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Story Tools

Date of Issue: May 12, 2010

You can help

Funding is needed to ship more food and supplies to the House of Presence in Haiti, to recover shipping costs, and repairs to the house.

Your tax-deductible donation to Ministry of Presence can be delivered to The Islander, or mailed to MoP, P.O. Box 784, Oneco FL 34264.

There’s little attention paid to a smouldering fire where trash burns or families cook on this embankment of leantos and makeshift shelters in Port-au-Prince.

The road leading from Port-au-Prince to Saint Marc, is less populated outside the city proper, but crumbled buildings, tents and tarps dot the fields as far as the eyes can see.

The port office in Saint Marc is located on the coast and opposite the city hub.

.

A half-hour from the port office, we find the Ministry of Presence truck in the far center of a lot of vehicles, many in various states of disrepair.

This city of 5,000 tents is about an hour from Port-au-Prince. The residents receive two meals a day and water, but little else. There is nothing nearby, no shops, no work, and little to nothing to occupy the residents.

Croix des Bouquets, a large community within the city of Port-au-Prince has damaged roads and buildings.

The truck and its contents, donations collected by The Islander for the Ministry of Presence, arrive in Duval Roche, Haiti, W.I., to the House of Presence.

The truck arrives at the House of Presence, where it will be unloaded and its contents distributed to the most needy in the area, as well as an orphanage two hours from the home in Leogane.

More information, photos and online donations: www.ministryofpresence.org.

Special report: Haiti trip affirms AMI goodwill

By Bonner Joy

Rest assured, your donations are at work in Haiti.

Thanks to the generosity of so many people, and the hard work of some, a truck and its load of donations to aid children and the least fortunate people in Haiti has been delivered.

There are three things you need to know:

The sun is hotter there.

Everyday, something goes wrong.

Your donations are urgently needed.

I arrived in Port-au-Prince April 29, where I was met at the airport by the Rev. Ron Joseph and two helpers, Junior Metellus and Ricardo “Doudou” Dume, who whisked me and my bag into the Ministry of Presence van for a two-hour trip to Saint Marc to pickup the truck and its contents, shipped on a freighter, from the port.

It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t cheap, but it is done.

After paying more fees and collecting the truck from a large port parking lot where it was literally sandwiched in the middle of hundreds of other vehicles, many with flat tires and broken windows, we were on our way home.

Home is the ministry guesthouse, House of Presence, in a small community east of PaP on the busy main road from the city to the Dominican Republic. It is a beautiful Bahama-style two-story — very comfortable and with a large inviting living/dining area downstairs. There are six upstairs bedrooms to accommodate guests, and the property is fronted by a two-story “business” building, all enclosed by a high wall.

It’s a new wall, the old one having fallen in the Jan. 12 earthquake. The house, too, has had extensive repairs amounting to almost $7,000, but it is most welcoming.

We maneuver the truck into the courtyard, and open the door.

There is applause among us as we view the huge volume of boxes, the eight tires for the ministry vehicles, buckets for women to carry water, bags of rice and beans, and all the goodwill the truck holds.

We start to unload. And unload. And unload.

We move tents and sleeping bags to the far side of the courtyard. Linens and bedding to the opposite side. Women’s and men’s clothing takes a place next to the linens. Clinic supplies and toiletries get a spot. Items for the house and Father Ron get a corner.

And as we go, we put items for children — for the orphanage supported for more than 20 years by the ministry — along one side of the truck interior, and food on the opposite wall. Everything else is removed. And covered with tarps.

It looks like rain, and it does. It rained hard for several hours, but the cool breeze that came with the rain is welcome in the house. Did I mention there’s no electricity — at least the Haitian electric company is not providing it on a regular basis. Never did. Gas for the generator is too expensive and too hard to come by, although at third alternative, an inverter system of car batteries, powers some lights and ceiling fans.

My thoughts turn to all the tents, makeshift tents, lean-tos and small shelters I’ve seen in the space and time we traveled thus far — and the people who are living in such poor conditions. The rain is yet another hardship.

Morning comes with first light and roosters crowing. We had learned from a young man who met us in Saint Marc at the port office that a group from a Sanibel Island Rotary Club and another ministry wishes to spend the last night of its mission to help rebuild a church and school at the House of Presence. We begin to prepare.

Junior, Doudou and Father Ron are cleaning upstairs, making beds and making ready. A young woman helper is doing the floors downstairs. I tackle the kitchen, cleaning and organizing supplies in the cabinets.

We depart to visit Megamart for supplies. Bottled water and some groceries will be required for 10 men, so we hurry into Port-au-Prince, which also gives me a chance to view the city and the earthquake’s devastation.

