Dispatches from Haiti II

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

Monday, February 8.

Much of my past week has been centered around the Jesuit novitiate in Haiti. The novitiate, located on a large piece of property minutes away from the Port-au-Prince airport, has served as the center for Jesuit relief activities in the capital.

Although not destroyed by the earthquake, the main building received substantial damage that made it dangerous to live in. Many of the Jesuit novices and staff moved into tents after the quake and are still living in a cam-like atmosphere.

Like many of their fellow Haitians, they have had an experience of displacement. These past weeks the large grassy area behind the house has become the home and staging ground for many JRS team members, Jesuit family members, and visiting emergency medical teams from the U.S., Brazil, France and Puerto Rico.

The normal tranquility of novitiate life was transformed overnight into a bustling, economy scale hotel atmosphere. In the evening, after a long day of caring for victims of the earthquake, volunteers would gather together in conversations that transcended the boundaries of language and culture.

The nearby airport, that in the past had welcomed seven flights daily, quickly became a landing strip for more than 200 planes daily that arrived every moment of the day and night. There were nights when I felt that the large cargo planes were about to land on top of our own tent!

The Haitian Jesuits, led by their superior, Fr. Miller Lamothe, S.J., opened their arms to their many visitors and never seemed to mind making sleeping arrangements, serving countless meals and cleaning showers and toilets for day by day.

The Jesuit relief effort to date has focused on providing food, water and emergency medical attention to thousands of victims in need. During the past week the coordinators of the Jesuit relief effort spent many hours planning on how best to respond to the medium range needs of the thousands of displaced.

Careful planning like this will make a great difference in the quality of our ability to reach out in love to the struggling Haitian people as we accompany, serve and defend their rights.

Learn more about Jesuit Refugee Service in Haiti here.

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