School in Gonaives, Haiti Suffers Flood, Then Mud

Donal Reilly is CRS senior emergency advisor in Haiti where he worked from 1996 to 2002. He returned to the country in September.

Haiti mud

Catholic Relief Services and CARITAS Haiti is helping the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Ascension clean out the school where they assist several hundred street children in the port city of Gonaives, Haiti. Photo by Donal Reilly/CRS

One of the first places we started clearing was the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Ascension school. Two sisters care for about 700 street children in that small compound. When the rains started the nuns had nowhere to go but up. They waited out the storm on the roof of the building. I can’t imagine how frightening it must have been for two nuns who can’t even swim to wait out the storms on that rooftop not knowing when the rains would cease and the waters would stop rising.

Getting to the school was difficult. It’s in a neighborhood that has been turned into a swamp. We went in a four-wheel drive vehicle. Walking there would have been impossible. The mud had washed over the building, poured into the kitchen and encrusted everything with a thick layer of sludge.

In two days of cleaning the school the streets were blocked. It’s an ongoing process as people clean out their house, the mud rises and there is a need once again to clean the streets.

Haiti mud

Water reached past the first floor level and left a thick film of sludge throughout the school, which is run by the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Ascension. Photo by Donal Reilly/CRS

We’re getting some trucks and loaders to begin removing the heavier loads of mud. Wheelbarrows and shovels are not enough. It’s a huge task and one that is necessary for the city to come back to life.

The government has identified a site just outside of the city where people can begin depositing mud. In some parts of the city I think they should be able to use the dried mud to raise the ground floor levels of any new homes , especially in the low lying areas close to the sea front which are prone to seasonal flooding.

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One Response to “School in Gonaives, Haiti Suffers Flood, Then Mud”

  1. Ayham Johnson Says:

    hi, my name is ayham johnson and i would like to send some things such as apple seeds and cartons to plant crops for the School in Haiti. The Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Ascension school. Please e-mail me back the address because i would really like to help out. THank you.
    Parsippany, NJ
    Parsippany Hills High School

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