Sunday Update from Haiti: City of Caberet devastation and still no aid delivered to GonaivesRich Stigall
Sorry it’s been a couple of days since the last update. I’ll provide some detail here so you’re fully up to speed.
Let’s start with great news: the kids in the south are fine. They’ll need more food this week. We’ll get that to them, no problems expected.
As you know from reading the news, Gonaives is essentially cut off from receiving aid. The 250 children in our children’s village with El Shaddai are fine, and the village is largely dry – one of the few dry places in the Gonaives area. The village has really turned into a shelter for starving people who know about the village and have faith that they will be fed if they can make it there. They’re sleeping in the school, the medical clinic, etc… It’s significant that these people turned to a village for orphans for help, as these children are often discarded and deemed worthless in the streets. Dony took $10,000 to Gonaives yesterday (Saturday) and purchased all the food he could find at obviously exorbitant prices. We’re using that food to feed all the children in the village and the countless others who’ve come as our guests. That food and the water we had stored there should last through Monday.
I assure you that the death toll in Gonaives is MUCH higher than reported, and worsening by the day. Scores and scores of children have either lost or cannot find their parents or family. Some people in Gonaives paraded about 300 children into our village yesterday, because they had no one caring for them. We have nowhere for them to sleep. Dony and DouDou tried to find them temporary shelter, and asked the adults who brought them to bring the children back on Monday for food (expecting more food will arrive). In all likelihood, we’ll end up taking in these 300 in addition to the 200 for whom we were building homes (before Hannah wiped them out).
We had 2 helicopters booked on Saturday to fly food into Gonaives, and had a distribution network set. The helicopter pilots couldn’t fly because of the onset of Hurricane Ike. No helicopters. No food.
We then tracked down a fishing boat with a willing captain that had capacity to haul about 2,000 pounds of food and 2 passengers. As soon as we located him and he agreed to let us load the boat and make a run, Hurricane Ike stopped that. No boat. No food.
We then devised a plan last night to try and truck food and water into Gonaives via a very circuitous route – about a 16 hour round trip. We went to bed comfortable that this plan could work. At least it was worth a shot. Dony and DouDou were ready to get up early and prepare to go.
Then, in the middle of the night, Hurricane Ike kicked our butts. We’re staying at Mission of Hope with Brad Johnson in Titanyen (just north of Port au Prince). MOH, C3, El Shaddai, Cross International, and others are pulling together to deliver aid, and we’re QBing the effort with Dony and Brad from MOH. At about 2 a.m. or so, we got pounded. Huge rains. Huge rains. When we got up, the weather was relatively calm. Then we immediately learned about Caberet.
Caberet is about 5 miles north of MOH. MOH has been working in that community for years. On Saturday, Caberet was bone dry. During the middle of the night, a new river formed from the mountains and railroaded through the heart of Caberet. The river took out many homes and families, and ripped right over the town bridge. I can’t begin to describe the wide and powerful swath that the river cut through Caberet. I see that the news is reporting 48 people dead there. It’s more. Here’s why I say that. We went there this evening to visit a makeshift home for about 100 orphans that was right in harm’s way. While we were there, a man and woman carried there dead, mud-caked, 2 year old boy right past Alan. They used an empty rice bag as the stretcher to carry his little body. I can’t imagine how many more little children just washed away.
The 100 children in the homes by the river had their homes destroyed. Thank God, they heard the increasing volume of the water rush and every single one of them got out and up a hill into a church just before the little they had in this world succumbed to the muddy rush. When we went to see them, they started singing and praising God. They sang the entire time – singing and smiling. Some of the children are sick. They can’t live in a muddy, open air, rickety structure on the top of a hill with just a little food left. And they don’t have homes to go back to. So, we made a real easy decision. We’re finishing up some homes with MOH. MIke and I talked to Brad and in about 30 seconds decided that tomorrow every one of those children are coming to their new homes with C3 and MOH. Every one. We’ll figure out what to do next after they get here. Thanks so much to Brad for his heart and for saying “yes” to bringing these children in with no hesitation. In a 48 hour stretch those children are going to have seen their lives destroyed, and then receive the blessing of their lives – homes they never imagined possible, education beyond their dreams, and the Body of Christ to hold their hands every day in the process.
Back to Gonaives…
Remember, we devised a plan to truck in food and water via a 16 hour round trip route. Ike washed that plan away with the town of Caberet. There’s a key bridge on that long route. Washed out.
We loaded up a truck with about 5,000 pounds, anyway. Dony and DouDou determined to take the food as far as the Lord would allow. They got all the way to the outskirts of Gonaives, where a lake of deep water cut off Gonaives from the rest of this wrecked country. They could go no farther. There they found around 800 people camped out in and around the lake. They hadn’t eaten in about 4 days. Dony fed them all.
Now, as I write this update at around 8:30 on Sunday night, Dony and DouDou are just starting back to Titanyen with the rest of a truckload of food that simply couldn’t be delivered a few miles away, where a couple hundred thousand people are starving. They’ll get back here early in the morning.
So tomorrow’s another day. And we’re convinced it will be a good one. We remain optimistic and trusting in the Lord.
We have the helicopters booked again for tomorrow. As I’m writing this on Sunday night, the winds from Ike still howl. The radar tells us there’s a good chance that the weather will be calm enough to fly. And the pilots, feeling horrible about not flying on Saturday, seem bound and determined to fly. We plan to start flying food into Gonaives at around 8 a.m. We should be able to deliver about 15,000 pounds. We’ll deliver about half of that to our village in Gonaives (which will be secured and safe for landing) and the other half to the UN compound (which will be the other secure place to land).
We will also run many thousands of pounds of food by truck, as soon as the water around Gonaives goes down enough to pass. That could be tomorrow afternoon. Maybe Tuesday. You can see why getting the food and water in by helicopters on Monday is so critical.
Please pray that the winds die down to make these flights possible. The situation is desparate.
You know what’s hard to believe? Why in the world are we the ones flying in aid? Why not the UN? Why not many other organizations who specialize in disaster relief? You’d think a bunch of others are providing needed relief, right? That’s why sometimes we’re all so lax in responding when stuff like this happens. I’ve been guilty of that. Well, let me tell you, not a lot of anything is happening in Gonaives. In order to make sure our kids are cared for and fed, we end up at the forefront of providing more widespread disaster relief just because we’re willing. I’m not looking for kudos. To the contrary. I’m appalled at this. But, I’ll tell you one thing… If the Lord can use C3 and its partners and the villages we place to help in disaster relief, then we’ll accept that challenge. This situation is unacceptable.
Thank God for Dony, Louis, DouDou and El Shaddai. They have gone to amazing lengths to love and care for the people of Gonaives. They’re right in there with them, and they’re quite literally risking their lives to deliver help to them. And thanks to Brad Johnson and MOH. They are providing essential food supplies and selfless support to this effort. And thanks to so many who have responded to give.
In closing, we can use your help. We need more resources. Please give to the Haiti Relief Fund. We have to get through disaster mitigation mode. That is costing a lot and will cost a lot more. And when that’s over, it is CRITICAL that we immediately rebuild and expand to take care of so many who’ve lost their parents or have been abandoned in the chaos. Our current village ended up handling the water well, because it’s on higher ground just outside of Gonaives. The water that was there was not there during Jeanne, and simply speaks to how extreme this situation was. We plan to plant another children’s village in Gonaives, right away. We plan to implement a disaster relief protocol for Gonaives (not just our children) in the new village. We’ll use a village for children orphaned by a flood to help prevent more orphans and more death in the future.
That’s it for tonight.
I’ll try and send you some pictures of Caberet.
Joe and Mike