Four years after a devastating earthquake rocked Haiti on Jan.12, many in the country have yet to put back together their lives. Working with local grassroots organizations, American Jewish World Service (AJWS) is continuing to provide resources to the recovering nation through grant making and advocacy.

“Tragically, there are hundreds of thousands living in tent camps, with little or no access to potable water or basic health services and Haiti is facing an impending food crisis,” AJWS President Ruth Messinger said.

Rather than implement direct services in Haiti, AJWS uses an innovative grant program that works with local, Haitian led organizations to provide the resources needed for culturally appropriate and locally targeted programs that can best meet community needs.

“Grassroots Haitian organizations, which understand the problems of Haiti, hold the key to success, yet they have been almost uniformly excluded from the decision-making processes governing the post-earthquake international humanitarian response,” Messinger explained, adding that the international community’s unwillingness to listen to those most impacted by the earthquake is “a great failure.”

Many of the organizations supported by AJWS grants are also led by traditionally marginalized groups. Fondation SEROvie, for example, was the only LGBT organization in Haiti at the time of quake. With the support of AJWS, SEROvie has been able to continue its critical employment training and health services to those still in displacement camps.

Fanm Deside (Women Decide) is a womae-led initiative that provides a safe house for 20 women and children in earthquake-torn Jacmal. The group also provides psychological counseling to those in need.

“It is these local heroes who can help the country overcome seemingly insurmountable devastation,” Messinger pointed out.

So far, AJWS has disbursed $5.3 million of the $6.2 million in donations received from 28,000 donors in the Jewish community and beyond to local organizations like Fondation SEROvie and Fanm Deside.

“Haitians are still suffering from the incalculable damage caused by the earthquake that struck Haiti four years ago,” Messinger said, stressing that much work in Haiti remained to be done.