Hurricane Mathew struck Haiti on October 4, impacting an estimated 1.4 million people. The Category 4 hurricane caused devastation in a country still recovering from the impact of the 2010 earthquake. The DRI Foundation identified and partnered with Reunion Sportive d’Haiti, to help impacted communities rebuild their lives in the aftermath. The Foundation donated $5,000 to the organization’s relief and recovery efforts and rebuilding projects, including a solar lamp project. We spoke with founder and chairman Jean-Michele Voltaire to learn about the effects of the hurricane and the work that was possible through the Foundation’s support
What were the effects of the hurricane?
Jean- Michel Voltaire, Reunion Sportive d’Haiti: We were in Haiti from October 27 through November 7, and visited the cities of Port-Salut and Saint Jean du Sud, which were hit very badly. The devastation in these cities is catastrophic. Based on our initial assessment, approximately 9,570 houses are destroyed completely in the cities of Port-Salut and Saint Jean du Sud. Over 10,000 houses are damaged, as their roofs are gone. Most of the churches and schools that were designated as temporary shelters are destroyed or their roofs are gone. As a result, thousands of families have no place to sleep while the rain never seems to stop. It’s a total human disaster.
The coastal villages of Roche-Jabouin, Balixte, and Bord Mer are simply wiped out and must be rebuilt somewhere else. These villages had 850 houses/families that must be removed. These people lost everything, including all of their personal belongings. The water sources in these villages are contaminated by the sea water.
All of the crops in the affected areas are destroyed, and 50% of animals died during the hurricane. More than 85% of the trees are destroyed. Over 60% of the population in these cities are fishermen, and lost all of their fishing equipment. Therefore, these people have no way to earn a living.
All electrical wires in these cities are down, and the people are in living in total darkness. Some are using kerosene lamps, but many don’t have the means to buy gas. The kerosene lamps are also dangerous to the types of living quarters that the people are now building to escape the rain.
Most of the children in our summer camps are homeless and haven’t returned to schools.
How is the Reunion Sportive d’Haiti helping people affected by Hurricane Matthew?
JM Voltaire: During our trip, we:
- Distributed 500 solar lamps distributed to 500 families, saving these families hundreds of dollars, as these lamps can last up to 2 years
- Purchased and distributed food to 700 households, feeding approximately 3,500 people for 2 weeks
- Purchased a pump and other materials to repair a water system in Roche-Jabouin to benefit 3,000 people who had no access to water since the hurricane
- Partnered with the Mayor’s Office in Port-Salut to remove falling trees from the streets and clean up the city, and
- Purchased and donated 400 steel sheets to fix a roof of a school in Port-Salut, so that 350 elementary school children can go back to school. We also distributed 150 steel sheets to three families to re-roof their houses.
We want to continue our efforts to help the victims. We would like to distribute 1,500 lamps in December and January because thousands of families are in the dark. Each lamp costs $18, plus $2 shipping cost to Haiti. But the impacts will be huge, as these lamps can last years, and many victims don’t have the financial resources to purchase kerosene gas. In addition, the lamps will further the education of the kids, as they will be able to read at night.
We would also like to repair 50 houses to enable some families to have a place to sleep.
How did the donation from the DRI Foundation help?
JM Voltaire: The DRI Foundation’s $5,000 donation was used to buy 96 of 500 solar lamps distributed. We also used a portion of the funds to buy food, repair the water system, and purchase 350 metal sheets to re-roof a local school and two houses that were damaged. These projects fit perfectly with the mission of the DRI Foundation, as they will be able to help the victims recover and get back on their feet. We could not assist the survivors without your generous donation.
Can you tell us more about the community you are helping?
JM Voltaire: The people of Port-Salut and Saint Jean du Sud are extremely poor, with high infant mortality rates, lack of access to clean water or adequate sanitation facilities, while also facing a deadly cholera epidemic. Over 90% of the population has no electricity or access to paved roads. There are low levels of household productivity, poor income, malnutrition, and food insecurity. Basically, these people are living at the margin of human existence, and Hurricane Matthew has worsened their living conditions and the level of environmental degradation.
How does your project promote community resilience?
JM Voltaire: We promote community resilience by engaging the communities and giving them a stake in the projects.
How does your organization involve the local community?
JM Voltaire: Reunion Sportive involves the local community by establishing a local committee to manage the clean water project and sanitation facilities, as well as managing its annual summer camp for thousands of children. With regards to its housing and other projects, Reunion Sportive intends to get the contribution of each beneficiary to ensure that he/she participates in the realization of these projects and making them more sustainable.
The DRI Foundation’s contribution to the Reunion Sportive d’Haiti is possible through the generous donations of our supporters. The Foundation had previously donated to other community resilience efforts in Haiti. Please click here to learn more.