Earthquake Follow-Up #2

Dear Friends and supporters of Haitian Connection,

It has now been over two weeks since the earthquake hit the Grand’Anse and two other departments in Haiti. Before I give you an update, I want to thank you with a deep sense of gratitude for all of your generous donations to enable Haitian Connection to continue its work of helping the people in the Jeremie area. As people would say here, God will repay you your kindness.

They never give up on God, so even after the earthquake they continue with their religious celebrations. August 25 was the patronal feast of the Cathedral in Jeremie, St. Louis. While the church is no longer usable, the celebratory mass was held in a building that withstood the earthquake. The auditorium was filled.

In Jean Bellune where Haitian Connection is very active, a baptism was celebrated for eight children.

Jean Bellune was severely impacted by the earthquake, but rather than wait for help to arrive, the people made provisional shelters themselves. They are not sitting around waiting for Godot. But the shelters we see are put together with tin, carpet, wood and canvas. The danger is that they will become permanent.

Haitian Connection sent funds to Fr. Jean-Rony, so he and his staff can put together food kits and hygiene kits for 150 families. Having access to basic needs like food and water lessens emotional trauma after these kinds of disasters.

Jean Bellune also benefitted from a small delivery of food items from the John Forrest Foundation and two mobile medical clinics examined 300 patients. They continue to receive bread and comparets from our partner organization, Trees That Feed Foundation.

School for all children in the Grand’Anse will begin in October instead of September 6. We will begin our afterschool program on Monday, since our building is not damaged.

Haitian Connection also mobilized our mental health agents. Mental health care has been identified as a serious need. Haitian Connection works in the communities of Jeremie, Deschamps, Latiboliere, Fond Rouge, and Beaudoin. Our mental health agents are going out on foot and often walk hours to reach these far-flung communities.

An example of our outreach comes from Pastor Erik who has been extensively trained as a mental health agent. He reported that in his community of Deschamps there is a young mother who had gone out on some errands that fateful morning, and her house collapsed on her 2 children, a boy and a girl. Both died. The young mother is so distraught that they had to restrain her. Pastor Erick will go and spend some time her and her family.

One of our health care workers is the head nurse at the Center of Hope, a maternal waiting home for women with high risk pregnancies. She has daily sessions with them, because they are from the surrounding mountain areas of Jeremie, and many received sad news of family members dying and/or their houses having collapsed. Fr. Jean-Rony will integrate mental health counseling in his homilies on Sundays. Our mental health coordinator travels to all these areas and gives our mental health workers support. They too are impacted by the earthquake. We have formed a WhatsApp group so we can stay in touch with each other. Haitian C­­­­onnection is providing phones for those in the group who no longer have a phone or their phone that cannot take WhatsApp. In addition, we provided all of our staff (all volunteers) with food kits for them and their families. They also receive a small monthly stipend.

We have been asked for building materials and will provide those in a few weeks. These materials are for home reparations, not for new home construction.

At this point we see that survival overrides emotional shock. Haitians are often applauded for their inner strength, but here is grief behind their resilience. I do not like to use the word resilience much. Haitians are often described as “resilient” — as if it were a badge of honor they’ve proudly earned.  Most Haitians take it as a compliment, a sign of strength, a survival skill for staying alive in the most unimaginable and destitute circumstances in the 21st century. But this narrative is dangerous. It supports the narrative that Haiti is supposed to survive rather than thrive.

Again, many thanks for your support. I will keep up with these follow ups until they are no longer necessary.

One love,