05/04/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Helping Haiti at Home

The devastating earthquake that struck Haiti has slowly faded from the headlines, but the images of the tragedy and its aftermath remain with us. We remember the destruction and inexplicable loss of life, the grief-stricken faces in provisional and overcrowded hospitals, and the exhausted but heroic aid workers.

The impact of the January 12 earthquake has extended well beyond Haiti's shores, penetrating some of New York City's most vibrant and under-resourced communities. New York City is home to one of the largest Haitian populations outside of Port au Prince - more than 140,000 people - the vast majority of whom live in Brooklyn and Queens.

New York City's Haitian community will face significant long-term challenges as a result of the tragedy. Similar to the weeks, months and years following 9/11, the ripple effects of the disaster will include psychological and emotional impacts such as trauma and grief, as well as very tangible consequences, such as loss of income, orphaned children and the need for legal assistance as more Haitians seek to return or move to our city. All of this puts Haitian American New Yorkers - of all ages - at risk. Right now, these New Yorkers need the support and assistance of the entire New York City community and beyond. That's why United Way of New York City and the Brooklyn Community Foundation have established the NYC Haitian Community Hope and Healing Fund to fill the anticipated void between short term relief and long term realities.

The NYC Haitian Community Hope and Healing Fund will provide financial support and technical assistance to local nonprofit organizations attuned to the social and cultural needs of New York City's Haitian-American communities. It will be a long-term effort, strengthening these organizations so they can most effectively serve the increased number of people who need assistance with immigration, grief and trauma, job training, housing, and English language skills.

The Fund will help local organizations to increase the size of their case management staff, allowing them to better meet the diverse needs of families. Grief support, both in the immediate and long-term, will be available to help the community heal and come together in nurturing environments. The Fund will also offer assistance to those seeking help secure Temporary Protective Status along with other immigration and legal services. Right now, the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Service expects between 100,000 to 200,000 Haitians to apply for temporary protective status.

Education is an essential component of recovery, and we plan to assist those of all ages, from young people who are struggling to keep up in school to adults who would like to improve their English language abilities. In a country where more than 750,000 children are now parentless (approximately 450,000 more orphans than before the earthquake), in the coming months, we can also expect the arrival of many more children who will need a considerable amount of support.

The one positive aspect of this great tragedy is that the earthquake has brought our Haitian community closer in a way never before seen. But they still need the help of the larger New York community to rebuild. Long after pictures of the tragedy in Haiti have faded from the front pages of our newspapers and evening news reports, Haitian communities across the U.S. as well as in Haiti itself will require continued aid to overcome the long-term impact of such a devastating event. It is up to all of us to keep Haiti in our hearts and minds as the community heals and rebuilds.