Cynthia Leonor Garza
WASHINGTON—On behalf of the 1.4 million members of the American Federation of Teachers, I want to express our heartfelt sympathy for the victims of Haiti’s Jan. 12 earthquake, and their families. We are devastated about the tragic aftermath, and pledge to work with our labor and education partners to assist Haiti on its road to recovery, which we know will be long and difficult.
Although the magnitude of the destruction is still unfolding, we know that tens of thousands have lost their lives, and many more have been injured, orphaned or separated from their families. Haiti now faces the enormous task of reconstructing communities that have been left without food, shelter, clean water, schools, healthcare, power and transportation.
The education sector will be particularly hard hit in this catastrophe, measured not only by the loss of lives among among teachers, students and staff but also by the destruction of entire school buildings and classrooms. Our colleagues in Haiti who are healthcare professionals and public sector workers also will face monumental challenges in saving lives and rebuilding infrastructure.
We commend President Obama for his administration’s swift response and its pledge of the United States’ full support during this crisis. We also want to express our gratitude and respect to all those working to provide much-needed humanitarian assistance. We thank our members here in the United States who have already begun to make donations and volunteer their time through local charities, businesses, community organizations and religious groups, to help and comfort those in need.
The AFT, which is on the board of trustees of the United Way, is encouraging its members to donate through the United Way Worldwide Disaster Fund and the American Red Cross. For information on volunteering, please visit the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
This tragedy has reminded us once again that natural disasters, wherever they occur, have the power to touch us all. The AFT’s leadership, local affiliates and members will work with our partners at Education International, Public Services International and the AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Center to help Haitian communities rebuild for the future.