JOURNEYS

Food for the Hungry - On the Ground in Haiti

Personnel and Supplies Fully Engaged to Fight Disaster

Food for the Hungry makes visits to the makeshift medical stations. © Lindsay Branham/FH Employee 2010

Displaced and hurting Haitians seek comfort and aid from organizations, such as Food for the Hungry. © Lindsay Branham/FH Employee 2010

Tom Davis, FH Director of Health Programs, holds a coordination meeting with partnering organizations in Haiti. © FH Staff 2010

Food for the Hungry (FH), along with several other partnering organizations and missionaries, are side-by-side with the hurting in Haiti, helping them along the way and providing relief as they can.

Along with needed supplies, several of FH’s U.S.-based staff have reached Port au Prince over land from the Dominican Republic and on chartered or government aircraft, provided largely by U.S. Coast Guard cargo planes.

On Monday, January 18, 2010, all 26 FH-Haiti staff were confirmed alive. Twenty-one staff members met to share their stories on Monday. Many lost family members, while others gave thanks for their survival after being buried deep in the rubble. Many staff are now living on the street after losing their homes. Most are afraid to be indoors in case of another deadly tremor.

FH Director of Health Programs, Tom Davis, arrived in Port Au Prince on Saturday, January 16, afternoon. He reflected on his journey through a blog posted on the Food for the Hungry blog web site, http://fhrelief.wordpress.com/. This blog is posted in detail at the end of this article. Davis is attending coordination meetings this week with partner organizations and other FH staff, all in an effort to bring hope and help to his “old friend” he calls Haiti.

FH has identified two highly affected communities to focus the relief response - the Bellevue La Montagne Zone (population 90,000) and Siloe Region (population 20,000). Relief staff are also taking part in a U.N. coordination meeting to ensure a coordinated response with all agencies on the ground.

FH disaster relief activities to date include providing:

- Medical supplies for Child Hope International boy's home and clinic;

- 4,800 blankets; 160 rolls of plastic; 2,200 solar flashlights; two commercial size water filters; 1,152 jerry cans; and 1,440 hygiene kits, in partnership with Samaritan’s Purse;

- Several hundred thousand dehydrated food packs and water, in partnership with Stop Hunger Now;

- A container (in route) of clothing, plastic sheeting and tarps, wheelchairs, bandages and gauze, water purifying tablets, water and food, in partnership with Kode Red.

FH is also providing staffing and supplies to the Baptist Medical Mission. A FH staff member from Nicaragua is en route to provide trauma counseling.

Haitian Staff Testimony:

Marlene, Food for the Hungry's Health Program Manager in Haiti, was able to communicate to the U.S. office and described her experience. She said, "In my neighborhood, we were able to rescue alive a 98-year-old blind lady 16 hours after her house smashed down over her head. Her left arm is broken and might end up amputated [because all hospitals were destroyed]. The school year is probably lost because most schools are destroyed. I have never seen Haitians crying out to GOD like now. We need you to pray for lives to be changed by the grace of GOD."

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Personal Blogs from Food for the Hungry Staff in Haiti: Used by permission - http://fhrelief.wordpress.com/

1. Seeing an Old Friend January 17, 2010 by fhrelief

Reflections of Tom Davis, FH Director of Health Programs, who arrived in Port Au Prince on Saturday afternoon

I have always felt that Haiti is like an old friend, who no matter how hard the years have treated her and what trauma she has recently endured, always seems to have some of her original spark, charm, and passion. I just arrived in Haiti this afternoon after a somewhat surreal State Department flight where we chatted with Secretary of State Clinton, Andrea Mitchell of NBC News, Gretta van Susteren of FOX News, and a host of other characters. This is not how we usually fly (both in terms of comfort and company), but we got a call at 5:00 p.m. Friday night about a State Department flight that was leaving out of Washington on Saturday morning at 6:30 a.m., and when we get a chance to save our donors some money, we take it (the flight was free).

I lived in Haiti from 1983 to 1985 working for a Christian healthcare organization as a volunteer, my first overseas experience, so I was eager to help out when we got the call to action. But it was not without some trepidation. I have worked in 24 countries now, but have found no other country that is as delightful at times, and as exasperating at times, as Haiti.

