Thinking back seven months ago when literally the entire world was focused on the suffering and misery of the Haitian people, it seems hard to believe Duane Zook – let alone anyone – would be asking this question.
“I’ll have people ask me, ‘So what are you up to now that Haiti is over?’ Over? Haiti is not ‘over’ in any way,” he said in a telephone interview with Everyday Christian. “That’s the real challenge to overcome.”
Zook is the CEO of Texas-based Global Aid Network (GAiN) which provides humanitarian relief to impoverished areas around the globe. In Haiti, GAiN partners with other ministries – including Campus Crusade for Christ and Mercy Chefs – to provide basic foodstuffs, water and tents. Zook said over the long term it hopes to help further development of micro enterprises to foster self-sustaining businesses and agriculture.
“If we could work ourselves out of a job in Haiti, that would be the way to go,” Zook said.
He acknowledged that is years away at best regardless of the world’s collectively short attention span.
“I think the fact of the matter is it has already faded away for most Americans and most of the world,” Zook said. “It’s frustrating, but unfortunately it’s very typical with disasters. At the six-month mark (July 12th) there was a little blip news media, a three-minute piece and then off again. It will take years and years and maybe even decades to rebuild. I wish there would be a way to consistently communicate that to the world.”
When Everyday Christian first interviewed Zook in January days after the quake he was on his way to Port-au-Prince not 100 percent sure what he would find. What he saw – and heard and smelled – is not something which will leave his memory anytime soon.
“My first trip there was 5 or 6 days, and what CNN and the other media reporting on the devastation couldn’t capture are the smells and the many sounds,” Zook said. “The smells of bodies which had not had been buried or seeing limbs coming out of buildings where they had been crushed were very visible. There was a dust smell over everything that was unlike anything I’ve experienced. I’ve been to Indonesia and Myanmar before and seen many things, but this grabbed me to see this devastation so concentrated.”
It was an ordinary occurrence, however, after he returned to the U.S. which may have shook him the hardest.
“When I came back and went into a building and saw a Culligan water truck pull up I almost lost it,” Zook recalled. “I had a flashback to a place where it was 90-some degrees with very little water or the trucks and other supplies needed. Here we live in a country where you can walk into a Wal-Mart and find all the bandages and food we need. It really hit me, the sense of helplessness which comes from a devastation so large.”
Having been back to Haiti in May and June, Zook has seen some painfully slow signs of progress with people no longer living in the streets and rubble being cleared – more often by families with wheelbarrows rather than large trucks. Refugee camps are packed but small temporary structures have replaced tarps and blankets in the street.
Part of the progress has been an increased dependence on faith. Zook said he had seen multiple examples of churches and individual Haitians either renewing or starting a new commitment to Christianity that has provided the sense of hope many believers are already familiar with.
“This is a tremendous crisis, but on the flip side God has used this catastrophe to work in the hearts to people. As I talk with people about how they kept alive, many have said they know God has a purpose for their lives to. One of the mental images I have is coming out of the dust that hope can arise.”