Monday, September 15, 2008

The Aftermath Part II

On Saturday, nearly a week after Ike churned past Haiti, I was able to join some other QCS teachers on a trip to Cabaret, Haiti. Cabaret is a town not too far from us that flooded very quickly in a very short amount of time. Built next to a small river, the town was overtaken by a rush of water from the tree-stripped mountains. The house in the picture serves as an eerie reminder of the destructive forces of nature.  On either side of what's left of this house were more houses and shops that were carved out of the earth by the raging waters. 

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!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The aftermath Part I

Here in Port-au-Prince, we were largely spared the worst of all of the storms. In my neighborhood, we sustained some strong winds and rain, but no major damage.  The rest of the country was not as lucky. Most of the reports I've received are terrible.  Here is a recap of the aftermath of the storms:
Hanna flooded Gonaives, an area that was also badly flooded in 2004. Over 3,000 people died then, and the city still was not ready for another heavy storm. This year less people died but thousands were still left homeless.  Two weeks ago we got word that 12 orphans and their caregivers were rescued off a roof and brought here to Delmas.  At midnight the water came rushing into their orphanage, leaving them only enough time to get to the roof with a day and a half's worth of food. They were there 3 days before a pastor from Port-au-Prince was able to get to them. Once rescued, they weren't able to bring anything but the clothes on their backs, which, for most, were soiled pajamas that barely protected them from the wind and rain. Several teachers from QCS and I were able to meet the kids and find out their specific needs. We went to the market to buy basic groceries, arranged for a doctor to see the sick, and brought over some much-needed clothing. We have also brought the children to the soccer field on our school campus to play games with the students. What an incredible experience to see two worlds--the wealthy students of QCS and the poor orphans of Gonaives--come together in such a difficult time.

May the Lord bless these relationships to brighten Haiti's future!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The worst flood

I got a text message this morning from a fellow teacher informing me the Gonaives was flooding. Hurricane Jean drenched Gonaives in 2004, killing thousands unable to escape the rising waters. Now it is happening again, and what's worse is that no one expected it! Hanna was projected to pass far north of us and head for Florida. Eerily enough it stopped north of Haiti and started heading directly south towards us. The outer bands have been drenching Haiti all day.  The storm is still projected to head north, but it hasn't changed directions yet.  My area is still safe--we've had rain and strong winds on and off all day.  
Please pray for Haiti...this has been the hardest hurricane season yet! In three weeks we've had Fay, Gustav, and now Hanna. There are 2 more storms forming in the Atlantic as well--Ike and Josephine--and they are likely to pass close enough to Haiti to continue the pattern of flooding.