Dispatches from Haiti I

JRS/USA National Director Fr. Ken Gavin is in Haiti, and shares the following:

Thursday, February 4.

This morning we drove to Leogane, a city west of Port-au-Prince almost totally devastated by the January 12 earthquake. Some say the 90% of the town is either rubble or uninhabitable.

On the way there we saw crowds of people gathered at a food distribution center in the capital’s harbor area.

There are reports that many Haitians begin to queue up on food lines at 3 in the morning, waiting for the start of the distribution at 8 a.m. Other groups have been told by agencies that food will be distributed in their neighborhood the next day, only to find out the following morning that no food has been delivered. There are long lines of hungry people whenever trucks of food appear in the neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince.

We observed a large group of people–mostly, peaceful–demonstrating at the airport over the slowness of the international food distribution process.

A Haitian Jesuit friend commented sadly, “Where there is hunger, anger follows.”

Leogane is one of the 12 centers where the Jesuit relief effort distributes food, water and medicines. We visited with the pastor of the Church of Santa Rosa, which was totally destroyed.

He spoke with sadness of the urgent need for food distribution in his city and among his parishioners. Fr. Louis Gabriel Blot, the pastor of the Church of St. Andre, came close to tears as he showed us the two shattered walls–all that remains–of his parish church.

“People come to me for help,” he said, “and there is no help that I can give them.

More and more, we heard that there is an urgent need for tents throughout Port-au-Prince to replace the flimsiest of shelters, made of blankets and plastic sheeting, that many families now call home.

From the rubble of San Andre Church in Leogane parishioners have pulled a mangled crucifix, a statue of an angel, and the church’s bell which is still used to call the neighborhood to prayer every Sunday.

Mass is now celebrated under a blue plastic canopy that also serves day and night as a shelter for the some of the neediest families of the parish. The night before our visit, it rained heavily in Leogane.

“It was another disaster,” commented Fr. Blot.

Ler more about JRS in Haiti.

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