Utahns focus on long-term relief efforts for Haiti

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WEST VALLEY CITY -- Over the last month, most of the relief effort in Haiti has been aimed at short-term emergency needs. Now, Utah-based relief groups are shifting their focus to more long-term issues.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is launching an aggressive campaign to build sturdier shelters for members who have gathered near church buildings in Haiti.

Like people all over the world, Utahns continue to give generously. The needs in Haiti will continue for a long time, so Red Cross officials are pleased that generous individuals are still stepping up to the plate.

Folkloric dancers held the floor Sunday at a Haiti relief fundraiser at the Hollywood Connection skating rink at 3217 Decker Lake Drive in West Valley City.

Red Cross officials hope to generate cash for long-term assistance in Haiti. But the event was not planned and put on by the Red Cross -- it was put together by two individual members of the Hispanic community.

"They asked if we would come here and represent the Red Cross, and I said 'Of course!'" says Karen Romero with the Greater Salt Lake Area Chapter. "We can see how people are doing their part and they're not waiting for something to happen. They're going out and doing it themselves."

Meanwhile, in Haiti, the LDS Church is trying to help its own members get back on their feet. Thousands are living in the most temporary of situations, in tents, distributed by the Church, and under tarps. To make matters worse, the rainy season is coming in April, followed by the hurricane season.

"We would hope that we would have the opportunity to help others and to demonstrate to them the things that the Church does to care for their members," says Bennie Lilly, an area welfare manager.

The Church is distributing up to 600 kits to build more substantial housing.

Elder Wilford W. Anderson, a member of the Church's Caribbean Area Presidency, says, "We need to begin to help our members return to normalcy, to find housing and housing that will withstand the elements."

Each kit includes cement, lumber, corrugated tin and steel hurricane straps.

"This may be a great chance for Haiti to rebuild in a way it has not had the opportunity to do before," says Nate Leishman, a humanitarian emergency response manager with the LDS Church. "The Church has a commitment that we will try to help for years to come."

The long-term view was also a topic of discussion at the fundraiser for the Red Cross Sunday. The world has been generous, but the relief effort is just getting started.

"We still need to think about their long-term needs, you know," Romero says. "They're still going to need a place to stay. They're still going to need food a month from now, a year from now."

Church welfare managers helped local leaders establish a storehouse of food such as beans, rice and milk.

Future plans include help with agricultural projects, employment assistance and other long-term efforts.

E-mail: hollenhorst@ksl.com


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