingness of so many others to just do what needed to be done, all truly remarkable in love and service. Later, in Haiti, the confusion and the uncertainty continued as we struggled to find our place in the pandemonium. The performance of the team was once again remarkable. They loved the people of Haiti, looked for any opportunity to serve, and then did so with willing hearts. The qualities of that team, committed to Christ, to each other, to the people of Haiti, and to our mission will always humble me.

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