Fiona Jeffery is spearheading “Just Help Haiti”, the appeal run by safe water charity Just A Drop to help rebuild community infrastructures in Haiti at the ground level up. She shares her thoughts with BTN about how the campaign is evolving and what the travel industry can do to help.
BTN: What is the aim of Just Help Haiti?
FJ: The aim is to do what it says on the tin and help the people of Haiti in what is probably the worst natural disaster in my living memory. Where Just a Drop is different is that our role is not to interfere with the work being undertaken by the big aid agencies dealing with the imperative emergency relief. Our role comes in when the chaos starts to settle down and you have thousands of displaced people living in make-shift refugee camps with nowhere else to go.
Our job is to help encourage communities back into their homes, villages and schools and this is only achievable where they have access to clean safe water and sanitation, which is what Just a Drop is all about.
BTN: What kind of programmes will you be undertaking in Haiti and what is the plan of action?
FJ: Our job will be to reinstall and improve water and sanitation systems into local communities. We did this very successfully post the Tsunami and Hurricane Mitch in Grenada where at a local level we rebuilt village water and sanitation systems and left them in both instances with a better facility than they had before.
We will send in our specialist engineers. They are experienced water engineers having worked with the British army and know how to operate in difficult environments and circumstances, and are also expert at working with the local communities which is very important. They will assess the situation and will then work with local construction companies and local people to develop and build new systems. We will assess the project work required at a local level and what we can deliver effectively on the ground. We will only do what we can viably deliver and can afford to do based on funds raised.
BTN: What can the travel industry do collectively to help?
FJ: The travel & tourism industry is traditionally very generous in such circumstances and we have seen this in some of the response we have seen from both the big operators such as Thomas Cook and Tui Travel, together with smaller operators and industry suppliers. However one of the challenges is fragmented use of funds and resource. All Just a Drop is trying to achieve with the Just Help Haiti campaign is to unite the industry and its support into a key area of tremendous need under the circumstances namely the provision of clean safe water and sanitation for the people of Haiti.
(Above: Just A Drop in action in Bolivia)
There will be other needs as well but when so much aid is given I think it is good for donors to be able to see and understand what those donations have contributed to and we will report back on the progress and challenges through our people on the ground.
BTN: What is the long-term goal of Just a Drop in supporting Haiti’s recovery?
FJ: To get as many people as we have the funds and resource to do back into their local community environments as soon as is possible. This is not an easy undertaking and will take patience as well as effective management by our engineers and project officers.
BTN: How do you see Haiti’s tourism industry developing over the next decade? And what are the keys to ensuring it develops as a sustainable industry that benefits all levels of society?
FJ: Good needs to come out of bad and Haiti is certainly now on the world map. With the opportunity for reinvestment and development there is the opportunity to put Haiti on the road to economic recovery by rebuilding its infrastructure. This will require partnership, collaboration with the full engagement of Haiti’s government officials and senior business leaders and the opportunity to empower Haitians in helping reshape their future with the right support and guidance.