Earthquake Follow-Up #3

Dear Friends and Supporters,

It is with a deep sense of gratitude that I write this follow-up. Because of your incredible generosity, we are able to do small things to lighten the load for the victims of this earthquake.

First, I would like to give a summary of the damage that this disaster has caused in the Grand’Anse:

  • 227 dead, 29 missing, 1844 people injured, 44,331 affected families
  • 12,830 houses destroyed, 28,933 houses damaged,
  • 10 health centers damaged, 3 health centers completely destroyed,
  • 108 schools completely destroyed, 115 school damaged,
  • 31 churches completely destroyed, 86 churches damaged,
  • 18 orphanages damaged.

This is a lot to bear for a poor country that did not have much of an infrastructure even before the earthquake. But I learned from a Haitian peasant that if you want to climb the mountain, you do not look at the top—you look down to where you put your feet. With your help, we have been able to take some small steps:

  1. We have doubled the usual stipend for the 10 women in our cash without condition program.
  2. We distributed food and hygiene kits for 200 families in Jean Bellune, as well as solar lamps for 12 families.
  3. Our distribution of bread and komparets continues, and we are offering peanut butter with those.
  4. We sent funds to do another distribution of food kits in Jean Bellune, because the need is great.
  5. We will also do a food distribution in Latiboliere; money has just been sent. The bank we are using in Jeremie for our transfers just re-opened this past Monday, so that makes things a bit easier.
  6. We also just sent money to Deschamps, another outlying area that we work in. They want to start on building repairs.
  7. Jean Bellune is also starting on building repairs by tearing down the elementary school completely. It has been so damaged in the earthquake that it presents a danger to let it stand as is.
  8. Even though school is not in session, we started our afterschool program to help provide some activities for the children who are hungering for something to do and to be with other children.

Fr. Rick Frechette, in his latest update on St. Luke Foundation’s earthquake relief, writes the following:

Somehow the chemistry of what you are personally dealing with changes when you lend a hand to someone else in need. This ancient practice of compassion for others from your own base of suffering brings both distance and healing.

Our community mental health workers, who are themselves victims of the earthquake’s destruction, demonstrate what Fr. Rick is talking about. They are doing an amazing job giving support to other community members. In Latiboliere (Latibolye in Creole), 30 community members gather for what was supposed to be a one-hour session, but they continued for three hours. And the participants want to do this every Saturday.

Fr. Jean-Rony from Jean Bellune is having an open forum during every Mass for parishioners to come forward and share what they lived through during the earthquake. Many have tears in their eyes, but there is also laughter. Pastor Erick, a Baptist minister in Deschamps, has made it his vision to visit those traumatized by the earthquake, sharing his presence and a consoling word with them. He also has sessions with the members of his church to give them a chance to voice what they are going through.

We just got a call from Bodwen to come and speak with them. The reaction of all who participate shows how grateful they are to talk about their experiences and be listened to. What we hear is that people are not at peace: they still feel the earth shake, even when it is not shaking; they still do not go inside their homes—they sleep outside under a tree or in a provisional shelter made out of tarp. They all have family member(s) who died. It will take a long time to create a sense of security, but if this event has shown anything, it is that Haitians are helping Haitians in many small ways that are incredibly important.

With thanksgiving,