The Words of the Sapp Family
Cap-Haitien, Haiti - Since January 12, when the earthquake hit Haiti, IRFF (International Relief Friendship Foundation) representatives have made three trips to the country providing relief work. In addition, $9,000 has been spent by IRFF on domestic and overseas shipping costs, to move donated food and medical supplies to Cap-Haitien on the north coast of Haiti.
Early February On February 1, Evelyne Drake, representing IRFF, together with Dr. Ron Patterson, Executive Director of Christian Disaster Response, and 14 doctors and nurses, spent up to two weeks helping the victims of the quake. The doctors and nurses will be working in two-week shift for up to one year. Evelyn's main role was to translate for the group because she grew up in Haiti and knows the language well.
The party came in through the Dominican Republic and were met at the Haitian border with a bus and staff from the office of the mayor of Cap-Haitien, a nearby city of 190,000 people. Once there, they were met by Mayor Fritz Joseph and his secretary, Lunise Perard, who had worked with us in the past two years on service projects sponsored by IRFF and the Women's Federation for World Peace. Consequently they knew us very well and were very grateful Evelyn could translate.
The next morning, the mayor briefed the group over breakfast on the situation occurring in Cap-Haitien. He said that as many as 150,000 people came from Port-au-Prince to his city due to the earthquake, overwhelming their resources. He said they had neither food nor water in sufficient quantities to help these people; furthermore, there were not enough doctors, nurses, or medicine to give them the care they needed. He expressed his gratitude for the volunteers. Following breakfast, the U.N. Chief of Police for Cap-Haitien came to visit. He and two other officers from the U.N. offered their full support for our work.
After this encouraging meeting, the team went to the Cap-Haitien Airport to pick up medical supplies flown in by Dr. Paul Williams. After inspection by the customs officer, Dr. Williams, Dr. Patterson, and the team loaded the supplies onto a truck. From there, the items were driven to Sacred Heart Hospital, where many people with life-threatening injuries were being treated. The mayor joined the team in delivering these much-needed medicines and supplies.
After visiting the Sacred Heart Hospital, the group drove to a large gymnasium where many people had gathered to receive medicare. The remainder of the medical supplies were used by the doctors and nurses immediately to treat the patients. The need here was so great, but there are not enough doctors to go around. Still the team did a fantastic job comforting people and tending to their injuries.
Dr. Patterson and I returned to Cap-Haitien at the end of February to coordinate the ongoing rotation of volunteer doctors and nurses and to work with the mayor on planning long-term recovery efforts, including a needs assessment throughout Haiti.
After meeting with the mayor, he accompanied our party of six as we drove 120 miles south toward the capital, Port-au-Prince. The trip took eight hours due to the extremely poor condition of the roads and a road block by rioting citizens in one small town who took control of a truck-load of food going north to Cap-Haitien.
We stopped ten miles north of the capital at 9:00 pm to visit Dr. Marie-Pologne Jacques Rene, president and founder of the University of the Haitian Academy near Titangen. [See Diesa Seidel's report of working with Dr. Rene in the days immediately following the earthquake.] Dr. Rene took us in, served us dinner, and bedded us down in tents for the night, since the buildings had been rendered unsafe by the earthquake. That night three aftershocks were felt by some of the group. The next morning at breakfast, Dr. Patterson made a commitment to provide a container of needed medical supplies and medicine to the academy.
In Port-au-Prince, we visited the Unification Church Center, where we met with Alix Mondesir, the city director, who was living with four other staff in the badly-damaged compound. The three-story main building had collapsed, and the small group was living in the laundry building. They had received $12,000 in donations from church members internationally. When asked how they were doing overall, Alix responded, "We're okay!" The members stand outside the gate each morning and donate food and cooking fuel to their neighbors.
The funds allow the church to extend aid to thousands of church allies who also are quake victims. "We have our own problems but we have also many people [who] depend on us -- many Christian ministers, many Ambassadors for Peace; really many other associations visit us with hope to receive some help," Rev. Theodule Paul reported, adding: "Their situation is so terrible that we have the obligation to help and to share what we have with them."
Dr. Patterson went to the Morning Star Academy, a very large school and seminary in Port-au-Prince, for an appointment.
We then drove back to Cap-Haitien, another seven hours over some of the world's worst roads, arriving back at our hotel at midnight.
In the following three days, we had meetings with the mayor, arranging for an engineering team to come in to evaluate the safety of the public buildings that may have structural problems. We presented a plan for preparedness training to take place for government employees in June and arranged for container shipments to be received with the mayor's assistance.
On March 26, the first 20-foot container left Port Everglades, Florida, for Cap-Haitien and arrived on March 30. Dr. Patterson flew out of Ft. Lauderdale on March 29 to meet the shipment along with the mayor. Eight pallets of medicine were shipped out and arrived March 25
Dr. Patterson's warehouse in Auburndale, Florida is full of donated goods. Donation of goods is not the problem. The problem is raising funds to cover transportation costs.
The 20-foot containers cost $2,400. They are used for storage in Haiti and can even be used for housing. The cost to ship one container is also $2,400. With the additional domestic freight charges, the average cost to get one container of goods to Haiti is around $8,000. Visit irff.org to learn about ways to help with this relief effort.
For further updates on assistance to Haiti, visit irff.org and upf.org/haiti.