SOUTH LOS ANGELES — The disaster captured headlines around the globe and attracted worldwide attention. Last fall, hurricanes Irma, Maria and Matthew lashed out at the tiny islands in the Caribbean and caused billions of dollars in damages. Thousands of residents were either displaced or killed.
In the aftermath, many islanders are still struggling to survive without shelter, electricity, running water or medical help.
Concerned about the devastation, members of the Inglewood Pacific Chapter of the Links, recently flew to Port-au-Prince in Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the Caribbean, to deliver much needed aid.
After returning to the U.S., the Links partnered with Holman United Methodist Church in South Los Angeles to launch a “Compassion for the Caribbean” campaign whose goal is to supply aid to devastated countries, including Africa and Puerto Rico.
The Rev. Kelvin Sauls, pastor of Holman, saw it was imperative to support the Link’s global humanitarian efforts.
“As a congregation with members from several countries in the Caribbean, Holman has made a commitment to collaborate with other community-based organizations, such as the Links, to facilitate relief and restoration for our sister and brothers. Our commitment is for the long haul,” Sauls said.
“There are thousands of citizens in Haiti that are still homeless,” said Thelma James Day, chair of the International Trends and Services Facet for Inglewood Pacific Chapter of the Links. “Many of the people are still living in tents or in cardboard boxes.’’
‘’We saw a lot of buildings that were destroyed [by the hurricanes], but have not yet been repaired,” Links member Charlotte Ned said. “There were piles of trash in the streets and the creeks were filled with debris. But despite weathering the hurricanes, the people have a great sense of resilience.’’
Leslie Ann Ortique, president of the Inglewood Pacific Chapter of the Links, realized that funneling aid to Haiti is critical.
“The Haitian people are living through widespread devastation,” she said. “They can’t call FEMA or State Farm to help them.’’
While visiting Port-au-Prince, the Links realized that despite islanders needing much-needed help, government red tape frequently obstructs aid from reaching the masses.
‘’There is political infighting going on in the country, so the island’s infrastructure is not there,” said Day, who helped to organize the trip.
In an effort to spread cheer and goodwill among the Haitian people, members of the Links visited two schools, an orphanage and a medical clinic where they supervised the building of a water well, helped to provide psychological services and accompanied doctors who provided patient care.
“Our first stop was at the Elle DuBois Fashion Merchandizing and Culinary Arts School in St. George’s Province,’’ Day. ‘’We facilitated English as a second language activities, painted a classroom and donated eight computers to their computer lab. The children also received back packs filled with school supplies.’’
The next stop was at the Community School of Akin, which was devastated by Hurricane Matthew. ‘’The school had no running water or bathrooms and the people were drinking contaminated water,’’ Day recalls.
Unclean water spreads cholera, which can be found in contaminated water or food and can cause severe diarrhea and vomiting. Haiti has one of the highest rates of cholera in the world. Patients who are not treated quickly for cholera can die within hours.
In an effort to supply clean water, the Links facilitated the building of a water well. ‘’Once it was completed, the children and teachers were overjoyed,” Day said. “Many of them hugged us and cried tears of joy.’’
Despite the building of the well, Day said she was particularly struck by a 17-year-old student who solemnly declared, ‘What you can do for us is bring us food. Many of the students pass out from hunger.’’’
Members of the Links immediately flew into action by purchasing rice, oil and beans to last the school approximately six months.
Three doctors accompanied the Links on the trip where they re-opened the only medical clinic outside of Port-au-Prince. Due to lack of funds, the clinic had been closed since it was unable to hire doctors or medical personnel.
With funds provided by the Links, doctors were able to stock the pharmacy with antibiotics and over-the-counter prescriptions, administer shots to patients and perform surgeries on the sick, many of whom had been waiting for several days to receive medical help.
“It was wonderful to see the joy in the children and adults when we provided the services for them,’’ Day said. They were so grateful and thankful. To see people who are so impoverished exuding pride and who love their country and themselves despite the devastation is life changing.”
The Links will be returning to Haiti April 4-8, and are asking the public to donate non-perishable food, school supplies, toys, clothing, blankets and hygiene items.
To donate items, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.