Hurricane Update #7 – Saturday Oct 15 1:41am
Today has been a rough day.
This week started spectacularly, and crumbled a bit at the end for me, which is why I’m going to start with the end of the week, so that when you finish reading this, you will be reminded of the good, and not the bad.
Yesterday, we came home to Jacmel from the Savanette. By the time we arrived, I was already pretty tired and looking forward to a day off. However, before I had even entered our yard, I was told that one of our puppies (our dog Baloo had a surprise litter in August) could barely stand. Mandarin, one of the girls, was laying on the porch and having troubles lifting her head, so I sat with her for a while and helped her to take in some food and water. Once she did, I was able to get her standing and walking a bit, so I thought that maybe she would recover well.
I finally walked inside our house, only to find a little puddle of dark brown water waiting for me under the freezer… The last time that happened, Jamie & I had returned from a week long trip to the Savannette and discovered that everything in our freezer had defrosted and rotted while we were away, so I was definitely not looking forward to dealing with the mess again.
Thankfully I had a meeting to get to, so I left the freezer to wait a little longer, and headed out. When I returned a couple of hours later, Mandarin was much worse than before, so I tried calling the local vet. Sadly, by the time I was able to get a hold of him, she had taken a turn for the worse and passed away before I could even get her loaded in the car. By this time it was already 11:00 pm and I was completely exhausted. To top it off, I realized that even if I’d had the energy, I couldn’t bury her because we had left all of our shovels and picks in the big truck back in Savannette! I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or to cry. In the end, I ended up wrapping her in plastic bags and sticking her in the freezer for the night, since I already knew I’d be throwing everything inside of it away.
Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well, thanks to a combination of no EDH (city power), a dead puppy in our freezer, the pile of mixed emotions threatening to erupt from this past week, and, most importantly, no baby in her crib at my feet or wife next to me in bed. I really could have used them last night because their smiles can change everything for me. But at least I could look up and thank God for a ceiling. And four walls. And a secure house…
Which brings me back to this past week.
I know many of you may have been reading the updates throughout the week, but this post will be more of a recap of it all, and a description of the work moving forward.
Last Saturday, I hit the road to go to the Savannette with my guys, not really having a plan of exactly what we were going to do. I went with 4 tarps, and tools to do whatever we could. By the end of the week, one tarp was on the clinic, one tarp went with Smiley to his house, one went to Reginald so his family can move back home instead of staying in the MIA guesthouse, and one went to Joanes, who randomly came out to meet us.
Joanes is a carpenter from here in Jacmel who uses our tools and workshop whenever he has furniture to build. He’s a great guy, and his family lost their home out near Torbeck, which was quite close to where we were at. He came to visit us, and I was able to give him a tarp and an advance on building a kitchen table for us someday in the future, so that he could help his family right now.
Since that was all the tarps we had, our initial plans were to (a) clear trees, and (b) get the clinic back open to treat any medical issues that may arise in the community.
Each morning we loaded up the truck with guys, machetes, and our chainsaw and worked from about 7-12, which is when it would get too hot to do much more. Our priorities were trees that were blocking the road or were on houses, so for now, we skipped many large trees that will need cleared someday, so that we could get the most important things done. In exciting news, we did manage to build temporary rafters and get a tarp secured over the clinic before we left, so it should at least be able to function again.
In the afternoons, I started surveying the community, and by the end of the week (with lots of help from Gala Calisto), we managed to survey about 80 houses and identified some of the greatest needs in the community.
Out of 80 houses, over 70 need tarps.
When Gala and Susan Frame came to help from Jacmel, they brought with them 30 more tarps, which we handed out to where we felt were the biggest needs. Honestly, handing out tarps was more exhausting than working with the chainsaw crew. Even though the ones receiving them were quite grateful, it was difficult to not be discouraged by the amount of people surrounding us, creating problems for us by demanding a tarp for their house, or accusing us of breaking promises (which we never made, as we were clear to state at each house that we could not promise anything at all and were only collecting information for now). It’s part of the reason we are short on pictures from the survey and tarp process, because we didn’t want to take photos of any houses that we could not give aid to while we surveying, and because we were too busy to get the camera out during the distributions. However, we did at least manage to capture a picture at the one house where we actually helped put the tarp on.
