The HIBISCUS Memorial Project is intended to honor and remember the victims of the 2010 earthquake by proposing a network of national commemorative parks consisting of ten Memorial sites (one in each department). In each Memorial park a symbolic tree will be planted in remembrance of each victim. Three hundred thousand trees will be planted in all. The goal of HIBISCUS is to commemorate the tragic loss of lives, encourage an environmental awakening in Haiti that will promote reforestation, and foster an environmental transformation.
In the wake of the devastating Haiti earthquake of 2010, there remain pressing long-term needs which affect the entire population. The HIBISCUS Memorial Project proposes solutions for two of the main issues, namely acknowledging and responding to the grief of the population, and addressing the deforestation which ravages Haiti.
On January 12, 2010 a massive 7.0 earthquake shook Haiti to its core, leaving in its wake a shattered and devastated country whose citizens suffered unimaginable emotional, physical, and psychological trauma. The Haiti earthquake of 2010 ranks as one of the most devastating and deadly natural disasters in world history. Lasting thirty-five seconds, it left approximately 300,000 people dead, another 300,000 injured – many permanently disabled, over a million homeless and damages estimated at 14 billion dollars . Undoubtedly, with 80% of Haiti’s population living in poverty, the earthquake has exacerbated an already grave economic situation. To date, it is estimated that only 50% of the up to 22 million cubic yards of the heavy debris that comprises the building ruins has been removed. Within this rubble many of the dead remain buried in anonymity, never to be found, never to be identified by their families and friends. Often, even the bodies that had been pulled from the rubble were not spared such a tragic end as they were unceremoniously dumped in mass graves without a proper burial, dignity, or remembrance. In all of these cases, families and friends of the victims were never given the chance to say goodbye to their loved ones. Thus, they have not had the chance to grieve properly, and we surmise that until they can do so, their wounds will never be healed. Similarly, Haiti, with its capital in ruins in the earthquake’s aftermath, will never be healed until it has found a way to understand and learn from this catastrophe and the series of disasters, both natural and man-made, that have beleaguered the country throughout its history.
Let the understanding begin with the realization that although the earthquake of 2010 was cataclysmic in many ways, it was made worse by the increased density in the capital, poor construction practices, and rampant deforestation and environmental degradation which has plagued the country for almost a century. In 1923, over 60% of Haiti’s land was forested; by 2006, that number was less than 2%. Ninety-eight percent of the country’s trees have been cut down for use as building materials and products, firewood, and charcoal for domestic and industrial use, with no consideration of replenishing the tree supply. It is widely accepted that in Haiti, the environment, the economy and the country’s general well-being are intrinsically connected. Thus, extreme deforestation is alternately a cause and effect of an endless cycle of poverty that has brought the country to the point of environmental and economic devastation. The disappearance of trees with their deep root structures has created many devastating environmental effects, including a change in weather patterns, droughts, desertification and an extreme vulnerability to hurricanes and tropical storms. This has led directly to the increased occurrence of floods, which in turn have caused soil erosion. An estimated 15,000 acres of topsoil are washed away each year after the rains. The cumulative effect has been the diminution of the once fertile Haitian farmland and pressure on what little remains. Since 70% of all Haitians depend on the agricultural sector and farmland for their livelihood, it is clear that reversing the tide of deforestation is crucial to saving Haiti’s environment, economy, and people.
Local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have had a presence in Haiti for several decades. They have been involved in a variety of environmental and economic programs including intensive reforestation, planting and harvesting of trees as a cash-crop, sustainable agriculture (eg. agroforestry), development of alternative fuel sources, irrigation systems, and watershed management. Yet, with no coordinated vision and/or widespread support for this work, these projects have been unable to yield a substantial, significant, or measurable transformation of Haiti’s environment.
Thus, two crucial requirements for achieving the goals outlined in this proposal will be, first, strong coordination between organizations conducting existing environmental and economic programs in Haiti, and second, the fostering of a universal movement within Haiti that rekindles the unifying spirit seen in the aftermath of the earthquake, where Haitians were the first responders, valiantly helping one another. Ultimately, this is the path to creating a self-sustaining Haiti.
Goals of the HIBISCUS Memorial Project
A description and components for every aspect of the above-stated goals are laid out in detail within our proposal with information on how to proceed step-by-step, along with who to call upon for strategic, technical, and financial partners. A timetable is presented, as well as notes pertaining to the acquisition of land, construction, and operation.
If interested in becoming involved with this project, please contact Magali Regis at firstname.lastname@example.org.