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Newton County Haitians seek to help quake-ravaged homeland
Locals recover their belongings from their homes destroyed in the earthquake in Camp-Perrin, Les Cayes, Haiti, on Sunday, Aug. 15. - photo by The Associated Press

COVINGTON, Ga. — Some Newton County residents with ties to Haiti are directly feeling the effects of the devastating weekend earthquake and are seeking to help with relief efforts in the country.

Covington resident Gracia Bien-aime said a niece, her baby and another relative died in the quake. 

The walls of a home collapsed on the niece and child, while the other relative died of an unknown reason while trying to escape the damage, she said.

“It was devastating news,” she said. “It’s a circumstance beyond capacity.”

The Associated Press reported at least 1,419 people died and more than 6,900 were injured in the quake which measured 7.2 on the Richter scale.

It was centered about 80 miles west of the capital of Port-au-Prince, and caused major damage in some towns and triggered landslides that hampered rescue efforts.

The country is considered the poorest in the Western Hemisphere and already was dealing with the pandemic, worsening gang violence and poverty and political upheaval following the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. 

It also was still recovering from a 2010 quake that killed thousands and devastated Port-au-Prince. Pastor Jean Dieunel Cadely of Bethel Church of God in Covington said church leaders are working on plans to provide aid of some kind.

He said many church members have relatives in the affected area and Cadely said he is receiving regular reports from the region.

“We are really in a tough time,” he said.Bien-aime said she has lived in the U.S. for 30 years, including the last 14 years in Newton County. She annually has traveled to her homeland as a missionary from her church, Bethel Church of God. 

She said all she thought about after hearing the news about the quake damage was how she could help with rescue efforts for her family members and other Haitians.

“I have in my mind to go,” she said.

Bien-aime. who was unable to travel to Haiti in July because of the political problems, said she “cannot get used to” dealing with such tragic news as the deaths of people she knows — even though the country appears to be continually dealing with a political or humanitarian crisis.

Cadely said the church regularly seeks to help those in need, including in Haiti.

“This is nothing new to us,” he said.