So many times natural disasters occur and there are no warning signs to prepare the people who will soon be affected by what was coming. In the case of Haiti’s most recent flooding in the northern city of Cap Haitien, this was just the case.
The name Haiti is derived from the word Ayiti which was given to this island by the native who lived here before the Europeans arrived. Ayiti simply means “Land of Mountains”. Its unique ranges of mountains and plateaus are able to create a natural barrier for big storms that move through the Caribbean. For example, hurricane Matthew that just rocked the southern peninsula of Haiti was the largest storm to directly hit our island in 60 years, but even still, our city of Cap Haitien had no strong winds, and we saw only about an inch of rain in the three day period around the storm. This was all due to those mountains diverting the wind and rain right around us.
Although these mountains protect us so diligently, they can sometimes also work against us. Typically hurricanes move in a northerly direction and the mountains protect us, but when a storm comes in a southerly direction, those same mountains will cradle those same clouds right over our city.
That is what happened to us last week. The rain started on a Saturday evening and did not stop for 3 whole days. The rain started light at first and then hard. The wind picked up and began blowing the trees; hundreds of mangos flew from their branches and banged loudly against my tin roof over my stairs. We moved buckets and tubs and towels to catch all of the water that was leaking through our cement roof. Fortunately for my house and the Emmaus houses, we did not have any water come into our homes. All was dry. But from what I saw though, I knew it was going to be bad for our community.
I called our Haitian director to our program and checked in on him. The phone call was not clear. What I could understand though was that he was out gathering people out of their homes and forcing them to get their children to shelters and find somewhere dry to sleep.
The community was inundated. Other communities were hit hard with rushing water from the mountain side and mudslides washing away cars and homes. But in our community, there were thousands of homes with water flowing through them. Hundreds of thousands were affected or displaced. It was bad.
God blessed me with electricity during the storm and I was able to communicate with the Emmaus House board in the states. We needed to get the word out. Funds must be raised to help these people. They were surely in desperate need.
We started pooling money that we could use, but felt like we needed to put the word out on Facebook. Once we shared pictures and the needs, money started pouring in. So many people were willing to help! Churches gave, individuals sent money, and other local missions sent money to us to help. It was amazing! Everyone was really coming through for the people of Cap Haitien!
We don’t have all of the money in our hands yet. It takes time to mobilize donors and gather funds. But with what we have been able to get our hands on now, we have been able to help those in the most need. Hot meals, dry food to take home, and cleaning supplies like brooms, mops, Clorox, and shovels have been distributed and are helping hundreds of people clean up and get their lives back on track.
Here are a few pictures from our most recent food distribution in the community of Madeline so that you can see how your funds are already being put to good use!
We went to our Haitian director's house to prepare for the distribution.
The Emmaus youth bagged up rice and beans to separate out among the people that we would see.
The local women worked together to make a hot meal for the people at the shelter.
When the food was ready, we made our way through the community to a local church.
This is church/school is where 40 people stayed while the rain was falling.
Looking out the back of the church building.
At first the crowd was calm and willing to listen to instructions.
We had our food and cleaning supplies that we were going to give out.
The people began pushing and struggling to get anything they could.
We were preparing to serve around 40 or 50, but when we counted out plates at the end, we had served 125 people.
In the end, we felt good about what happened. They people got a little crazy for a bit, but you it is easy to see that they are desperate. There were many more people out on the street that were coming in and out to get their food as well.
With the money that is being gathered and sent ASAP, we are planning to continue with providing food to those in needs, but we will move away from the emergency needs, and move in a direction of long term helping for those in need. This would be to help prevent Cholera by providing cleaning supplies and soap, providing mattresses for families who lost all of theirs to the water and mud, and by assessing the needs door to door so we can find other ways to bring specific aid options to those people who are in the most need.
Emmaus House would like to thank everyone who had given to help with the flood recovery efforts. To date we have raised nearly $10,000 to help those in need. We are still gathering more money to help with the continued needs that we are discovering. We will keep everyone posted with the updates on how the money is being used. Thank you! -Hunter