Our neighbors need help

By Chuck Kajer, Managing Editor

The lead stories in this week's issue of The Times reflect an event that happened far away.

At first glance, you wouldn't think last week's earthquake in Haiti would have much of an impact in a town like New Prague. The earthquake hit thousands of miles away on a distant island.

But our world has changed dramatically. We've since learned that Haiti is really right in our country's backyard. The people of Haiti are our neighbors. This edition of The Times carries a story about a young woman who grew up in Haiti but now lives in New Prague. Other stories feature two long-time residents of New Prague who now call Haiti home for nine months out of the year, doing mission work and two other local families who have been working at establishing a children's center on the impoverished island.

The history of Haiti is a tragedy. A once prosperous and beautiful land has been steeped in poverty for decades due in part to a series of corrupt governments. Hillsides that once featured lush forests were cut down for wood, leaving the land susceptible to mudslides during the tropical storms so common in the Caribbean. Haiti was described by one network commentator as the last third-world country in the Western Hemisphere.

The past few years, the nation made strides with a new government and a massive effort to rebuild after hurricanes devastated the land.

Now, much of the nation's largest city, Port-au-Prince, is in ruins, and tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people are dead. The need for quick assistance is critical before the problems compound and escalate out of control.

There are at least two locally-based organizations working to provide assistance. Information on how to give can be found in two stories that start on Page 1. We urge people to give generously to help the people of Haiti during this time of need. It is the neighborly thing to do.

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