Yesterday, leaders from the St. Luke team traveled to visit the communities in the south of Haiti impacted by Hurricane Matthew, and to investigate, firsthand, the extent of damage to St. Luke schools and facilities.
One team traveled by helicopter to reach isolated locations that have been cut off because of a bridge washout, while two other caravans from St. Luke armed with 500 sacks of rice and 1,000 gallons of water traveled to the provinces to distribute supplies in Les Cayes. Although the team had hoped to reach Jeremie and L’Asile, the hurricane’s destruction made roads impassable.
These communities need immediate assistance. St. Luke’s extensive network and connections mean we can help quickly, efficiently, and with a large impact. Our teams are already on the ground, and already in contact with the people who need the most urgent help. Right now, an estimated 30,000 people in the region of D'Asile, alone, remain isolated with limited supplies.
Our goal is to help at least 5,000 families in the areas listed below. People need food and clean water first and foremost, as well as water purification tablets to prevent sickness. Ultimately, though, families will need help rebuilding their homes, replanting their gardens, restoring their farms, and getting their children back to school.
As you can see, our response to Hurricane Matthew has begun. Your donation will provide immediate assistance to the people of:
- Camp Perrin
- Les Cayes
- St Louis du Sud
- Dame Marie
- Petit Goave
- Cite Soleil and Wharf Jeremie
- Fonds de Blonds
- Baraderes- Grand Boucan
- Petit-Trou de Nippes
- Fond Roi
- Belle Anse
The more money we can raise, the more families we can help.
The below is Father Enzo’s firsthand account and photos of the devastation:
After a first attempt yesterday to fly out to Jeremie, which was aborted after ten minutes due to bad weather, we were able to fly out by helicopter this morning to reach Dame Marie, La Serengue (Abricot) and Jeremie which are all places where the St Luke Foundation for Haiti is present with schools and clinics.
We planned also to visit Les Cayes and Desvarennes, but the weather conditions and the amount of fuel at our disposal for the helicopter, we were ultimately only able to visit Dame Marie, La Serengue (Abricot) and Jeremie today.
Communication with these areas has been totally interrupted since the hurricane, and we had not heard at all from our staff in those areas. Even the bishop who was traveling with us did not know what conditions we would find as all communication had been cut off with his diocese. In fact, we had to go by helicopter because the main bridge to go to the southwest part of Haiti was washed away by the hurricane. Planes can’t land currently as the airstrip in Jeremie is dirt, and is full of mud.
Just before arriving to Jeremie, the helicopter turned slightly inland to reach Dame Marie, where the eye of the hurricane passed. I remember visiting previously the past two years, and remember that compared to the rest of the country the province of Grand Anse had very lush vegetation. What struck me immediately as soon as we turned inland was to see how Hurricane Matthew chopped acres and acres of trees.
When we arrived to Dame Marie, we saw houses spread throughout the vegetation without their roofs, and the rivers grown three times their size. It was heartbreaking. When we were approaching Dame Marie, it was hard to understand even what we were looking at arriving by helicopter. From the air we could see the roof of the parish church blown away and so of the houses, but we saw many colors. Getting closer, we saw that it was clothes hanging everywhere to dry after all those days of rain.
We landed on the football field. We are well known in the area, and Nebez is originally from there. The pilot gave us 15 minutes on the ground because of the weather conditions. As we landed we were surrounded by hundreds of people who began to clap hands, sing and praise God for our arrival. It was almost like they were visited by God. More than bringing food, blankets, clothes or water, I think today it was very important to them to know that they were not abandoned, they are not alone and that they belong to a bigger family. When we left they knew that we will return because of the relationship we have built there and that has always involved the local community.
Nebez and Raphael met with the mayor and leaders of the local community to understand the needs so to better organize and gave them a donation for immediate food and water supplies for the next several days until we can return. They also went to visit our St. Luke school in Dame Marie, which has lost its roof in the hurricane.
On our way back to the helicopter it was amazing to see women washing clothes, cooking, drying the corn or the rice in the sun, to see the notebooks and books of the children drying in the sun hoping to go back to school as soon as possible.
Once at the helicopter, it was beautiful to see the children playing on the field doing cartwheels around us. Before we left, the Bishop prayed with the people he said that our houses have been destroyed, our lives have been disrupted, our trees and crops have been chopped off, but we are all alive, and this is already a grace.
From Dame Marie we took off to go to La Serengue (Abricot) to visit the community which is home of the St Luke foundation St Augustine school, recently inaugurated in the past year. When we approached by air and saw the school roof blown away, it really broke our heart. Thank God the water tower remained standing, as did the guesthouse that is under construction. Even here when we arrived on the field, people from every corner came jumping, singing and clapping their hands calling Nebez their “papa.” Walking with them up to the school, we could see the poor houses made of mud and wood washed away. Only one person died in the community there, thank God.
While we were flying over Jeremie before landing we saw the cathedral completely open on the top. The roof had been blown off, and was heartbreaking to see. But mostly it was heartbreaking to see the people with houses destroyed, built so poorly and with such poor materials to begin with. When we landed in the football field, the people recognized the Bishop and started to run towards him. It was beautiful to see. What came to mind was when Jesus said "I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me” (Jn 10:14).
It is an obligation to have been the eyes and ears on behalf of our friends and supporters who are so concerned for those affected by this disaster, and now to be their voice to you on their behalf. These are people who are already so vulnerable of being invisible to the outside world, and I am humbled today to have had the chance to help share their story.