Update on Hurricane Matthew Relief in Haiti
Update on Hurricane Matthew Relief in Haiti
By Tom & Wendy Vencuss
Last Monday (November 21) we returned from a week-long, whirlwind trip to Haiti. Much of our time was spent in meetings, formal and informal. We met with Eglise Méthodiste D'Haiti (EMH) leadership, Lauren James from UMCOR, Dr John and Sharon Harbottle, the EMH head engineer, the UMCOR agriculture specialist, Pastor Ezaus, and so many of our friends. While the visit was great, it was also hard, as Haiti is once again going through a difficult time as they recover from the effects of Hurricane Matthew. We were also in country for the first round of the presidential elections. While things seemed to go as smoothly as possible, discretionary travel was restricted.
On Friday, we had the opportunity to travel to Jeremie with Brulan Jean Michel, the guest house manager and EMH-VIM coordinator who is overseeing and coordinating much of the EMH recovery effort. With our trusty driver, Spana, we made the nine and a half hour trip each way to Jeremie by way of Petit Goave and Cayes without incident.
It is hard to describe the situation in the greater Jeremie area. The mountain road leading from Cayes to Jeremie was passable, but precarious at times, due to rock slides, mud, and rain. Young children were often present on the roads begging for food and money. Trees were either blown over, uprooted, or had their tops lopped off. Many homes, and other structures, are standing, but missing roofs. Wooden structures were completely destroyed. Debris litters the ground. At the Methodist Guest House in Jeremie, the adjacent wooden building was destroyed. The pastor said they were leaving the debris in place for a while in case people needed whatever salvageable materials were available for their own homes.
One of the biggest issues facing many communities is food insecurity. The storm destroyed fields, gardens, crops, and livestock. It is estimated that as many as 1.5 million are at risk. With the current rainy season due to end shortly, and the next rains not due until spring, it is critical that seed be provided as quickly as possible. Lack of clean water, exposure, and cholera, are also concerns.
Looking out into the ocean, there is a clean line of demarcation – brown, where the storm pushed down soil and debris from the mountains, and further out, blue, where the ocean water begins. Fishing in this area is compromised.
The EMH, in collaboration with other agencies, and VIM support, has sent several convoys of relief supplies to the recovery areas. These convoys are often accompanied by armed guards. Additional convoys are being organized.
The Response ContinuesThe EMH has established a relief committee and is working with VIM coordinators, including ourselves, to develop a volunteer response structure, and plan for teams to the recovery area beginning in January. Meanwhile, convoys will continue to provide relief supplies including food, water, tarps, seeds, and medical supplies.
With Brulan, we were able to deliver relief supplies to a cholera clinic operated by Heart to Heart about 20 miles into the countryside. Water filters have been provided to local communities through VIM teams. The EMH Health Committee has provided medical supplies as well as mobile health clinics.
Our meeting schedule, and then the elections, prevented us from travelling to Furcy. However, we were able to meet with Pastor Ezaus at the guest house. A MHH partner team from New Hope UMC (Maryland) was in Furcy in October and has provided a report of the amazing things they were able to do.
While Furcy was spared much of the brunt of the storm, there was still a loss of crops and livestock. Pastor Ezaus reported that the greatest need at this point is for seed and fertilizer to take advantage of the remaining rains. This is reminiscent of 2008 when four successive hurricanes caused extensive damage which led to widespread crop loss and food insecurity. It was the impetus for the creation of the Furcy/MHH Farmer’s Association.
Thanks to the amazing support of New Hope UMC, we were able to provide almost $8,000 in funds for relief supplies to the recovery areas. We also received a $500 donation from a supporter, which will be combined with $1,400 remaining in our Farmer’s Association funds, to provide seed and fertilizer to the greater Furcy community. We are truly blessed.
Our plan is to return to Haiti in early January to assist with the development of the volunteer response plan.
Heartfelt thanks to all for your continued support and prayers.
Tom and Wendy
- Kathy Ahmad, from New Jersey, has a team of 5 scheduled to supply 100 water filters to Furcy in January.
- Jack Agnew is continuing to work on his Eagle Scout Project – providing water filters for the greater Furcy community. From his effort, his church, Newtown UMC, is considering sending a team as well.
- The Hyde Park/Mary Taylor dental/medical/construction team scheduled for late February continues to take shape. Additional funding was made available from the NYAC Quadrennial Missional Fund which will allow the team to both support a dental clinic and conduct first aid training for the greater Furcy communities.
- The Wethersfield UMC youth team scheduled for July has more than 20 persons signed up.
- Terry Alger is now administering the MHH Facebook page. “Like” us at: https://www.facebook.com/MountainsofhopeforHaiti/
- Laura Madden continues to faithfully work on our web site which we expect to roll out shortly.
- Check the NYAC web site for updates, too, at http://www.nyac.com/vimprojectdetail/685545