Our team of 3 trucks full of volunteers, doctors, food, water, medicines, and clothing passed through many areas of flooding on the way to Cabaret. Very few places in the country were left untouched by the back-to-back storms this month. On our way out we had a UN escort. Once we got to their base--a few miles from our destination--we were surprised to see our small UN jeep escort upgrade to two large armored personnel carriers.
Along the way, one of the vehicles in our caravan had a flat tire and overheated. That's usually par for the course when going anywhere in Haiti. Soon after we all got out to stretch our legs, Pam and I became instant celebrities to the Jordanian peacekeepers escorting us. We had to pose with different soldiers in the group as they took turns taking pictures. As strange as the experience was, it still helped to lighten the mood before experiencing difficult sights ahead. Plus, we got to hold a big gun.
When we arrived in Desca, a small village just north of Cabaret, we were amazed by how much water was still rushing through. A stream that is easily crossed had cut a huge path through the middle of the village. Even more difficult is the fact that the waters started to rise at 2am-- without any warning.
We arrived at a point where our tank escorts could not squeeze through. After our nice upgrade, they were forced to back up and turn around to find smaller vehicles to take us the rest of the way. We weren't allowed to begin food distribution until all of the caravan made it safely to the distribution point.
Finally we were able to organize the families of victims to hand out food, water, and clothing. We also had a clinic with two doctors examining those wounded or sick from the storms. Lastly, Pam and I were documenting the many school children who would now need sponsorship.
Sadly, about 20% of the children from the school were killed in the flood.
When we left that day we were all stunned by the gravity of the situation. At the same time, however, it was so amazing to be able to contribute in some small way to help a community get back on its feet. A lot of media attention is focused on Gonaives, and rightly so. But the smaller communities affected are sometimes forgotten by the rest of the world. I have been so encouraged by the number of people who heard about the devastation here and were ready and willing to help. Haiti is a very small country, but there are a lot of very needy people here. The poorest are always the most affected by disasters such as these.
The story doesn't end here...check back soon for part III!