Honouring Canadians who died in the earthquake

One year after a disastrous earthquake devastated Haiti, killing more than 250,000 people including 58 Canadians, the country continues to rebuild. Some of those projects are being built to continue the work of Canadian victims of the quake.

Twelve months ago, a powerful earthquake ripped through the small, impoverished nation of Haiti. The aftermath was shocking: nearly a quarter of a million people killed; one million homeless; eight out of 10 buildings levelled in some areas; much of the country's infrastructure in ruins.

The death toll included 58 Canadians, many of whom were in the country with NGOs or the UN working to help the less fortunate. Some were providing desperately needed health care or engineering services while others were helping to teach badly needed skills or to train local police forces.

After the disaster, friends and family of those Canadians started projects designed to honour the memory and to continue the generous work of those who died.

These are some of the projects that are attempting to achieve some measure of good after a disaster that changed the lives of so many:

Sgt. Mark Gallagher Vocational School

RCMP Sgt. Mark Gallagher in his United Nations uniform. (RCMP)
Sgt. Mark Gallagher was in Port-au-Prince training police officers as part of the UN peacekeeping mission when the earthquake struck. He died in the rubble of his apartment.

The RCMP officer had just returned from a Christmas trip to his New Brunswick home during which he was conflicted by the poverty in Haiti in contrast with the luxury in Canada.

"He was very cognizant that Canadians have so much more than others," Lisa Gallagher told CBC News of her husband's desire to help.

Plans are underway to build the Sgt. Mark Gallagher Vocational School  in Riviere Froid to provide Haitian children with skills that will help in the rebuilding of the country, as well as providing the option to start a career and contribute to the economic development of Haiti.

"Mark was a very hands-on person and was always very interested in helping out families in any way, shape or form and knowing that this school is all about providing kids with learning experiences that are really hands-on would certainly mean the world to him," his wife said.

The Friends of Mark Gallagher, in conjunction with the Association pour l'avancement des Nations Unies and the Canadian Teacher's Federation, have raised $250,000 of the roughly $1 million needed to build the school after receiving donations from individuals and corporations as well as hosting galas and events.

"We only started serious fundraising Sept. 1, so we're very, very pleased," John Slipp, co-chair of the group, told CBC News.

Richard Blaquiere, also a co-chair, said they had applied for a grant from the Canadian International Development Agency worth $750,000, which he was hopeful the group would receive after raising the requisite amount to meet the development agency's terms. They expect to hear from CIDA in the next few weeks.

The site of the proposed Sgt. Mark Gallagher Vocational School. The site was home to a high school that was destroyed by the earthquake. (Submitted by Friends of Mark Gallagher)
It will be built on the site of a secondary school that was destroyed during the earthquake, resulting in the deaths of 144 children, four nuns and four lay teachers.

"Well, there is certainly a lot of peace that this brings to me and my family, to know that there is some good that has come out of the tragedy," Lisa Gallagher said of the project. "I think it's also important to remember that we didn't just lose Mark, there were 250,000 lives lost and it's important to always put that into perspective."

The Friends of Mark Gallagher will also need another $1 million to fully equip the school once construction is complete. Blaquiere said they will introduce the school's various programs — which could range from carpentry to computer skills — one-by-one as they gather and distribute the necessary funds.

The project is a long-term commitment, he said.

"We're not going to build the school and then turn around and walk away from it and say, 'Good luck.' The idea is that the Friends of Mark Gallagher then will be supportive of the school for years to come," Blaquiere said.

For Lisa Gallagher, the school project is an extension of her husband's compassion and dedication to the country.

"This project is all about who Mark was as a person, it's about giving back. It's providing others with an opportunity and that's what Mark was always striving to do," she said.

"He firmly believed that strangers were only friends you haven't met. And that's what this school is all about, providing young people with opportunities and befriending them."

Yvonne Martin Memorial Fund

Yvonne Martin was on her fourth trip to Haiti when the earthquake struck. The retired nurse, who had spent 36 years working at a family clinic in Elmira, Ont., was in the country to work at health centres operated by the Kitchener-based Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada.

Always ready to aid others, her medical experience was the best way she could help the people of Haiti, explained her son Luke Martin. She was motivated by both her Christian faith and a desire to always stay active in humanitarian causes, he said.

"Imagine, she has 40 years of nursing experience, that's the most valuable asset that she has, and it was something she could immediately deliver," he said. "She loved heading up into the highland areas every year and being able to hold those babies and to truly nurse those people."

Yvonne Martin. ((Courtesy of the Martin family.))
When news of her death reached their community, Martin said people immediately began asking how they could contribute. The family met with officials from the EMCC and decided to create a fund in her name that would be used to train Haitian nurses.

"We just said that we wanted it be in Haiti, and that if it could be something that was long term and was connected to the type of work that she was doing, that's what would be meaningful to her," he said.

Lou Geense, director of global initiatives at the EMCC, said $80,000 has been raised, which will go to the Gens de Nantes Health Centre in the country's northeast.

A portion of the money will be used for upgrades and medicine for the facility, he said, but the majority will go to education, adding there was enough to train 100 nurses.

A team from the EMCC will be at the health centre until the end of January, determining exactly how to use the fund, and it will be distributed not long after, Geense said.

"We have a fairly good track that we're running on and there should be a really significant impact because of what Yvonne has done for Haiti," he said.

It was his mother's goodwill that inspired so many to contribute, Martin said.

"These donations are from small communities and a lot of that would have been from the Mennonite community in the area, the Elmira area as well," he said. "These aren't wealthy people who donated to the fund by any means, but I think people gave what they could, understanding or appreciating the sacrifice that she'd made and that she wanted to keep on making."

As such, the memorial fund is a way to prolong the charitable work of Yvonne Martin.

"It continues, more or less, in the spirit of what my Mom was hoping to offer for the rest of, what would hopefully have been, a long life," he said.

Katie Hadley wells

Katie Hadley was in Haiti to conduct an environmental assessment of the Canadian Embassy for Franz Environmental, an Ottawa-based consulting firm. Her body was recovered from the Hotel Montana, where she had checked in only moments before the earthquake.

A series of wells were built in her memory with donations from her friends and colleagues by Lifewater, a volunteer-run organization that works to ensure safe access to water.

The first was completed on Jan. 29, 2010 in the Hatian village of Matin Noix.

Village elders expressed their thanks in a letter sent to Hadley's family. "We are a village of 1,000 souls. We put our heads together, organized a committee and
The well built in Katie Hadley's memory in the Haitian village of Matin Noix. ((Courtesy Chris Ludwig and Lifewater))
looked for a way to get safe water," they wrote. "Now you have come! Many of us have lost children and so we cry along with you. But we also want you to know that just like Jesus died to save our souls, your Katie's death brought us the water we need to live."

"We will also remember her as a daughter of our village when we come to draw her water," they said.

Over the course of the next three weeks, the group dug two more wells in Upper Ravine and Bois Caiman and repaired another in City Marcel. All for Haitian communities and all through donations given in the name of Katie Hadley.