Hearts with Haiti

The country of Haiti is now facing an unprecedented level of death and destruction, as an earthquake measuring 7.0 has literally destroyed Port au Prince. Hundreds of thousands are believed dead, and what little infrastructure the country had (very, very little) has been wiped out. Calamities of this scope and magnitude are frankly hard to comprehend, and as the death toll rises higher and higher, as it surely will, many of us will find it difficult to grasp the enormity of the numbers. I find that individual stories of drama and survival bring home the reality of cataclysmic events better than grim statistics can.

I’m sure we’ll be hearing many riveting and heartbreaking stories out of Haiti as the days pass. For now, I thought I would share an email I just received from a Methodist minister cousin of mine who is intimately involved with a non-profit organization that works with a series of homes for boys and disabled children, both in Petionville (the “wealthy” area that we hear so much about on the news) and Jacmel (on the South coast).

Dear Friends of the St. Joseph Family (Wings of Hope Home, Trinity House, St. Joseph’s Home) in Haiti:

Thanks for your calls and emails during the past twenty-four hours. I will summarize the news I have received so far.

Structural damage at the St. Joseph’s Home in Petionville is severe. When the quake hit, the children were outside awaiting the bell for chapel. Bill Nathan, the director, was inside preparing for chapel. Supposedly a neighborhood child or two was inside with Bill, assisting. Bill escaped by jumping from the roof of St. Joseph’s to a neighboring roof and was severely injured in the process. The neighborhood helper was pulled from the St. Joseph’s rubble. Bill Nathan and SJ resident TiPatrick are in the line at the Baptist Mission Hospital beside Wings of Hope in Fermathe awaiting treatment. Bill’s injuries are severe but not immediately life threatening.

Michael Geilenfeld, Renee Dietrich, and K.C. Bersch are fine. Michael walked up the street and saw for himself that the Caribbean Market was demolished, with many shoppers inside. He said there were many dead there.

Wings of Hope Home in Fermathe had just undergone architectural strengthening and repair. It suffered damage but did not collapse. The children and staff are all huddled in the guest dining room, formerly the gift shop, at street level. Several US visitors are with them and accounted for, including Al and Gail Beisiegel of Blair Road UMC, Charlotte. (Visitors from Providence UMC, Charlotte, are also safe in various other places.)

Trinity House in Jacmel is fine. Reports are that about 30% of the structures in Jacmel were leveled and that the seabed rose so that the shoreline is now half a mile out to sea around Jacmel.

We have heard that Dja (of the Carla, Ari, and Dja team) is alive. Pastor Leon, especially well known around the NC Triangle, is alive. Jacqui LaBrom of Voyages Lumieres is alive. The Hotel Oloffson in PAP is standing, but most others aren’t. No word from Christophe Lang of the Hotel Cyvadier Plage in Jacmel.

Members of the Hearts with Haiti Board of Directors have had preliminary discussions about our emergency response, and we believe that financial contributions are the most important priority right now. We will incur great expense stabilizing and rebuilding these homes. The cost of caring for the children in the interim will be great. Water, food, and medical care will be exorbitant for Michael Geilenfeld and the Houses’ leadership. A medical evacuation or two might be necessary also. Therefore, we are encouraging everyone to donate securely and generously online at http://www.heartswithhaiti.org. There are instructions there for mailing a check if that’s your preference. Please do this as soon as you can so we can be ready when Michael tells us how much he needs to survive near-term. It’s tax deductible and our organization has the tiniest administrative overhead. At least 95% of donations goes directly to the children and their upkeep. (We have a little bit of office help in Raleigh and costs for postage and mailings; that’s about it.)

Keep checking the Hearts with Haiti website and their facebook fan page for the latest updates.



Patrick S. Hamrick
Board of Directors
Hearts with Haiti, Inc.

I travelled with Patrick to Haiti for a week in 2008 to visit the homes where his organization works, and I saw first-hand how impoverished the country is. I can’t even imagine how horrible life must be for everyone now. Frankly, I suspect Patrick’s email is pretty upbeat, considering what might have been, and what surely is the situation for many other Haitians. But I hope this gives you a small taste of the concerns that so many have for their friends and loved ones in the country.

I hope everyone in the Bloggernacle will make a point of opening their hearts and wallets for the people of Haiti. Go to www.heartswithhaiti.org if you want to help out Patrick’s organization. Or please donate to another organization or organizations that can make a real difference on the ground.

I invite suggestions of other worthy organizations from readers.


  1. I would suggest the Red Cross or MercyCorps. Both very good organizations performing some well-needed triage in the mess.

  2. J. Nelson-Seawright says:

    The problems here are going to go beyond the capacities of NGOs. While I support these appeals, I would also encourage US readers to write their representatives and senators urging them to work for immediate and serious US government assistance to get Haiti back on its feet, prevent unnecessary further deaths, and stave off the prospect of an anarchic failed state in Haiti.

