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Reflections

This video was produced by a member of the St. Monica’s Medical Team – a man named Peter Marshall. Please take a moment to watch. It is very well produced. Click on the link below the photo.

Children in Hinche

Haiti Part 7: Reflections from Peter Marshall on Vimeo.

Follow the link below to a column I recently wrote for the Richmond Times Dispatch.

Check out this video from St. Monica’s Parish in Atlanta, Georgia. St. Monica’s is twinned with Sacre Coeur in Hinche and over the years they have accomplished amazing things in Haiti. Most recently in the aftermath of the devastaing earthquake, a crack medical team deployed within hours of the quake.

They set up base at Matthew 25 House and truly did the work of God – providing essential medical care and much more to thousands in Port au Prince. This video was created by Mark Coughlin a member of the remarkable St. Monica’s team.

Just to clarify – the scenes depicted in this video are in no way a part of our efforts at the St. Bridget’s – Cathedral Haiti Committee. These effors were solely the work of St. Monica’s. However, the images are so moving, that I felt it necessary to post them here. Thank you St. Monica’s and keep up the good work!.

Haiti Earthquake from Mark Coughlin Media on Vimeo.


Below is a personal reflection I wrote upon my return for the Richmond Free Press.

January 12, 2010, a Day Which Will Live in Haitian History

“Ca fera 30 années, au moins, pour refaire le pays. » This chilling prediction by a Haitian talk show host (translation – It will take at minimum, 30 years to rebuild our country), crackled over the simple transistor radio late in the evening on Tuesday January 12.
I looked up from the kitchen table and saw fear, confusion, and despair on the faces of the Haitians with whom I was sharing a meal. Tears streamed down the cheek of one woman, rosary in hand, as she quietly repeated the words of a simple kreyol prayer.
Just a few hours earlier that day, a massive earthquake, had in less than five minutes, brought instant catastrophe to the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere.
For the first few hours after the devastating quake, I imagined that it was all a dream. I had been sitting on the front steps of a church in Hinche, a town some 50 miles northeast of Port au Prince. It was my second trip to Haiti, my purpose was to serve as a guide and translator for three members of the joint Haiti committee of St. Bridget and Cathedral of Sacred Heart parishes in Richmond, Va.
At first I thought my feet were shaking because of the nearby generator. In rural Haiti electricity is nonexistent, so everything runs on diesel generators. Yet as the sensation intensified, I quickly realized the earth was physically moving under my feet. For nearly a minute the tremors continued, the feeling was similar to riding a tilt-a-whirl at the state fair.
Then, just as suddenly as it had started, the quaking stopped. Children laughed, adults smiled, and daily activities resumed. I later learned that the seismic activity in Hinche only measured approximately 4.5 on the Richter scale. But the calm after the quake was short lived. Our first indicator came with the loss of cell phone coverage. Half an hour later, urgent radio reports blared from Father Jean Bourdeau’s truck.
Late into that first night, the radio painted images of complete destruction, accounts of widespread death and injury which echoed through the candlelight rectory. The next three days are a blur in my memory. We canvassed the town of Hinche in Father Bourdeau’s Toyota Tundra, buying gasoline for $15 a gallon on the black market and stocking up on rice, beans, and water.
On Friday, January 15, I awoke at 5 am and accompanied Father Bourdeau and one other priest, Father Etienne on a 14 hour trek to Port-au-Prince. Our goal was to check on the family members of both priests and bring them back to the relative safety of Hinche. We returned well after sunset with approximately 25 refugees, wounded women, starving children – all of whom were relatives or friends. The scenes I saw that day will forever be burned in my memory: piles of corpses along the roadside, clouds of dust and debris so thick they blocked the sun, and the piercing cries for help from those still stuck under the rubble.
Now, more than two weeks after the devastating earthquake, or “tremblement de terre,” many Haitians are still in a state of disbelief. They ask questions like “how can it be that the largest Caribbean earthquake in more than 200 years just so happened to have its epicenter in a slum city of three million in the world’s poorest country?”
As pictured so vividly on national television, thousands in Port-au-Prince are living in tent cities with little or no water and food. Each day, great exoduses of injured, hungry, and desperate Haitians are leaving Port-au-Prince and its surrounding hard-hit disaster zones. More than one million have already left the city; most of these refugees are fleeing to the already impoverished, remote countryside.
Speaking recently via cell phone to Father Bourdeau, my fears for Haiti were reinforced. The 55-year-old Haitian priests predicts that the aftermath from the quake (violence, starvation, disease), will likely surpass the death toll of approximately 200,000 Haitians who perished on January 12.
“Food is very expensive and hard to find. There is no more gasoline. These are hard times,” said Father Bourdeau, pastor of a church in a town whose population numbered 50,000 before the quake yet now is estimated at 300,000 or more.
Amidst these dire circumstances, the faith of the Haitian people is unmatchable. Last Wednesday morning, several dozen churchgoers gathered for 6 am service in the town of Hinche when the walls of their church began to shake due to the largest aftershock thus far. I spoke via cell phone with Father Bourdeau several hours after this powerful tremor. He told me that everyone quickly and reverently exited the church and assembled in a nearby field. When the aftershock subsided, he continued to lead the congregation for a half hour of prayer.
Scenes such as these are almost unimaginable in our country. Just hours after Hurricane Katrina, looting spread throughout New Orleans with frenzied residents stealing stereos, computers, and cars. In Haiti, the first recorded incident of violence came five days after the quake, when famished and thirsty individuals began stealing food, water and toothpaste – which Haitians now spread under their nostrils to block out the stench of decaying bodies and human waste.
Aid, money, and support are pouring into Haiti from every corner of the world. Yet with only one airport and a strict limit of 120 flights per day, recovery efforts are slow and laborious. Schools and business remain closed and the fear of aftershocks, epidemics, and violence fills the minds of Haitians young and old.
One thing, however, is certain. Haitians see the U.S., particularly the American Catholic Church as their greatest hope. Marines and national guardsmen are being welcomed in the streets of Port au Prince. And, each day when I call Father Bourdeau he leaves me with the same question, “do people know what has happened? Tell them your story.”
Since my return, it has been slightly hard to get back in the swing of WM. Walking into the Caf, taking a hot shower, even just going to class each day – I’m reminded of what luxurious and privileged lives we each live. Currently, my projects include facilitating communication between the Diocese of Hinche and the Diocese of Richmond, raising funds and wiring cash directly to the priests in Hinche, and working to bring one or two Haitian university students to study here at W&M.
We have been successful in sending one emergency cash payment which Father Bourdeau received through the Fonkoze service. He has since purchased a stockpile of rice for his parishioners and he has also bought food for hundreds of quake victims in the St. Therese Hospital in Hinche. In Haiti, hospitals are the equivalent of Civil War-era medicine. Since they do not provide food for patients, that is one of my primary goals. For information on how to help our effort and bring relief directly to those in need , please keep checking this website. Donation info on main page.

Map of Central Haiti – We’re working with Hinche (a small city in the Central Plateau region of Haiti)

Map of the Plateau Central

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