Two Catholic Churches Support Haiti Relief Effort
When the earthquake hit Haiti a little over a month ago, a group from two Catholic churches in Richmond was in an area about 50 miles from the hard hit capitol city of Port au Prince. Since returning home, they’ve been leading a relief effort.
The group from St. Bridget’s Church and the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart have a joint Haiti committee that supports a parish there.
Yates: Our whole entire committee has been staying in close contact with our friends and contacts on the ground in Hinche, Haiti, which is in the center plateau region. Once again, that was an area that wasn’t hit directly by the earthquake.
Richmonder Danny Yates, a freshman at William and Mary, is the group’s interpreter.
Yates: There have been huge waves of immigrants coming to the region. People who have friends and family in Hinche and have left Port au Prince and the devastation and tent cities. There are also people who have no relations but are simply trying to find a better place. The only difficulty is that in Hinche the roads are bad, there’s no airport to speak of, so the difficulty getting supplies, medicines, food poses quite a problem. With the help of listeners and parishioner members we’ve been able to get money wired directly to Father Bordeau and some of the other priests there who’ve been able to use that cash directly to buy food. They’ve been able to buy gas, even on the black market, at which point they can descend to Port au Prince on the roads, go down the mountains and start bringing in some supplies. So it’s really been a lifeline for this one area in which official NGOs and things haven’t been able to arrive.
While there’s a critical need for shelter in Port au Prince, with some many refugees in Hinche the need is for gasoline to generate electricity, food and medicine.
Yates: There’s one doctor from New Mexico who has family here in Richmond, Dr. Robert McDevott, and a friend, Sam Slishman, also from Albuquerque, were able to get down there. Since our return and we made the arrangements so that they did some emergency surgery at the hospital there. In fact, Harrison Ford actually flew his plane into Hinche, the actor has a 16- or 15-seater plane he was able to fly into a dirt gravel runway there and bring in some more doctors from the Operation Smile program. So really there are a lot of different groups working on the ground and the key is communication. Thanks to cell phones we’ve been able to stay in daily contact and things are slowly getting better but it’s going to be a long time.
Yates says the Haitian people continue to inspire him and the others with their tenacity, with their faith.
Yates: Really quite a strong faith and you know people are banding together. If you look at it, there’s really not much looting and violence as compared to other disastrous situations the world has seen.
St. Bridget’s Cathedral group is in daily contact with priests and friends in Hinche and continues to work to raise money to help through their website, Hincherelief.wordpress.com.
Yates: That has information as to where to mail checks if people can still help in that aspect, but it also really, my main goal, would continue with the website and I try to do a daily update, is basically just to provide information on how the money is being used and really the sense of life in Hinche. We’re getting pictures emailed to us daily from folks on the ground there. Pictures from the hospital and stuff like that. This is bit of an inside perspective than perhaps CNN is depicting. But hopefully people can check that out.
This wasn’t Danny Yates’ first trip to Haiti but it was the most memorable.
Yates: Three other members of the group it was their first trip and they really hadn’t had that much involvement in the committee, and now they are exchanging emails with different friends they’ve met and every time they’ve run into someone here in Richmond they get to retell their stories. As the priest told us on our last day there, he said, maybe you were here for a reason. You can go back and share what you saw.
John Ogle, WCVE News.