Young: more inter-agency cooperation needed in Haiti relief efforts

A few years ago Cache Valley resident Kristopher Young was planning to return to Sri Lanka where a tsunami had devastated coastal regions of that country. He wanted to finish some humanitarian projects he had started there. But when the Jan. 12, 2009 earthquake hit Haiti, it was then he decided to turn his attention to that part of the world. “I began looking for contacts with locals and local organizations in Haiti,” he said. “I felt it was important to connect with locals for every step of the process, from needs assessment to design of relief programs and their implementation and evaluation.” Young found a group, the Haitian-American caucus, which was founded by undergraduate students from New York’s Stony Brook College. “They are all people of Haitian decent, many of them with family and friends still living on the island. Their base of operations is about 10 miles north of Port Au Prince.” Young said he came to realize the importance of inter-agency cooperation in the relief effort in Haiti. “You do see some of that,” he said, “but unfortunately we notice throughout the history of disaster relief too many agencies work by themselves. Too many people are down there re-inventing the wheel. With better cooperation many of these projects would be much more effective in the long term and we would see better results in the short term, as well.” Young is working toward a master’s degree at Arizona’s Prescott College, a school he says orients much of its education around ecological and social justice. “Through their coursework there are a lot of sustainable agriculture and community development courses. So one idea to gain involvement for students who are able to make their way to Haiti is to be a bridge, to set up an opportunity for these students to be there and share their skills with traditional knowledge already in Haiti.” Young said he will return to Haiti the first of February to resume three projects. He will speak Wednesday (Dec. 29) at 6:30 p.m. at the Iron Gate Grill about what he has done, and will do, in Haiti.

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