On my afternoon ride up the mountain from the airport here, it was good to see the Haitian mountains again – some things change little. But I also saw building after building flattened, buildings and homes perched at crazy angles where it looked like the slightest breeze would topple them. We saw families staking out places in the street to sleep, outlining their areas with stones. But Haiti keeps plugging along despite so many setbacks, and I believe that – Lord willing – Haiti will get past this latest disaster, as well. And the Lord is willing, and the people here know that. Like God, great is their faithfulness, and great is the faithfulness of all the people who are responding to this disaster around the world.

After a couple of days of wandering around in a haze and mourning their dead following the largest earthquake here in at least 200 years, the Haitian people are beginning to engage and meet together to decide how they can respond, and we plan to support them in those efforts. It is so powerful to be in meetings with people here as they decide what to do next. And so moving to be sitting out in the darkness of the evening (no one has electricity now, and not many people have generators) and hear the Haitian people singing songs of praise and worship in small groups, not just churches, but just small groups of people who have come together for encouragement.

Food for the Hungry plans to share with people what we have received from our God: Hope, both in the form of material offerings like medical and public health supplies to help people get past this tragedy, but also words of comfort and hope that despite how it feels right now, life will go on. It’s the least that we can do for such a dear old friend.

2. Hope and Restoration January 18, 2010 by fhrelief

My first morning in Port Au Prince I woke up to the sounds of worship….I couldn’t see their faces, but I could hear their voices, joined in unison to worship and bless the One who offered hope and strength in the midst of devastation and tragedy. “Onward Christian soldiers” they sung….I couldn’t tell if they were singing in English or Creole but the tune was clear…. “with the cross of Jesus going on before.” The congregation was reminding themselves and the rest of us who could hear their hopeful song that the battle was the Lord’s and not ours to bring restoration to a land devastated by a horrifying earthquake.

One can’t help but be overwhelmed by all that is seen and heard in Port Au Prince. The collapsed buildings…the people crowding the streets, their faces covered in masks to block the dust and stench of decaying bodies buried under the rubble…people camping outside even if there homes are still in tact, afraid of another deadly tremor striking…the stories of lost loved ones…relief efforts hampered by poor road access and shortage of fuel.

It is easy to focus on the devastation and all the failures of relief efforts in Haiti, and yet, there is restoration that is already taking place. Even before the first relief responder set foot in Port Au Prince, the Haitian people themselves were in action, digging out family members, neighbors and friends buried under the rubble and bringing comfort to each other in their time of loss…roads have begun to open up and much needed medical care and aid is starting to reach communities hardest hit by the earthquake…people are still being rescued alive from under the rubble…some merchants have resumed selling their wares on the streets and small markets are opening up, returning some semblance of normalcy.

The Haitian congregation reminded me my first morning in Port Au Prince that the battle is the Lords and not ours. “With the cross of Jesus going on before,” there is certainly hope and restoration for a devastated land.

3. Everybody has a Story January 19, 2010 by fhrelief

There was an all staff meeting today. Twenty-one out of the 26 staff members gathered in the courtyard outside of the FH office in Petion-ville. We were able to confirm that all staff members are accounted for, with two injuries, one serious but not critical. Praise God!

The meeting was opened with a hymn and a prayer. As the staff sang “How Great Thou Art” (in Creole), there was a strong sense of emotion that filled the air. Each staff member took a few moments to share their story. Each thankful to be alive, but not one spared from the grief of the past few days.

One man lost two children, ages 18 and 3….another man’s four children were buried under the rubble of his house, but were rescued alive…another staff member had 15 people living in his house die…one woman doesn’t know if her mother is alive or not…another was at the Justice Palace (that was destroyed) when the earthquake struck…most, if not all, staff lost extended family members or friends…many staff lost their homes and are living on the streets…most are afraid to be indoors in case of another deadly tremor.

The staff spent the rest of the day identifying needs in their communities and ways in which FH can respond. At the end of the day they expressed how encouraged they felt that they will be able to help themselves and their neighbors. Everybody has a story. But everybody is also eager jump into action to rebuild their communities and restore what was lost.

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FH asks that everyone please “pray for disaster relief to quickly reach Haitians who are struggling to survive. Pray for wisdom for relief staff as they coordinate the response. Pray that an effective response would comfort those in grief and mitigate further disaster.”

FH staff are on the ground and need your help to mount the huge relief effort that is going to be required for this disaster. Donations are being accepted via text messages for it's ongoing Haiti relief efforts. Text “QUAKE” to 85944 to make a $10 donation to Haiti relief, and be sure to reply with “yes” to confirm your donation. All donations will be charged to you through your monthly wireless bill. Or, visit www.fh.org to make a donation online to benefit the Haiti relief effort.