Health and Peace.
Greetings from Port au Prince. We of the community of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Solino thank all of you for your prayers and support during this difficult time for the Haitian people who continue to be victims of chronic poverty, the earthquake in January, the ongoing cholera epidemic and now the threat of Hurricane Thomas.
There is a great tension in the air here in Port au Prince. We are waiting; listening to the radio; watching the sky, preparing …. and hoping for the best.
We are all now back in the community. Therese and I have returned from Petite Riviere after our work near the epicenter of the cholera epidemic, and Marc Daly just came back from Carcasse where we have our feeding and microfinance programs.
We are now preparing for Hurricane Thomas – for ourselves and for those around us in the camps and the slum of Solino. The rains started last night. The winds may begin today. As I write there has been a slight pause in the rain – “the calm before the storm” – maybe. The Haitians in the community are definitely concerned. Theresia and I have never really been through a full-blown hurricane. I experienced 2 of them – both in Florida – but they were not that bad where I was.
Most of Haiti, especially in Port au Prince and the camps, is bracing itself for a serious storm. Thomas has at different times been called a hurricane, a tropical depression and a tropical storm. The situation is constantly changing. Now it is a hurricane, and it is supposed to hit the capital so0n.
That will not be good for Haiti. The camps – 1,300 of them – have 1,500,000 inhabitants. And most of these are in Port au Prince. The situation is quite precarious. And the cholera epidemic that has been causing much suffering in the Artibonite region is still continuing. There are new cases and deaths and new outbreaks. I just heard from our neighbors, the Missionaries of Charity, that cholera patients are showing up at their community in Port de Paix, towards the north of Haiti. We hope that the epidemic does not come to Port au Prince. It would be a disaster.
We just returned from our mission in Artibonite in the cholera-affected area. It was a good experience of living our mission of witnessing to Christ through offering medical, pastoral and humanitarian service. We may go back at some point to the area. Right now we are looking at having a cholera holding/treatment tent on the grounds of the community (with Doctors of the World).
Ok, back to the hurricane. We just heard that it hit Au Cayes in the south of Haiti. There is much rain and flooding there. Because of that we are now preparing our own community – making sure we have enough food, water, gas, diesel for the generator, batteries, flashlights, candles, etc.; the windows are protected from flying tree limbs [3 weeks ago we had a mini-cyclone that broke some window glass as a result of flying tree branches!]; preparing rooms and supplies for the people that we may have to house in our community for a period of time; praying and celebrating mass.
We are right next to a camp that has a lot of women and children living in tents. They are very vulnerable. We saw that fact with the mini-cyclone a few weeks ago. If it is strong enough, the wind can blow the tents away and leave people exposed. Anyway, there are 6,500 people in the camp.
We are preparing rooms and stocking up on medications, water and other supplies. We have about 10 rooms with beds, etc. that we can use to shelter people. And we are also preparing a very large tent that we have in our front yard to receive people. It is quite stable and protected from the rest of the camp by a barrier in front of our house. Security is always an issue – for us and for those we help. Haiti is a challenging place. We could probably put 15-20 people in the tent to sleep, etc. The Haitians say the immediate effects of the hurricane can last for days.
Pray for us and the Haitians as the hurricane approaches, particularly those in the camps. And help us help them as they face post-earthquake difficulties, cholera and Hurricane Thomas. Thanks.