I'm speechless... in shock and processing all the sites we witnessed and have taken in this weekend in our trip to the southwestern most tip of Haiti. On Friday we drove a total of 12 hours all the way to Jeremie, arriving around 1pm, then back to Port Salut where we arrived by 6pm. The scenery became worse and worse the farther south we traveled. Once we reached Jeremie, there were finally signs of aid organizations moving about and seemingly providing some sort of assistance, although I am not sure what that is. We saw the evidence of Samaritans Purse, USAID, the UK, Swiss, and SOS in tarps strewn across roofs, and vehicles from CARE, CRS, Red Cross Haiti, WFP, and LOTS of UN. There is a huge base called a coordination base with the World Food Program and some other organizations set up. This was encouraging to see, but this was largely only impacting the city of Jeremie. Once we left the city again and headed back towards Port Salut, there was again very light sign of any aid present. And for sure none rebuilding homes. CLICK ON PICTURES TO ENLARGE.
Port Salut is heartbreaking. This is a city that is known for being a tourist resort spot, financed largely by the government since it is the hometown of Aristide Bertrand, former Haiti president. But now, it a littered shell of a city. Almost every hotel is damaged if not completely obliterated and EVERY single home is also either damaged or a butchered mess. The one hotel that seemed to fair the storm, though it too was flooded, is still in good shape. Sand from the oceanfront was washed inland more than 200 feet. A favorite spot of ours, Dan's Creek, was once a historic five-star resort. It had begun to decline last year after the owner's disappearance, yet it still struggled to remain functioning with excellent service from their remaining staff. Last year we took our kids and Wade and Marilyn there for a two-day stay. Today we visited what is left of it, a horribly shocking and inconsolable remainder. The restaurant and multi-tiered decks were swallowed up by the sea, as was all of the first floor suites. I don't know if it will ever recover. Another hotel that was brand new and had a foot bridge crossing the highway from one portion of its lodging to another section of beachfront rooms. This section and footbridge are just gone, collapsed into the sea. One wall remains standing, still holding a roll of toilet paper from the now stripped washroom. The force and selection of the storm's destruction baffles me. We met Victor, one of Ricot's Heart for Home workers, who toured us into some communities to assess homes and through the downtown sector. Along the coast is an unending pile of debris, as house after house are flattened. One area by the market you cannot even tell there were homes there at all. CLICK ON PICTURES TO SCROLL THROUGH.
We then headed out of Port Salut and into mountain rural communities. The devastation is so wide-spread and dreadful with every fruit bearing tree either ripped from its roots, or stripped bare, thousands of coconut trees toppled over like dominoes, and every single church and school standing naked and uncovered. We went for an hour into the mountains and came to the area that Nuncka's and Makenson's family, two youth from our church that translate for us, are from. Their family homes are shambles and Makenson's mother's story of survival in the hurricane is amazing. I captured it on video, and plan to edit to post tomorrow I hope. But here it is in print,
"I was huddled in our home with our three boys and my husband. The winds and rains just kept getting worse. We could not go to sleep. Around midnight, the winds were so strong that the walls of the house began to break apart. We ran out of the house as the roof collapsed, barely sparing. We thought to run to the neighbors house, thinking it may be stronger, but when we approached, we saw it too was already blown apart. As the storm threatened to blow us away, we ran together up the hill to the church and school where we thought surely it would be safe. It's a strong, concrete block building with thick tin. But the roof was torn from it too. So we huddled together against the wall of one side, praying for the storm to stop. At one point the winds were so strong, they began to blow me away and I toppled down the hill. My older son ran after me and captured me, clinging me to his chest so I would not be carried away. We stayed like this until almost 8:00 in the morning. When we hoped that it was almost over, the storm raged on for the whole day. By the time it finally settled, we could not believe the amount of devastation it left behind; trees fallen everywhere, and not a house standing or still covered. We praised God that we were still alive. Since then and for days, we each had to sleep in different places, with neighbors, finding wherever we could to just stay out of the continuing rain. We finally got a small break in weather and built an A-frame shelter from the tin that blew off of our house, but it leaks so much that we cannot keep anything dry. I am just grateful that we are alive." CLICK ON PICTURES TO SCROLL THROUGH.
This is one of the communities that we plan to return to this week and build some homes for. You have to understand something about the southwest of Haiti. Though the world's view of Haiti paints the whole country as one bleak existence, there are actually parts of Haiti, especially the southwest, that were quite self-sufficient. Whether they were homes in towns or in rural country, the were finished, large and well kept. The people lived off the land and have peaceful lives with very little need for outside assistance. Many homes are ones that have been passed down in the family for generations. One man we met that had a five room home had grown up there and had been the 3rd generation living on that land, now with his own family. His home is entirely flat. All five of them are staying in a small shack pieced together from the scraps of their roof tin. We heard story after story like this.
So, we cannot just stay in Grand-Goave. God is giving us opportunity to meet needs elsewhere and we have established relationships where we hope we can affect these communities in Port Salut, Duchity, Beaumont, Tricon, St Helen, Camp Perrin, Les Cayes, Dumond. We can easily build 100 homes over the next few weeks to months in these areas, as well as continue to repair roofs for those shells that have stood. If finances are available, we can also help repair churches and schools, which will provide the place again for worship and education, two essential pieces of life and growth. (You can see some below) BUT WE NEED YOUR HELP! We can only continue if we have support. YOU can repair a roof for $200US and build a house for $1,000 US. PLEASE HELP!!
EVERY CHURCH & SCHOOL, TWO ESSENTIAL PIECES OF LIFE & GROWTH, WE PASSED STOOD NAKED AND TORN.