I’d visited Megamart before, and it takes about 45 minutes to get there. I see many “flattened” buildings, as Father Ron refers to the obvious condition of many structures, and I see many crowded tents and makeshift shelters along the way in nearly every possible open space.

I wasn’t prepared to see the shelters at Megamart, but there they were. The tent tenants were going about their daily business, feeding and washing kids, cutting hair, resting, living on the outskirts of a parking lot.

It’s apparent that many businesses are tolerant of the needs of people in Haiti.

We hurry our shopping and head back to HoP, and manage somehow to connect with our new guests on the roadway, so we arrive together.

They are, of course, impressed with the facility provided by the Ministry of Presence.

Father Ron prepares a traditional Haitian dinner that includes pork braised in tomato sauce with green beans and peas, rice and a non-traditional pot of (instant) mashed potatoes.

The next morning, there’s coffee and breakfast for all, and the men ask for a tour of damages in PaP, so we arrange to meet them at the airport in advance of their departure — and in advance of our two-hour trip to the orphanage supported by MoP for some 20 years in Leogane.

We first load the van with food and empty 5-gallon buckets for our trip to visit the 86 children in Leogane.

At the airport, we jam men into the van for the tour. It’s a very sad tour. At the Catholic cathedral — mostly destroyed, and some 100 priests lost with it — the visitors insist on walking to the front where the van can’t go. It’s a short, but very emotional walk. People beg for help. And the men, who pray outside the van before departing, attract a large crowd. They make small gifts to some of the gathered people before we leave for the White House, Haiti’s demolished presidential palace.

Again they debark. I worry about another mob, but only a few young people take notice of us.

We return the visitors to the airport, and we are off on our mission, to visit the Mary Queen of the Apostles Foyer.

It’s a long ride. The road is crowded with people walking, standing, selling goods. The scenery is crowded with poverty, makeshift tents, crumbled buildings and devastation.

Once we reach Leogane, we turn up a dirt road and travel a short distance to the orphanage.

We find the children scattered about, playing, munching mangos, getting haircuts and looking as happy as can be. Very happy to see us. Excited to see Father Ron and Junior, curious about me. The director is worried and grateful for the large bags of rice and beans, buckets for storage, and a breezeway to store it all.

But the kids have tents — about 30 of them. There’s a large tarp for shade, a gathering place. Most of them were at play on two courtyards between the flattened, busted buildings — oblivious of our concern for their wellbeing.

Some adults were busy preparing, cooking food outdoors. No one enters or goes near the former dorms, classrooms, facilities.

Father Ron talks to the director, while Junior and I visit with kids and watch some play soccer in a corner of the courtyard. Junior jumps into the game, and the kids are thrilled.

All too soon, we’re ready to depart.

I visit with a nearby camp of women — all nurses from Spain, the third and last such group to provide aid in Leogane. Father Ron leaves the director and we are back in the van, which now has no AC for our return trip.

We return by way of a gas station by the airport that is the Haitian “Jessie’s Store” for another round of chicken sandwiches and cold drinks. We eat inside, and, imagine this, it’s the first rest-room stop since leaving the house around 10 a.m. It’s about 5 p.m. when we head home — looking forward to a peaceful night.

We didn’t know it, but no “city electric” all night, so no AC. We used the inverter power to work on our computers, Ron and Junior completed an immigration application for Junior, and I read Islander stores, relayed by Lisa Neff, and returned to her for the layout process. Midnight. Time to sleep. Only one fan. I’m on the couch again.

Sunday morning comes with a plan. More unpacking and arranging the truckload of supplies, and four nuns and an associate to collect at the airport. 

We make a trip to Megamart with our new visitors, and head home. After all the unloading, sorting and a quick rest, I am empowered with five women ready to “rock ‘n’ roll” in the truck filled with donations.

We do more sorting, more unloading, and decide to have a street sale of sorts — a giveaway of adult clothes.

We leave our chore at dark, ready to start our “sale” the next day.

We made a nightmare of a chore for ourselves in the afternoon sun, but the neighborhood people are thrilled with our plan — eight tables of clothes, and 200 or so people pressing to take a turn at filling a shopping bag with apparel and shoes. It’s a wild success.

So much so, we decide to continue a second day, and we also sort some children’s wear and help the kids find what can be useful to them.

Our attention turns back to the truck, and the remaining items under tarps. We again do some sorting, and load many boxes back into the truck for storage.

Later that day, we take packages of food provided by the Anna Maria Island Rotary Club, and shipped by the ministry, to a small neighborhood behind the HoP.

More next week.

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