Thursday 12 January 2012
ShelterBox Experiences: Partnership working in Haiti
ShelterBox Operations Coordinator Tom Lay.
Tom Lay, ShelterBox Operations Coordinator, worked closely with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Haiti nearly two years after the devastating earthquake struck Port-au-Prince. Having returned in December, he reflects on his time there.
‘In October 2011 I was asked to return to Haiti to work with IOM on behalf of ShelterBox. This amazing opportunity was intended to enable me to learn from IOM’s 60 years of experience in humanitarian intervention and to promote and share the ShelterBox model for disaster relief.
‘My role was as a Project Support Officer for a returns and relocation program targeting the families in small camps and those under immediate threat of eviction. The options being presented to these families were cash grants for rent, property reconstruction, or a form of emergency shelter they could set up on land they had arranged permission to live on. Given the lack of property available to rent the most popular solution was emergency shelter. By providing assistance to these families and eventually closing the small camps, the aim was to consolidate the relief effort and allow for a more focused effort on the on-going sheltering needs.
‘Personally understanding the concept above was really tough for me to process morally. On one hand we were assisting families to return to an element of normality and facilitating them to begin to rebuild their lives after a disaster, which is exactly the reason I got involved in disaster response. On the other hand we were still distributing a form of emergency shelter to families nearly two years after the event. Most of the time the land that these families were moving to was borrowed land and if the shelter deteriorates beyond use or the land agreement ends there will be nothing in place to protect these families. There is very little in the way of livelihoods for these families to generate an income and by moving from a camp they are no longer classified as an Internally Displaced Person (IDP) and so no longer eligible for humanitarian aid assistance.
‘For me personally the two months I spent with IOM was an enriching experience. I was able to question my views on humanitarianism and through these internal discussions deepen my knowledge, understanding and belief in both the wider humanitarian industry I am a part of and the local operations I worked on in Haiti.’
View images from the deployment in Haiti in 2010 on the ShelterBox Flickr page here.