Jan 19 2011 by Donald Morton, Stirling Observer Wednesday
TWELVE months on from the devastating earthquake which hit Haiti, the Caribbean island is slowly but surely recovering.
Among those people helping is 26-year-old Stirling woman Fiona Kelling, who works with CARE International, one of the world’s top three aid agencies, fighting poverty and injustice in more than 70 countries around the world and helping more than 59 million people each year to find routes out of poverty.
Fiona is project manager for CARE’s transitional shelter programme in Leogane. She studied architectural design at Edinburgh University and has participated in projects in Tanzania and the West Bank.
She did an internship with Shelter Centre in Geneva before completing a diploma in architecture with a Masters in development and emergency practice at Oxford Brookes University.
Fiona’s work in Haiti means that she oversees the movement of families from overcrowded camps to transitional shelter homes.
She said: “I heard about the work that CARE was doing in Haiti while I was studying in Oxford and I knew when I finished that I wanted to put the skills I had learnt to good use in a context such as this.
“Twelve months on from the earthquake, it could appear that nothing has changed in Haiti, but it depends where you look. The scale and extent of the damage here is hard to believe without seeing, and progress can seem slow in comparison.
“But gradually, damaged buildings are being picked apart and the rubble cleared. And as I make my way to work in the morning, the streets are lined with market sellers, rebuilding their lives even amidst the rubble.
“For the 650 families that CARE has supported with transitional shelters in Leogane so far, and the many more helped through the hard work of other organisations, the situation has improved massively. They are now living under an iron roof and timber-framed structure that has hurricane-resistant reinforcement, instead of the tents and tarps they were previously covered by, which were very vulnerable to flooding and hurricanes.
“The need here is massive and there is still a lot of work to be done, but many people are hopeful that from this terrible situation, the whole country can be improved.”
Fiona siad that the Haitians have worked hard to get their country back on its feet.
“I am constantly impressed at the dignity people here show, especially considering the circumstances. The local Haitians I work with in particular are extremely dedicated and have a passion to help and empower the communities we are working with, despite having experiences loss and living in difficult circumstances themselves.
“Haitians are amazingly resilient, and I am amazed at the ingenuity and determination of the people here to make the best of what they have - it is something I for one have been challenged to learn from them.”
She was full of praise for the support given by people in the Stirling area and the rest of the UK – and hoped they would continue to back the country.
“Aid has been getting through, but longer-term solutions will require careful planning and preparation to ensure that they are sustainable and respond to the needs of the community, so that the money donated is spent well.
“I am glad that Haiti is still getting attention, but rebuilding is going to take more than a year and I hope that the people of Stirling, Scotland and the rest of the UK will continue to show support to the people of Haiti and agencies like CARE who are working hard to help them.”