Serving Haiti in times of need
By Jack Guy Lafontant, President Rotary Club of Petion-Ville, Haiti
One week before we saw monstrous Hurricane Mathew, approaching our country Haiti, members of the Rotary Club of Petion-Ville started to make survival kits. After an emergency committee meeting, our club decided to send a delegation composed of myself and our club Foundation chair, Jean-Herve Landrin, to the regions struck by disaster.
On Saturday, 8 October, three days after the hurricane hit, Jean-Herve and I took the road to Les Cayes as soon as there was an opening on the River of Petit-Goave, which had been blocked by a collapsed bridge. We left the capital of Port-au-Prince with trucks filled with survival kits. Since there were rumors of armed gangs, attacking trucks going into Les Cayes with relief supplies in the area of Petit-Goave, we decided to stop in Léogâne, 21 miles from Port-au-Prince. There we contacted local authorities and the General Inspector of the National Police, Ralph Brice, guaranteed us safe passage for our trucks.
When we arrived in Les Cayes, our first stop was visiting District Governor-elect Robert Leger. We visited a hotel that had survived the hurricane, and later met a Rotarian brother and his adopted child to deliver food supplies.
The next morning, we delivered the survival kits and a check of 100,000 Haitian Gourdes (equivalent to USD $1,500) to the President of the Rotary Club of Les Cayes, Claude Pubien, and the club disaster relief chair, Yvon.
Afterwards, we visited our friends in Les Cayes and distributed more supplies. We saw a lot of roofs were destroyed and decided to continue our exploration to the coastal cities which liked it had been hit by an atomic bomb. The trees, the plantations and town infrastructure had completely disappeared.
The last part of our visit was chaotic as we took the road to the city of Jeremie by passing through Camp-Perin. Camp-Perin was Haiti’s last cities lined with many trees but now almost all the trees and houses had been destroyed.
In the rural areas of Camp-Perin, people were drinking from streams, unaware of catching cholera by drinking contaminated water. Cholera killed nearly 10,000 people after the 2010 earthquake that hit Haiti, spreading quickly from toilet waste being emptied into the Meille River, a major water source. Now the country faces the same problem once again.
After Camp-Perin, we stopped at an orphanage of a past guest-speaker of our club and a very good friend of Jean-Herve, Father Pascal. We walked over 30 minutes to the mountains to reach the building. All infrastructure had been destroyed, including clinics and school. More than orphans had survived by hiding in the bathroom while the concrete building shook, resulting in psychological trauma for these kids.
That evening we took the road back home to Port-au-Prince. Rotary gave us the opportunity to serve our community and we hope to continue to take action during this difficult time.
Click here for more information about working with Rotarians and Rotary-affiliated groups and partners to help the relief efforts in Haiti