Gala had noticed that this woman did not seem to have anyone to help her clear the rubble in her house, so we figured she would need help putting the tarp on as well. Her house was actually in better condition than most that we gave tarps to, but we were trying to pay attention to who had family helping them out as well as evaluating the house itself.
Honestly, though, the struggles of tarp distribution were completely expected and understandable, and everyone did eventually calm down and respect our decisions. And as we left on Friday morning, they thanked us for all the hard work that was put in, and made sure we know they’re are looking forward to us returning in the future.
Looking forward, I had a meeting with some of the local supporters here in Jacmel last night. Gala, Susan, and Matt and Julie Reichard (from Carlisle, PA, working with Freedom Global Outreach) have been very supportive and are contributing financially to this relief project as well. We decided that this week would be set aside for rest and logistics. We are searching out prices for lumber, tin, tarps, and some school supplies, as we noticed that many of the childrens’ notebooks for school were destroyed by water damage.
I also talked on the phone for a while with my brother, and have been in contact with Kim Conrad, as both of them are planning to come down here and help out with the relief work. I will actually be trying to get to PA next week to see Jamie and Mara for a bit, before getting back into relief mode.
Due to the need to rest and recoup, I will not be making it to all the churches and groups that support us while I am home, but I will be announcing one evening when I will be sharing what is going on down here. It will most likely take place at Crucified Church, though I don’t know what night yet. The following week, I will return to Haiti and a small team from Johnstown will be joining me, including Jeremy Barclay, Josh, Sean, and a possible fourth person, who is currently trying to get time off from work. Unfortunately I can’t take anyone else right now as our Isuzu will only carry 5 people with luggage from PAP to the Savannette.
For that week, our goals are to:
– Get more tarps. We hope to bring at least 100 tarps to the community for distribution, because that is the fastest and most economical way to address the need for rain protection in the houses. We’ll be buying tarps in Port Au Prince for ~$22, and will add some materials to tie the tarp down into place. If any of you would like to help sponsor some materials, $25 will get a tarp on a house that already has rafters in place, or about $60 should allow us to get lumber to put up supports under the tarp as well.
– Put a permanent roof on the clinic. We have a structural engineer designing a truss layout for the clinic, so the plan is to build trusses and get the permanent roof in place before Dr. Jay arrives with a medical team on November 12.
– Continue with the tree cutting. We will be sending out teams each morning to cut more trees, but now we will also start hiring our machete crew instead of taking volunteers. These people need income, so we want to sponsor them to work on a project that will help their families and their community. Paying the men will probably be about $10/man/day if you would like to contribute to that as well.
– Re-evaluate the community needs. After we have taken a week off, we will get a chance to see who has the means to rebuild themselves, and who does not. Those who are capable of working, will already have started to do so by the time we return, which will help us to identify those in the greatest need. We will certainly not be promising anything to individuals yet, but we have plans that we could build a secure 8’x10′ single room building for about $450. The hard part is that the same money could tarp 18 roofs, or pay for 45 man-days of labor, so we will have to see a significant need to decide that an individual needs a new shelter.
We will also keep an eye on the health and food supply of the community, as they are currently not a problem, but either one could quickly take a turn for the worse. Cholera is popping up in some regions which could cause disastrous results, and most of the agriculture in the area was decimated, so the food supply may see a significant reduction soon. Pray that neither of these situations arises, but, if they do, we will respond accordingly.
– Minister, not just work. I have reached out to Pierre, our pastor here in Jacmel, to see if we can get a couple people from our church to join our team with a focus on talking to residents and addressing their spiritual needs in this traumatic time. Please pray that God would send the right people for this job as I feel that having Haitians minister to Haitians will be even more effective than if our team tried to do it through translators.
When Josh’s team leaves, I will be picking up Kim Conrad the following day at the airport and we will return to the Savanette to continue working. This will also be a convenient time to resupply. The details of what we will work on will depend on the outcome of the previous week of work. We will look to collect some things in the US while I am home, but I won’t know exactly until I get there.
If you are interested in helping, right now finances are the biggest support we need. We will use it to buy materials locally since importing things is not only slow and expensive, but this way we support the local economy as well.
Thank you for all of your support, and for taking the time to read these scattered thoughts… We need your prayers for the Savanette, and for wisdom and strength for ourselves as we continue this ministry.