  3. john willis says:

    All good ideas. How about the next time you pay tithing and/or fast offering making a donation using the “humanitarian aid” line of the donation slip ?

    I would not be surprised if the Church in the next few days announces that you can designate a humaniatrian aid donation for Haitaian relief. This was done in the aftermath of the 2004 Tsunami.

  4. John, that is a good idea as well, but in terms of presence and infrastructure in Haiti there are better options. Church Humanitarian Aid does a great job, though.

  5. I agree with JNS. I would suggest the US military.

  6. Thanks for sharing the email. Great insight.

    1. Text “Haiti” to 90999 to donate $10 to RedCross – 100% donation goes to Haiti relief, and adds to your phone bill. Your cell carrier keeps nothing. I did this. It took 20 seconds. It’s quick and easy. You get a response text to reply “yes” for confirming. Then you receive a text receipt.

    2. Donate online to LDS Humanitarian Relief: http://give.lds.org/emergencyrelief

    Sending prayers to all involved with this tragedy.

  7. J. Nelson-Seawright says:

    The New York Times reports that the US military is getting involved, sending an aircraft carrier to serve as a home base for helicopters and airplanes carrying supplies into Haiti, and also probably sending 2000 Marines to serve as a police force in Port-au-Prince. These actions may not be enough; in any case, contacting legislators with expressions of support can help make sure that the political will power exists to keep moving forward.

    None of this replaces giving to humanitarian relief efforts, but NGOs aren’t good at things like policing a city.

  8. UNICEF is a great organization that helps children in dire situations. We’ve donated to them back in the tsunami of 2004.


  9. You know as I learned through the day just how bad this disaster was I thought back on my mission.

    I ended up being called to the California San Jose Mission a year after the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989. In the aftermath of that quake I saw a lot of what the destruction had done to malls, houses and to the Stanford museum.

    But to me the most interesting part was the human side, as it would be for most. We had a lady we were teaching who in the quake had her rather large hutch walk over to her and collapse at her feet just within inches of crushing this 80 year old woman. Meanwhile her neighbour had his house collapse into rubble at the same time.

    My trainer meanwhile had nightmares and broke out into a cold sweat after some aftershocks six months after the fact. He had been biking in San Jose with his companion when it started. It had thrown him off his bike and as he stood up he could see the street moving in waves.

    I think back at those, including the collapse of I880 freeway and it reminds me how small we are as humans. In the face of natural events all we can do is hold on and hope for the best.

  10. Latter-day Guy says:

    Thanks for sharing that, Aaron. And thanks for all the good ideas for ways to donate.

    I agree that we should encourage US gov’t assistance by whatever means possible. However, JNS, don’t the words “anarchic failed state” simply describe the status quo in Haiti? Talking to missionaries I know who have been there (we had a Haitian language program in my stateside mission) has given me the impression that the situation there has been awful for a long time. Mightn’t we suggest that whatever our help is going to be, perhaps this is an opportunity to help fix some things that were horrible there before the earthquake?

  11. Nancy Bennett says:

    It is wonderful to learn that Dja (Djalòki Dessables) is alive. Do any of you know if Carla Bluntschli and Ari Nicholas and their families are ok?


  12. Pat Hansen says:

    I am a member of the Evangelical Church of America and have stayed at St. Joseph’s for many years. It has been a haven for many of us doing work in Haiti. Unfortunately it is now the tomb for Benjamin Larson of Wartburg seminary. Benjamin, his wife Renee and their cousin, Jon Larson were working in Haiti with us last week. Jon and Renee escaped.
    Ben did not. Please pray for them and their families. Pat

  13. Steve Evans says:

    Poor Ben. Pat, our prayers are with you.

  14. I just reviewed some historical info on Haiti. I think that the international community should see fit to cancel Haiti’s debt.

    This would give Haiti the opportunity to start afresh free from the shackles of debt piled up by its corrupt leaders that goes all the way back to France in 1804

  15. Pat Hansen says:

    Dear bbell: The socalled Jubilee act passed toward the end of last year and the World Bank, IMF and others agreed to wipe out the debt Haiti owed. Haiti was paying about 1.5 million a month as service on the debt.

    Also thanks, Steve, for the condolences.

  16. Natalie K. says:

    Probably a better place for this, but I really, really think someone should add this video to BCC’s sidebar:

    It is by far the most moving thing I’ve seen in a very long time, and incredibly relevant given current events in Haiti.

    Also, in speaking with a couple Haitian friends of mine, they said that the Red Cross and the Salvation Army are the two most widely-known and involved organizations in Haiti. It seems they probably already have the organization to distribute the aid needed in the most efficient manner possible.

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