LETTER FROM HAITI: The Kootenay connection
The following is a letter from Jim Reimer, pastor of the Kootenay Christian Fellowship, who is in Haiti right now with a group of students from Mount Sentinel school.
Today is January 15. We started the day with a large tremor at 4 am. It shook our shelter and sent the kids running. To be awakened in this manner was quite scary.
It is now 8:40 am and as I was typing that sentence, another good quake came. It suddenly struck me as funny, I never even moved from my seat. It is amazing how quickly one adapts to the situation. We have been experiencing these tremors about one every 90 minutes. Each one is lesser or greater intensity. None though, with the force of the first one.
We are camped out under a tin roof, Poll barn type structure, which serves as their church building. It has no walls and is about 48 x100 feet in area. It has a ground floor. Kids are all sleeping in a row on the ground. We used sheets of plywood for ground cover. We risked entering the main house to retrieve mattresses and all our supplies on Wednesday.
They are asking no one to go back into the houses until the tremors stop. Each day since Wednesday they say “tomorrow” it will be safe. People are sleeping everywhere. Last night we had about a hundred stay on our compound. Not as many are here as in other places as this place has many trees and the locals are afraid of the trees falling on them in the event of another quake.
We went on a walk about today. Saw home after home levelled. The people had nothing, now they have even less. The proposed goat farm wall that was half built is all down. The wall around the compound is mostly down, and that what is standing has to be taken down and started over again. It would cost 50,000 dollars to rebuild the compound wall. The rebuilding of these walls is necessary to continue the mission here for safety and security reasons.
To see the devastation is one thing, to hear of the loss of life compounds the sense of loss exponentially. One can hardly imagine how these folks will have hope and courage to move forward. There is no employment to go out and make money. The little food they had is now gone as well. The kids were moved by the situation and immediately emptied their pockets to buy rice. We raised 2500 dollars with the group. It will purchase 4000 pounds of rice. We are going to distribute it to the families this afternoon.
The goat farm is only two acres, which mistakenly thought was 10 acres. This plot of land will house about fifty goats. It has its own well and will be irrigated from it. There is another plot of land adjacent to this plot for sale. It would be prudent to purchase it, but Marc did not know the cost.
There is a ten acre lot in another location dedicated for an orphanage. The need for an orphanage has increased dramatically now. The last report we heard that 700,000 people have died. We can not substantiate this amount, but constantly we hear of someone who lost a family member or a friend.
Carla Jadue and Veronica Bocca both from Chile arrived on Jan 10 to holiday here. They were rescued by the Chilean government on January 15 by helicopter. It was emotional to see them go.
We know have just returned from distributing food. One of the students said, “each day it is getting better for me, this experience has changed my life for ever. When I get home I am going to fund raise for these people.” This was said, as we were leaving from distributing rice, riding in the back of a police truck with fourteen of us piled in there. The line never ended; when the rice did, it broke our heart.
When we got back to Haiti Arise, we got more bad news. During the confusion of Tuesday night’s earthquake someone came into the unsecured house and stole 10,000 US. This was money set aside for food for our team and their staff.
It is hard to come to terms with the depravity of human nature in the light of a disaster. Suddenly the price of rice increased, diesel prices jump, the Haitian dollar is worth less, and neighbours loot neighbours houses. One man reported that people were stepping over his dead wife while they looted his house.
But then, we see the other side. In the community of Grand Goave people lives are being changed and impacted through the generosity of people like Marc and Lisa Honorat, founders of Haiti Arise and people all around the world supporting their ministry.
Information is so sketchy here. One of the individuals John Louis Meloche was in touch with is daughter who works for Air Canada. She contacted Mrs. L’heureux who is a Minster of Foreign Affairs in Quebec. She reported that Foreign Affairs did not know about us. We thought the information was out that we need to be evacuated.
Everyone is still healthy here, except for Sue. She is still in a lot of pain and should be seen by a doctor
Jim Reimer, Pastor of Kootenay Christian Fellowship.