Last updated: December 14, 2012 5:59 pm

‘Everything was touched’

The Global Fund for Children is helping to sustain support for survivors of Haiti’s 2010 earthquake
Elvira Etienne at her tent in Léogâne, Haiti©Charlie Bibby

Elvira Etienne at her tent in Léogâne, Haiti

For Elvira Etienne, the day in January 2010 when an earthquake hit Haiti – killing more than 200,000 people – will always be the day “everything was touched”.

As the third anniversary of the earthquake approaches, Elvira is still living in a tent in Léogâne, the epicentre of the earthquake. In total 350,000 people in Haiti live under tarpaulin gifted to them by international donors.

Elvira’s life revolves around the work she does for – and the help she receives from – Mudha, a group of Dominican volunteers that came to Haiti in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake. Its work in the Dominican Republic and Haiti – both parts of the same Caribbean island – is backed by the Global Fund for Children, which supports grassroots organisations that work with vulnerable children and is the FT’s partner in its seasonal appeal.

“The entire country turned to Haiti [after the earthquake],” says Mirla Hernandez, a Dominican who works at Mudha, which as well as providing healthcare and training to people in nearby tents also runs an orphanage.

Elvira counts the ways in which Mudha has helped her – from the lamp they gave her in preparation for the hurricane season to the training in how to make soap for sale, along with the courses on human rights that they provide. Many women in the camp also rely on Mudha for basic healthcare for their children. “There are a lot of people who need help,” she says.

Asked about money, Elvira hits her head in frustration. She does not earn enough to move into her own house, and life in the tent is hard. Held down by stones to protect against the worst of the hurricanes that blight this part of the Caribbean, the tent “get[s] really hot”, she says. At the same time, however, “It gets water underneath because it is not on a [solid] floor.”

As the tent camps gradually disappear – the number of people in such places is down from 1.5m at the height of the crisis – and larger aid agencies shift their focus, the needs of the community remain just as intense, says Hernandez. For now, the Dominican volunteers have no intention of leaving.

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