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.