Haiti needs help

March 18, 2004

The Episcopal Church of Haiti--more than 100,000 strong, the largest diocese in ECUSA--has never needed its brothers and sisters more than it does today. The political turmoil disrupting the impoverished Caribbean nation since December has drastically reduced the society’s ability to function. The Episcopal Church and its members are suffering more than ever before and are counting on their partnerships with the Episcopal Church in the United States to come to their aid.

Twenty priests and leaders from around the diocese gathered in Port-au-Prince this week to tell Episcopal Life what they are experiencing in their communities. Some told of being accosted by gangs, of being robbed, of violence, shootings and mayhem in their towns and villages, of threats against school children, of parents so fearful they keep their children home from school and have been doing so since December.

They told of public hospitals closed, of medicines unavailable or sold at exorbitant prices, of food shortages, of transport and travel made impossible by road blocks and gun-wielding thugs intent on disruption and destruction in their frustration either for or against the now-deposed president.

“Help us,” was their plea, “Help us long-term.” They praised the Episcopal Church and their companions in dioceses across the country for their generosity and support. They thanked the church for sending someone to listen and to carry back their stories.

Several priests, one of them the Rev. Elie-Jean Charles, chaplain at St. Vincent’s School for the Handicapped and communications officer for the diocese, were blunt: “Send money.” Others told of their anguish at being unable to meet the needs of parishioners who have no resources at all. The church, they said, is the first place people will turn in their desperation. “I have nothing left to give,” said one young priest, clearly hurting. Many asked for prayers, for accompaniment, for long-term commitment helping Haiti rebuild.

Food prices climb

Food prices have risen drastically in recent weeks. Escalating gasoline prices and gas shortages add to the difficulty in transporting food. Savings and loan institutions that had promised high interest rates to attract families’ savings have gone bust, closing their doors just as Haitians desperately need their meager savings. Many families had invested all that their relatives had sent from the United States, according to Madame Nicole Magloire, director of St. Vincent’s School.

At Holy Cross Hospital in Leogane, the director, Dr. Jack Guy LaFontant, must shorten stays so he can accommodate the tremendous number that appear at his doors. Government-run hospitals in the capital have closed or are severely overburdened. The result is that the poor have no options. Private hospitals will not accept them. The church-run hospital in Leogane, a joint venture of the Episcopal and Presbyterian churches, has as its mission to serve the poor. LaFontant is trying desperately to do that but he is running out of not just medicine but fuel to keep the generators running.

To help, contact the Diocese of Haiti at 011 509-257-1624; 011 509-256-4120; epihaiti@hotmail.com. The bishop (address him as Monsignor Zache Duracin) and other members of the staff speak English,

or earmark contributions “Haitian Relief” and send to Episcopal Relief and Development, 815 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10017, 800-334-7626 (ext. 5129), or visit http://www.er-d.org/ where parish bulletin inserts on the Haitian crisis are also available.

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