Local groups are gearing up for relief efforts for victims of the recent earthquake in Haiti, even as local residents eagerly await news of loved ones and associates in the country.
Suchet Louis, a Conyers resident and member of the Conyers Rotary Club, said he had only been able to make indirect contact with a few friends and family members, mostly through text messages or Facebook messages. Through those, he learned that one friend had been killed.
"I have been trying to get in touch with them since (Tuesday) night," said Louis, who grew up in Haiti. "The catastrophe is enormous."
The capital city of Port au Prince was heavily damaged in earthquake, which measured 7.0 on the Richter scale.
Louis said his home town, which is to the south of the capital city, was not as heavily affected but was struck by a similar earthquake in 1962.
Louis is also vice president of the Haiti Humanitarian Fund at St. Pius X, which began as an "adopt-a-parish" program in 1978. Since then, it has grown to include education, medical care, water filtration, microcredit loans and a livestock program for the sister parish of Our Lady of the Presentation Parish of Los Palis and the seven surrounding mission churches and schools.
Dr. Mike Manning, HHF president, said even before the earthquake the need in Haiti was phenomenal. "It’s a different level of poverty," he said. The average yearly income is $270
The Haiti Humanitarian Fund will hold their annual fundraising dinner on Jan. 30 with a murder-mystery theme. For more information, call (770) 922-3522.
A mission team from Crosspoint Christian Church had been planning to leave for Haiti on Jan. 22 to build a soccer field there as part of the Haitian Christian Mission.
Wenday Zehner, organizer for the Haitian mission at Crosspoint, said they had heard from two local doctors and only one of the staff at the demolished HCM headquarters and clinic in Port au Prince. She said they do know if mission head Etienne Prophet who has been in Haiti for more than 35 years, is alive.
"Etienne’s wife was out in Florida. They were up all night dialing numbers over and over, and all of a sudden, one of them went through. It was a miracle," said Zehner.
"We’re just devastated. These people wake up to a nightmare every day, and now…" she trailed off. "Haiti had finally taken a turn," she explained. "When we were there, I was encouraged because it seemed like they were finally getting back on their feet after the storm."
Although the clinic in Fond Parisien, about an hour and a half from Port au Prince, was intact, it still felt the impact.
"The clinic in Fond Parisian is out of everything. The refugees are flooding into villages," she said. Because the capital city was leveled, the food and fuel distribution and banking systems throughout the country have been disrupted.
"There are 52 schools that depend on HCM and the mission feeds those students. How’s that going to happen? I don’t know what they’ll do."
The available money raised for the canceled HCM mission trip will likely go towards relief efforts, said Zehner.