The Power of People: Helping Haiti

The Power of People: Helping Haiti

As the dust settled in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on the evening of January 12, 2010, a landscape of devastation began to emerge. The 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck just before 5 p.m. had reduced most of the densely populated city and surrounding villages to rubble. Some 230,000 people died. Another 300,000 were injured. And more than a million were left homeless.

A desperate call for international aid went out immediately.

Not surprisingly, it was NRECA’s International Programs Division that was among the first outside groups to reach the ruined city and begin helping.

Within days, an NRECA rapid-response team was on the ground, working with EdH , and a multinational coalition to assess the damage to the city’s crippled power system and begin repairs.

The team focused first on restoring power to critical facilities like hospitals, relief centers, and refugee camps. By January 29, 43 of the city’s 59 hospitals were functioning. And by February 2, an EdH-NRECA team had restored a 69Kv line, the first re-energized grid power since the quake.

Back in the United States, the International Foundation, which had already contributed about $50,000 for initial relief efforts, undertook a broad fundraising push, raising an additional $180,000 in contributions and co-op donations of a radio system and two utility trucks.

In the months following the initial emergency, NRECA International assisted EdH to organize and manage the damage assessment and recovery planning process.  NRECA’s team of engineers worked side-by-side with EdH engineering and construction personnel to make emergency repairs to several EdH substations and to assist in the process of reenergizing the system as power was partially restored.

Following the success of the International Emergency Response team, EdH requested that NRECA International continue its support.  A team of two NRECA International engineers are now providing direct technical support to the EdH under the sponsorship of the World Bank.

The rebuilding will be a long process.  The first crew of overseas volunteers is providing linemen safety training and helping them learn how to work more efficiently.  This will help them not only with their work today, but as they start rebuilding their country – and futures.