P.O. Box 2563
Staunton, VA 24402-2563
March 2010 Volume 4 No. 2
This month’s pictures show rice stored at the rectory awaiting distribution and men preparing Father’s boat to deliver food to the coastal villages
It has been 9 weeks since a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti on January 12th and destroyed much of the capital city of Port-au-Prince and cities on the southern peninsula. Initial reports from La Gonave were that very little damage had been sustained there. That was true only in comparison to the destruction of buildings on the mainland. Actually, there was significant damage on LaGonave. Some houses collapsed and foundations cracked in many buildings and cisterns. The water distribution pipes from the holding tank in Pointe-a-Raquette were also damaged. The damage left many structures uninhabitable and, since January is in the middle of the dry season, left many people on the island searching for water.
As the residents of LaGonave struggled to obtain information about family members on the mainland, many of those family members were making their way to LaGonave. We estimate that between 15,000 and 20,000 people fled the capital and came to the island of LaGonave in search of food, water, and medical care. This placed a severe strain on the already scarce food supply. Father had several people living in the rectory and others at the clinic. Many were sleeping outside in the clinic courtyard immediately following the earthquake.
Dr. Medgine was seeing seriously injured patients in the clinic. These people had traveled to LaGonave with terrible crush injuries. Many patients had severe infections because their injuries had not been treated for many days after the earthquake. She was not equipped to deal with traumatic injuries of this kind although she did her best. We were very relieved when the US Navy arrived in Pointe-a-Raquette about 10 days after the earthquake. Navy personnel brought water and some food (about 500 meals) with them, but, more importantly, they transported several severely injured patients by helicopter to the mainland or to Navy vessels for medical care.
Through the incredible generosity of the parishioners at St. Francis, St. John the Evangelist, and other donors, we were able to send funds immediately following the earthquake to provide emergency food for the people of La Gonave. The banks could not conduct business because the bank buildings had collapsed. No funds could be transferred in the usual manner, so we had to send cash to Father. Friends from the Waynesboro Mennonite Church, who were traveling to Port-au-Prince with medical personnel and supplies, generously carried money to Fr. Roosevelt for us. Men were sent to the mainland in sailboats to purchase quantities of rice. The sailboats delivered food to the villages along the coast, and people came down from the mountains to Pointe-a-Raquette on donkeys or on foot to receive rice.
In some ways, things are somewhat calmer now, but, as the people on La Gonave try to rebuild, it is very difficult. Most families lost relatives in the quake and its aftermath. Many of the deceased were in Port-au-Prince working to provide for their families on LaGonave, so even families who previously had support are
now struggling. Many families on the island have relatives and friends still living with them because they have no homes to return to on the mainland. The situation in Haiti will not be easy to fix and will require a long-term comprehensive plan and extensive investment. Meanwhile, there are many more hungry people on La Gonave.
Our colleague Dr. Mary Tacy, a professor at JMU, just returned from spending a week with Fr. Roosevelt in Pointe-a-Raquette. She reports that the people are somber and very afraid of another earthquake. Even the buildings that did not appear to suffer major damage have cracks in them, and many people are still afraid to sleep inside.
There are about 30 orphans now living in Pointe-a-Raquette. Some of them are living with family members, but many have lost their entire families. Fr. Roosevelt has placed some of these children with families in the parish, but three children are living at the rectory because there is no place else for them to be housed.
While Mary was there, a ship from Florida arrived in Anse-Galets on the north side of the island. This ship had been commissioned by a missionary who works in Anse-Galets and carried 80,000 pounds of food and construction supplies for rebuilding. Mary had previously arranged that when the ship arrived, 320 bags of rice (16,000 pounds) were to come to Fr. Roosevelt for distribution in Pointe-a-Raquette and the chapels. Boats took rice to the coastal villages and supplies for people in the mountains were taken by truck. This delivery was a blessing, since it will provide almost 5,000 subsistence meals a day for 14 days for the people. Rice prices have come down a bit, and Father will continue to purchase as much rice as possible for distribution.
The children have returned to school at Our Lady of Pointe-a-Raquette Catholic School. The number of students has increased dramatically because of the influx of people to La Gonave. On January 11, 2010, there were 171 students. Today, there are over 200 students in school. We are looking for sponsors for these new students. Please contact Linda Kofeldt at 885-7763 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to sponsor a schoolchild for $20.00 a month.
Although it is already raining on the mainland, the rains have not yet started on La Gonave. There is still time for repairs to be made to the cisterns and buildings before the rains start. It is critical that the cisterns be functional before the rains come, since use of rainwater supplements the available well water on the island for several months of the year.
Fr. Roosevelt has obtained a block maker. This will allow workers to make concrete blocks for rebuilding. They will also require a considerable amount of cement for repairs to buildings and cisterns. Building supplies are available in Haiti, and every purchase made there is helpful to the local economy.
Thank you for your overwhelming support in this emergency. $59,304.13 has been donated to Haiti Outreach for earthquake relief. Although emergency needs must be met, we remain committed to empowering the people of Pointe-a-Raquette to support themselves through sustainable enterprises. We will be bringing Wilky Estinvil back to LaGonave as soon as the rains start. He will work with the community gardeners and help to set up more gardens.
Men anpil chay pa lou. Many hands make the load lighter. Bondye beni ou. God bless you