Bringing help and hope in disaster’s wake
Naples-based Hope for Haiti is among the groups helping the recovery of residents who were stripped of access to food, water, shelter, medical care and schools by the Oct. 4 storm.
Hope for Haiti is a 28-year-old nonprofit dedicated to improving the impoverished nation’s quality of life, especially for its children, through sustainable development and expanded access to primary education, quality healthcare and clean water.
The organization’s Haitian headquarters is in the southwestern city of Les Cayes, the region where 145-mph Matthew most severely damaged the island. Hope for Haiti service area extends outward to the isolated, hard-to-reach rural areas that dominate the rugged countryside.
Post-Matthew, Hope for Haiti has been providing humanitarian aid, assisted by its charitable partners, to prevent water-borne diseases such as cholera, provide temporary shelter, food, potable water and medicine, and rebuild debris strewn roads, wells and damaged schools.
“I don’t want to use the word catastrophic because the buildings are not entirely destroyed, but literally 90-to-95 percent of all homes have been damaged,” said Mark Hindley, Hope for Haiti’s COO. “The majority of them do not have roofs. They have significant structural damage. You’re talking about a couple million people who’ve been affected, in some form or another, because of the size of the storm and how it went right over the western peninsula.”
A Boeing 767 flight was arranged that brought over 86,000 pounds of medicine and medical supplies to the country and the organization has dispensed over 3,300 Emergency Relief Buckets (food, medicine and hygiene supplies). More than 1.2 million meals have been delivered to the affected area and 75,000 gallons of clean water generated.
There have also been over 1,000 patients treated at the organization’s Infirmary St. Etienne and 11 pallets of medical supplies shipped. Hope for Haiti also helped to mobilize helicopter drops of over 32,000 pounds of food.
A Hope for Haiti partner, Team Rubicon, has been clearing debris-strewn roads that are lifelines for the rural communities. The nonprofit is also creating temporary shelters and classrooms in these communities.
Hindley said a major long-term concern is the nation’s food supply, with more than one half of residents relying upon farming for sustenance.
“Ninety-to-100 percent of all crops have been destroyed, so food security is going to be the largest issue, along with water purification, going forward, in addition to the rehabilitation and reconstruction (of homes and other buildings),” he explained.
According to Reuters, more than 1,000 Haitians lost their lives in Matthew. The country was still rebounding from a massive 2010 earthquake that killed more than 300,000 people.
The toll of those natural disasters has been especially painful for native Haitian Michael Gay, a Naples resident and owner of the island’s largest concrete business, GDG Beton and Construction, located in the capital, Port-au-Prince.
“They say Haitians are very resilient people, they’re very used to setbacks,” he said. “But when there are tragedies one after another, it takes even more resilience.”
Port-au-Prince, where much of his family lives, escaped Matthew’s full fury, but Gay said many of his employees live in the Southwest and “quite a few of them” lost their homes or sustained major damage.
The company was building schools for Hope for Haiti when the storm hit. Since then, Gay has made several days-long trips to Haiti to direct other projects and assist with the organization’s relief effort by coordinating supply deliveries, repairing damaged structures and clearing roads.
More than 95 percent of the organization’s revenues are dedicated to its mission, but during October, all financial contributions were used for Matthew relief. Hindley said all contributions are welcome, but cash donations are preferable.
“With cash we’re able to make in- country purchases so we can buy food and water and construction supplies,” he added. “Anything that’s bought or donated here, it takes weeks for it to actually get to where it needs to go.”
For more information about Hope for Haiti, to donate or to see what relief-effort supplies are needed, visit hopeforhaiti.com or call 434-7183.