Aid Reaches Stranded Haiti Bishop’s Home Shelter

CRS’ program manager for Haiti, Greg Elder, is reporting from Gonaives.

One of the first distributions we did was at the home of Monsignor Yves Marie Péan, Bishop of Gonaives who sent an appeal for help on Sept. 5. He was stranded in his home and caring for hundreds of people displaced by the storms. Anywhere from 500-600 people were living there. I had to wade through waist deep water to get to the front door. My knee-high rubber boots quickly filled with muddy water.

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The Cathedral in the port city of Gonaives, Haiti, is currently sheltering up to 200 people in its upper level. Mud and waters from hurricane Ike flooded the church, but the upper level managed to stay dry. Photo by Greg Elder/CRS

There were areas where you couldn’t even see the floor, you just saw mud. I’m just not used to seeing that much water in an inhabited area. The water was everywhere. People have to walk through it, work in it, and play in it. You can’t see the bottom, so you’re walking through blindly hoping you don’t step into a hole or ditch.

At the bishop’s house, much like at many other makeshift shelters, there are only children and a handful of women that stay there during the day. Most of the adults are out looking for food and water –which continue to be scarce- or they are at their homes cleaning or looking for work. Rooftops are populated with people airing out their belongings- chairs, bed frames, and other prized possessions. But at night these people return to the shelters to sleep.

Over the course of the week we did seven distributions that included enough food to feed roughly 4,000 people. Our days usually started at 7 a.m. We were staying on the third floor of a hotel that had also been flooded, but the waters had receded, and had never reached our floor. Thankfully our beds and rooms were in tact. We didn’t have electricity the first few days, but the owner eventually provided us with a generator that gave us a little bit of light and allowed us to run the water pumps for us to take showers. We ended each night around 8 p.m. with a meeting with all the U.N. agencies, the government of Haiti, representatives and other NGOs to coordinate our work so that we don’t overlap our efforts.

For Gonaives I think that the food distributions will continue for another month or more as people continue to get back on their feet, commerce improves, and the streets are cleaned. You see a lot of desperation, but at the same time you see people who are just getting ready to work- with a work face on, hard at work trying to get their homes back. The official clean up will start really soon. That is going to take a lot of money, a lot of resources. But already we’re seeing signs of life around the town. Western Union has resumed and people have access to funds from the states. Banks and commerce have reopened. That was a bit of hope, a ray of sunshine, just seeing people trying to rebuild their lives.

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3 Responses to “Aid Reaches Stranded Haiti Bishop’s Home Shelter”

  1. The Kids and Teenagers Chore Chart Says:

    […] Aid Reaches Stranded Haiti Bishop’s Home Shelter […]

  2. Sabeth Ramirez Says:

    Is there anyone gathering clothes and/or home supplies for Haiti? All the web sites I have looked at ask only for money. I realize it must be expensive and perhaps difficult to ship things, but I also think people will be in need of clean clothes when they get back to normal.

    Please let me know whether it is possible to donate clothes and other items in Washington, D.C.

    Thank you.

  3. Bill Oliver Says:

    I am listening, and will send a contribution.

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