As YSI learned about the impact Hurricane Matthew had on the island of Haiti, we found ourselves desperately trying to contact loved ones and find ways to provide immediate aid. Communication was shaky, the Port-au-Prince airport was closed, and the media was absent-- unable to accurately convey the true impact of the storm. I reached out to my friend Hans soon after the hurricane hit Haiti and received a response a few days later. Thankfully, he was doing well and his family was safe. Two days of worrying were settled by a wave of relief, but there was a lot of work to be done in order to begin rebuilding in the wake of the storm. Hans agreed to talk me through what had happened in the days during and since the hurricane and what his expectations were for the near future.
Before I started asking Hans questions, I told him that if I asked him anything he didn't want to talk about, he should say so and I would move on to the next question. When he asked why, I told him that talking about events such as these can make people sad. He replied that "there is no reason of feeling sad, Emily."
"Because it is a natural fact,” he said, “I don't have a problem talking to someone about the hurricane." Sometimes, in order to paint an accurate picture of an event, you have to talk about the tough stuff.
While YSI is based out of Pont Morel, we work with many of the neighboring communities and many people travel for miles from all across the region, seeking our aid. One of these neighboring areas is Carrefour Croix, a small town similar to Pont Morel. Littered with debris after the storm, the roads in Carrefour Croix were cleared by clean-up crews sent by the Haitian government. However, most of the debris was pushed to the sides of the roads, rather than being completely removed. People are able to get around, but nobody had been out on the roads to fully clean up the damage or start repairs. Hans did not know when that work would begin.
Hans believes that marketplaces have begun to reopen, but he cannot be sure because he has not been to the markets since the hurricane. The only items that he gets at the market are meat, leaves, fruits, and charcoal. He says he always has food in his home because his aunts run shops in the marketplace, so they are often out of the house and bring home food. However, most people in the affected areas are not as fortunate.
For many of the people whose homes were damaged, their food and water supplies were washed away or contaminated by the flood water. The impact of families losing supplies, such as their food and cooking items, as well as the increased risk of the spread of waterborne diseases, pose a serious, long-term threat to the well-being of the affected areas in Haiti. Some people, especially the poor, seem worried, Hans said, because “their gardens [have been] destroyed, so they won't be able to get food.” Therefore, people need to buy food--but many of them don't have the money to replenish their family’s food and water supplies. Hans’ family is fortunate enough to have supplies in their house, and there is a big water pump in the area that was not damaged by the storm. Many villages, like Pont Morel, rely on wells as water sources, and Hans is unsure of the conditions of these wells.
A general lack of resources combined with the danger presented by the storm itself, Haiti has seen a devastating loss of life. As a result of the storm, NBC News reported a count of over 1,000 deaths.
Despite the challenges they are facing due to the hurricane, people are staying strong. During the storm, the focus was on the immediate safety of the people on the island. Now, people are working to return to their normal lives. Hans said that he thinks the government has a lot of work to do. He is hopeful that the government will do their do their best to aid in the relief efforts. "I think they will get help from other countries in the world, such as the USA, Canada, and France," he added.
The country has seen widespread devastation. The New York Times estimated that a staggering 20,000 homes in Haiti had been damaged by the storm. Hans is not sure where people with damaged homes are taking shelter, but twelve families (about 60 people) took refuge in our compound in Pont Morel. Since then, the YSI GoFundMe campaign had raised enough money to feed over 500 families in the first three days following the storm. As donations are made, we will continue directing funds to immediate relief efforts.
"There was a lot of destruction from the hurricane," Hans noted. "Fortunately, for where I live, most of the destroyed things are the gardens and truck[s]." However, many areas have not been as lucky. In talking with Hans, I found myself thinking about how devastating it is that natural disasters are such an inevitable part of life, but also how inspiring it is that Hans is able to take a negative experience like Hurricane Matthew and turn it into an opportunity to come together as a community and work toward recovery. I told him that he is wise, and he thanked me.
Though Hans has not noticed many sick or injured people, he emphasized that people are still in need of aid. In order to truly make an impact, relief efforts need to be consistent, offering long-term solutions and focused on providing people with the means to fuel themselves and to rebuild their homes and get themselves back on their feet. Kevin Lombardi, YSI Director, notes that “donations will be spent directly on aid and all labor and purchased materials will be sourced locally. All of our work will be performed by local staff members and volunteers.”
Please consider donating to this relief plan. Here are so examples of just how far your donation can go:
$2: A clean safe meal for one person
$3: Clean, purified water for a family for the day
$50: One goat, providing food for 30 people
$75: A 50 lb bag of rice
To contribute to our GoFundMe campaign, click here or donate directly at our website: http://www.weareyourstory.org/invest-in-our-programs