I did not know what lay ahead for Therese, Marc Daly and Vickens as I missioned them on December 15 to the earthquake, hurricane and now cholera-affected areas of Jeremie, Carcasse, Les Irois, Marfranc, and Desormoux in southern Haiti. I prayed over and with them in our Divine Mercy Chapel of the community in Solino (Port au Prince). I asked the Lord that they would be instruments of His mercy according to our mission.
This would be Therese’s 5th mission to the area, Marc Daly’s 3rd, and Vicken’s 1st. Therese and Marc Daly had just returned to Port au Prince from doing an analysis of the situation in the affected area in the wake of Hurricane Thomas that devastated southern Haiti in early November. Particularly hard hit were Les Cayes and the area of our earthquake relief project, Carcasse.
Therese was the first to go to Carcasse back in July 2010. We had learned in June from our now primary collaborator, Fr. Verdieu, a priest of the Diocese of Jeremie, that there were many young people orphaned by the earthquake who were getting very little food every day. In fact, the school was not able to give them any food and they were an extra mouth for their new families. So Therese went to the area and instituted a feeding and a microfinance program. We decided that the food for the feeding program would last through the 16th of December and then be replaced by the products of the microfinance program. So we helped the people plant rice, vegetables, bananas and other plants and then purchased goats, chickens, pigs and cows. And they were off..planting and cultivating. Well, so much for the best-laid plans of men (and women). Man proposes and God disposes they say.
Hurricane Thomas arrived in Carcasse quite unexpectedly in early November. As the storm approached Haiti we were in the community in Solino (Port au Prince) waiting for it to hit there. That is what it was supposed to do. But Thomas decided to go left rather than straight and hit southern Haiti instead of Port au Prince. And hit it did – hard.
Carcasse, the location of our feeding program was, devastated. The whole rice crop was destroyed as were the vegetables. One goat was killed. Worse yet, many people lost their homes and their gardens – the only source of food for many of them.
So soon after the hurricane in early November Therese and Marc Daly went back to Carcasse. I remember when she called me and said, “it is much worse than I thought!”. Over time Therese and Marc would visit and identify 300 families thar were particularly devastated by the hurricane. They had lost part or all of their homes, food and/or animals. They had great humanitarian and pastoral needs.
Therese and Marc also visited Sister Mona in Marfranc. There they wanted to follow up on our initiative to help her rebuild the school that had been partially destroyed by the earthquake and then hit very hard by the hurricane. And the convent was affected as well. The students were studying in tents.
Similarly, T and MD went to Desormoux to speak with the local pastor. He had requested help with the reconstruction of the roof of the church. It was lifted off and taken away by the strong gusts of the hurricane. Therese told the priest that we would repair it for him: she could not accept that people were celebrating out in the open and subject to the ever-present rains of the area.
Finally, MD and T went to Les Irois, another town on the coast of Haiti much larger than Carcasse or Desormoux. Fr. Francine – the pastor of the local parish – needed support for the schooling of many young people orphaned by the earthquake. We agreed to sponsor 200 children and increased the budget of our sponsorship program that already supports some 150 students in Port au Prince.
After their return to Port au Prince we planned for another mission. They were to go on Sunday December 10 to implement our newly developed hurricane-relief program, which would involve mostly emergency food relief, some reconstruction and pastoral care. Well, once again there would be an unexpected wrench in the works: some of the Haitians were not too happy with the results of the November 28th presidential election – especially when they found out some 9 days later.
On December 7th they started burning tires in the middle of many of the roads in Port au Prince and in other places as well. There were protests in the street, looting and violence directed by the supporters of one candidate against those of another. We could not leave our community for four days. This meant that we were unable to prepare for the mission, go to the bank, or finalize the purchase of the vehicle that we planned to use for the mission as a mobile medical clinic. But the Lord truly writes straight with crooked lines.
The Lord was teaching us patience as we waited – “locked up” in the community and carrying out our normal daily activities including those liturgical (adoration, the world mission rosary, and mass). Meanwhile patients were still receiving medical treatment in our front yard and those with suspected cholera were being cared for in the space on the side of the community in the newly constructed intermediate cholera treatment facility. And then the clouds dispersed and the sun shone through: the violence stopped and we were able to leave the community. The roads were navigable once again. Yeah!
In one day – one jam-packed 24 hours – after our daily liturgical activities and as a result of splitting into 2 teams, we accomplished all we had to do to prepare for the mission: we went to the local tax and immigration office to extend Theresia’s visa; purchased a vehicle that would serve as a mobile clinic and for the mission; transferred the title; got insurance for it; went to the bank to get money to buy the new vehicle and the upcoming mission, etc; paid the bills for our mobile internet devices and the wireless in the community (our only connections with the outside world and a life-saving form of communication at times!), purchased a new inverter (the previous one “died”. The inverter converts AC to DC and helps provide for electricity in the house as it allows us to store power in a series of batteries. The local power grid in Port au Prince is very undependable and there can be no electricity for days at a time in the community. We do have a small generator as well but we had no more oil to run it: there was a run on 5w30 oil in the wake of the elections with the violence, and we could not find any oil in the marketplace); refilled 9 five-gallon jugs of potable water (to save money we buy water in this quantity. The 9 jugs would be used in the community and for the mission. We were actually quite happy to be able to get the water because we had to start to purify the water that we normally use for bathing, etc. that comes from a big reservoir that collects the rainwater that falls on our roof. We purified the water with iodine-tablets but they were only so many. We had purchased extra water as the cholera epidemic began to spread in Port au Prince, but with the violence we were caught unawares. And since we could not go out of the community our water supply started to diminish significantly. The iodine-purified water proved to be pretty good – not as good as normal water though. So when the violence stopped we headed quickly to refill our jugs.); and mission supplies (food, telephone cards, diesel fuel, etc.). Therese even bought some small Christmas presents for the community…all part of a day’s work.
And so we were ready for the mission – to help those affected by the earthquake, hurricane and the cholera epidemic. I didn’t know exactly what to expect though as I sent Therese, MD and Vickens out the door of our Divine Mercy Chapel at 5 o’clock in the morning. But I trusted the Lord that they would do his work and return safely. Stay tuned.