CWM member-church, the United Church in Jamaica and Cayman Islands (UCJCI), gathered a small task force to look at short-term and long-term responses to the devastation caused by the hurricane in Haiti in October 2016. Below is the brief statement and action points adopted by the team:
“In response to the effects of ‘Hurricane Matthew’ on our sister nation of Haiti, a committee led by Mr. Paul Miller and drawn from all four regions has been established to consider the UCJCI’s response to the loss of lives, property and livelihood especially in the southern part of Haiti. It was decided to take a long term approach to the situation in Haiti, with special attention to the Ley Cayes Region through the following activities:
1. An appeal for monetary contributions in the month of October 2016.
2. The Cayman Region will remit their monetary gifts directly to Haiti.
3. A work team to construct housing in the Ley Cayes Region is scheduled for mid-November 2016.
4. A solidarity visit to Joan Page Bain (UCJCI mission partner to Haiti) by the General Secretary Rev Norbert Stephens taking critical items such as medication and solar lanterns.
5. A clothing drive for the next 18 months among the regions using collection points with Knox Community College for support for collections. Sorting, shipping/transportation to Haiti being explored.
6. Seeking a solidarity grant to support the purchase of livestock and chickens.
7. Ensure continued education of the political, economic, social, regional issues related to Haiti.
8. Pursue with Caribbean Community (CARICOM), acceptable housing construction standards in Haiti.
9. Pursue missional presence through joint work and professional teams.
HURRICANE MATTHEW’S EFFECTS: A PERSONAL ACCOUNT
Cayman Regional Mission Council of UCJCI provides long standing support to Nurse Joan Page Bain who, for more than 25 years, has been using her skills as a Nurse Practitioner serving in the Guichard, Laborde, and Cambry areas near Les Cayes in the southwestern end of Haiti. This is an area devastated by Hurricane Matthew. Joan works in these communities as a health and nutrition professional offering assistance to community groups, schools and churches as a part of a team of missionaries. She is also a midwife and cares very deeply for the children.
Joan gave us a snapshot of what the situation was like in her area when the hurricane hit:
“Here in Cayes, all our basic infrastructure has been greatly affected with some roads still impassible with down power lines, trees and debris. This situation makes communication and face-to-face contact very difficult. In spite of this, we have been able to make contact via word of mouth and walking to the various affected homes.
A very large percentage of the homes in the areas around here have been greatly affected by Hurricane Matthew. Some houses have been partially or totally destroyed. For example, in one community of twenty-six (26) homes only two (2) are habitable and all 26 families occupy these two (2) homes. Many churches now have to find creative ways to have regular church services as displaced families now occupy these buildings. Schools are still out since they are either too damaged to be used or are serving as shelters. Currently, we are offering medical help, counseling, and encouragement to those who have been affected. In some extreme cases, we have been offering food. However, the needs are far greater than our limited resources are able to meet. We are also trying to sensitize persons outside of Haiti concerning the staggering needs that exist.
Many of the families here have to be starting over and they will need just about everything. We would be grateful to receive food, clothing and personal care items in the short term. The threat of Cholera continues to be a major problem in Haiti and with a lot of standing water this is even more real. An adequate supply of drinking water is also one of our most urgent needs.”
Immediately upon the passing of Hurricane Matthew, the Chair of Cayman Council, Angela Martins contacted Joan, to find out how she was faring and what the immediate needs were.
This information in hand, a quick email to the congregations resulted in 92 boxes being packed and readied in less than 36 hours. Contributions came from across the churches with young children involved, some of whom offering to help sort and pack the boxes. Generally, the 92 boxes contained clothing and shoes from infants to adults (new and gently used) bedding, diapers, baby wipes, formula, food items for babies, toilet paper, water and non-perishable food items and personal toiletry items for men and women.
Joan belongs to a missionary group called Mission Évangélique Baptiste Du Sud D’HAITI (M.E.B.S.H.) and serves as Director for one of their Heath clinics.
M.E.B.S.H. is a Baptist organization that is very well known and highly respected in Haiti. They operate schools, churches, orphanages and homes for senior citizens, clinics, a Deaf school and a Church and Bible College. This organization receives missionaries from various countries throughout the world and Joan is a UCJCI missionary working with them. Through this organization she has set up distribution centers in the communities to reach the people most in need as soon as the boxes arrive in Cayes.
The plan Joan has in place is to work along with the clinics in Guichard, Guichard Baptist Church and School, Laborde Baptist Church and School, Church and School for the Deaf at Cambry, and the Primary School at Anadere.
The boxes were delivered to Haiti 20th October 2016.
The United Church offers a special word of thanks to Matthew Leslie who put out that early call to the wider community for help for Haiti. It is thru Matthew that we learned of the willingness of DHL to take humanitarian aid into Haiti contingent on their sole commitment to get any aid they transported directly to a hurricane stricken area. Joan lives within the devastated communities in Cayes and so we had a common goal. . We give God thanks for this gift of transport by DHL.
This response from UCJCI in Cayman is in keeping with our focus to be intentionally present in community as a needs meeting church both here at home and abroad.
We are also collecting a special offering across our whole church in Jamaica and Cayman for the remaining Sundays of this month earmarked for Haiti. These funds will be used for specific projects such as helping orphaned children, children with special needs etc. a result of the hurricane. This response is similar to the response of our church after the earthquake in 2010 ,when funds raised were put into specific projects to help displaced/health challenged young people recover from and deal with the impacts of the earthquake.
The resonating message across our Congregations when approached was an immediate willingness to help those affected in Haiti. We are all grateful for the ability to do so.”