Miami Notes: Parishes Collect Relief Supplies for Haiti

CRS writer Kai T. Hill is in Miami reporting on local efforts to help Haiti and Cuba following a series of storms that battered the island nations.

My visit to relief and collection efforts in Miami began on Sunday at Saint James parish in North Miami.

Before leaving CRS headquarters in Baltimore I learned that Monsignor Jean Pierre, pastor of this prominent, largely Haitian parish, was in Haiti and would be getting back on Sunday. While in Haiti, he met with CRS country representative for Haiti, Bill Canny, and was able to tour some of the affected cities such as Jacmel and Cabaret. In addition to providing food, water and survival supplies to families in the hardest hit areas, CRS has obtained a warehouse in Port-Au-Prince to help Haiti’s bishops store incoming donated goods.

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Catholic Relief Services workers pick up supplies to be distributed in the port city of Gonaives, Haiti. Aid workers are shipping food and supplies by boat and air, as the roads leading up to the city remain inaccesible. Photo by Greg Elder/CRS

“A lot of people are still living in mud, scared to go into their homes, some are still living on their rooftops, We have to keep being in solidarity with them,” says Msgr. Pierre above the bustling sound of volunteers packing donated goods that range from clothes to baby strollers and cans of beans and rice to cases of bottled water stacked several feet high.

Thus far the parish has sent about four or five 40,000 pound shipping containers to the Port of Miami to be shipped to Haiti. It’s one thing to see the fallout of disaster on television but last week Msgr. Pierre had a chance to see Haiti’s devastation first hand.

In the community of Caberet, Haiti he says “People are still in shock. It was a heartbreaking lesson to hear their stories as they have lost a child, they have lost a parent because they could not swim. But the storms happened at night so most of the people were sleeping. Most of the people who have died were children because they could not run, they could not hide.”

I’d never met Msgr. Pierre in person and figured that I would have to dodge between parishioners after Mass to introduce myself and borrow a few minutes of his time. When I pulled up in the church’s side lot a man wearing casual clothing greeted me. I told him that I was looking for Monsignor Jean Pierre. He smiled whimsically and told me that I was looking at him. He was not how I had pictured a monsignor. It was just in May that I sought his guidance for a CRS web article on the Archdiocese of Miami’s efforts to raise money for CRS and send goods to Haiti. Although his parish is one of the most prominent in South Florida’s Haitian community, he also encouraged me to visit Notre Dame D’ Haiti a ways south.

Today, the floods from three successive hurricanes have become the latest affliction to Haiti. Msgr. Pierre was eager to talk about his recent trip, South Florida’s collection efforts and how CRS is helping hurricane-affected families recover.

One of the most important things families things need now are building materials.”I’ve seen so many families homes there, I think that’s an urgent need. I would encourage people to donate so that we can get people back on their feet.”

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