Haiti earthquake a grim reminder for Chandler Council’s Ellis SanTan Sun News

Haiti earthquake a grim reminder for Chandler Council’s Ellis

August 30th, 2021 SanTan Sun News
Haiti earthquake a grim reminder for Chandler Council’s Ellis
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By Ken Sain, Staff Writer

Chandler Councilwoman Christine Ellis has a message for the people of her native Haiti: Not this time.

In 2010, a devastating earthquake rocked the island and killed tens of thousands. Exactly how many is disputed, but it’s estimated between 85,000 to 300,000.

The world rallied, donating billions of dollars to help with relief efforts. However, in a country with a reputation for corrupt officials, many residents said they never saw any of that money or the food and supplies that were donated.

“This time, we have positioned ourselves to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Ellis said.

On the morning of Aug. 14 another earthquake struck the island. So far it has claimed about 2,200 lives and tens of thousands more are homeless.

Ellis is a member of the National Haitian American Elected Officials Network. They are planning to send a delegation to Haiti this week to meet with elected officials to ensure all the money and supplies donated get to the people who need them.

“In 2010, I was in the middle of the thing, fighting, raising a lot of medical supplies for Haiti, but a lot of people did not get it,” Ellis recalled. “All the money that was promised to Haiti, a majority of it did not go there.”

The network had planned to send a delegation to Haiti Friday, and originally Ellis was going to be among that group. However, they rescheduled the trip for Monday.

Ellis said she can’t make it on that day because she and other Council members will be preparing for a League of Arizona Cities and Towns meeting that starts Tuesday.

Ellis said if she had made the trip, it would have been with one goal in mind.

“The primary goal is to make sure the elected officials in Haiti are responsible and accountable for whatever they receive,” she said.

She said it’s not just Haitian officials they worry about. They also want to make sure nonprofits in the U.S. are getting the money to Haiti that they promised, pointing out concerns they have with the Clinton Foundation and the International Red Cross.

Alix Desulme serves on the city council for North Miami in Florida and is chairman of NHAEON. He said the group is taking a lead in making sure this time there is transparency and accountability for whatever is donated to help people in Haiti.

“We’re planning to give more details on our transparency portal, probably next week,” Desulme said. He said any person who group that donates, should be able to track their donation so they will see where that money or supplies went.

He said they are partnering with other Haitian-American groups and plan to act as an auditor. He said that will help ensure 2021 is not like 2010.

“We know people took the stuff,” he said of 2010 relief efforts.

Ellis left Haiti in 1982 and has lived in Chandler since 1987. The former nurse made history when she was elected to Chandler City Council last year as its first Black woman member.

She said the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that hit this month was in the southeast part of Haiti, where she is from. Ellis said it mostly spared her old neighborhood.

“My family, and the village that I’m from was not as much as affected, but all the other ones in between were extremely (impacted).”

Ellis said one reason there was not as many deaths this time as 2010 is because the region hit is primarily agricultural. However, she said that will cause food shortage problems later on as that region tries to rebuild.

The people of Haiti have had to overcome a lot recently. A few days after the earthquake struck Tropical Storm Grace came, knocking down many of the makeshift shelters people had built after losing their homes.

Earthquakes and storms seem to find the island often. One thing that was new was the nation’s president was assassinated in July.

“I (know) families that are right now in the streets … it’s not easy,” Ellis said.

Desulme said he usually tries to keep religion out of his political work, but when asked to describe all that Haitians have been through recently, he said: “My grandma used to say, ‘God don’t give you something you can’t handle.’”

He paused.

“I don’t know.

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