Hurricane Matthew – Home Visits in the Aftermath

By Gena Heraty

By now you are all well aware of the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew. You probably have seen more images on the news than I have and without doubt you all feel very sad for the victims of this powerful force of nature. Earlier this week I was visiting some families in the mountains close to us. While we were not hit as badly as the south, and the mountains are still lovely and green, some of our neighbours have lost everything.

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In a small area, there was devastation all round. I met a family of 6 – they were sitting around chatting and had a warm welcome for me. There were two small wooden houses beside them and I presumed they lived in one of them. I asked how they were affected. They pointed to an empty space in front of me and told me that their house used to be there! I looked at the spot and could not imagine such a small area could have housed 6 people. As I looked closer I saw the flowers – every house in the country has a few flowers growing outside. These flowers were growing away – apparently oblivious to the fact that the house was gone. I took a few pictures and promised to be a part of some solution and continued to the next house.

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In this house the roof was blown off. They have tried to cover it with tarps and old pieces of tin but when it rains the whole place is covered in water. In one bedroom, a tarp is bulging with yesterday’s rain and Edner gets a bucket and lets the water down. Next time you are lying on your bed, look up and imagine looking at a flimsy tarp sagging with water! Then be very thankful you are not a poor person living in Haiti right now with as much rain inside your room as outside!

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Another house is made from straw – the roof is a patchwork of blue tarps and clear plastic. The owner is sick and unable to work and he and his wife have two small kids. I wondered what they eat every day. I asked Edner and before he answered, I answered myself – most days they don’t eat. Full stop.

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I could keep going but I think ye have the gist of it. Three things struck me that morning as I was visiting.
1: These people were very poor BEFORE the hurricane. Their houses are small and made from wood. They were totally dependent on their crops/animals.
2: This hurricane has placed them in a very, very difficult, critical situation. They have lost everything and they do not have rich relatives that might help them get back on their feet. They do not have a monthly salary to depend on. They do not have a social welfare allowance. They do not have a medical card.
3: Like the people in the south of Haiti, they need help. They need resources to help them help themselves. They need to get a dry roof over their heads and they need seeds so they can replant. They need some kind of food support until they can get back on their feet. They need people to imagine what it must be like to lose everything. To imagine what it must be like to have no access to relief funds. The people of Haiti need you to imagine what it must be like to have all your clothes wet and strewn about the place and even if you want to gather them up where will you put them? Your house is gone and what is left is full of water.

 

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Really the situation is heart-breaking. The men and women we are working with are devastated. So many of them come from the south and their families are in dire straits.

I know so many people are worried about giving to charity. I know there have been terrible scandals related to charities. Please do not let a few people stop you from doing good. I am here 23 years now and you know that any money we have received during those years has been well spent and has made a big difference in the lives of many people. The recovery for people will be a slow process. But with help we will make a big difference. With money, we can get help to many.
I promised these families we would get them help. Today we sent some food to them. Next step will be to help them buy tin so they can cover the roofs. We will help rebuild. They have the skills. They just need the resources. We will do it. You will help us. So many of you have already sent in money. Thank you so, so much. Keep it coming. The more we get the more families we can help. Every euro/dollar counts, so let no one worry that they cannot afford to help. Of course you can.
When bad things happen, good people need to do lots of good. Let’s do good together. This is a very difficult time for Haiti. We have heavy rain every day. I remember after the earthquake each rain had us worrying about the people in the tent cities. Now each rain has us worrying about the people that have nowhere to shelter from the rain. They don’t even have a tarp or a tent.
Cholera is like a big devil waiting to strike. Last night I was talking to one of the night staff Guichine. Her father is law just died from bad diarrhoea and vomiting. Two of her brother in laws are seriously ill in hospital from the same complaints.
There is a lot to be done! With your help, we will keep doing our part of this lot! You can donate by going to this page: https://nphspecialneedshaiti.com/get-involved/donate/

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Special Olympics Visit

There was great excitement in Kay St. Germaine last Friday with the arrival of a team from Special Olympics Haiti headquarters.

Special Olympics Haiti were visiting the school and therapy centre to assess a number of children for their training programmes in a variety of sports. These year-round programmes provide opportunities for physical activity and social interaction that are very beneficial to general heath and self-esteem. By providing a platform for achievement and new social networks, Special Olympics Haiti makes a measurable difference in the lives of children with intellectual disabilities.

The children of Kay St. Germaine enjoyed demonstrating their skills and talents and gave all activities, including bocce, their very best shot.

Many thanks to all at Special Olympics Haiti and their partners at the Digicel Haiti Foundation for their visit to Kay St. Germaine and their interest in our children.  Who knows? Maybe there are some future Olympians among this very enthusiastic group!

 

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Hurricane Matthew

Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti on Tuesday 4th October 2016 with winds of up to 230 km/h. The country is one of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, with many residents living in flimsy housing in flood-prone areas. The most powerful Caribbean storm in nearly a decade left widespread destruction with over 800 people dead and 60,000 displaced. Thousands of buildings have been destroyed or damaged including homes, schools and churches. Farmlands have been flooded, key infrastructure swept away and communications cut off. Outbreaks of cholera and other diseases are likely to follow.

A UN representative has called Hurricane Matthew “the largest humanitarian event” in the nation since the earthquake in 2010. Listen to Gena Heraty, Director of Special Needs Programs at NPH Haiti, discuss its devastating impact on Morning Ireland with Cathal Mac Coille:

https://www.rte.ie/radio1/morning-ireland/programmes/2016/1011/823045-morning-ireland-tuesday-11-october-2016/?clipid=2304624#2304624

The needs here are immense and very urgent. If you’re in a position to make even a small donation to emergency relief works, please do so here:

https://nphspecialneedshaiti.com/get-involved/donate/

Many thanks.

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