Haiti Update: Hurricane Matthew, October 2016

On October 22, 2016, Canon Serena E. Beeks, D.Min., a coordinator of the Haiti Partnership Program in the United States and Executive Director of the Commission on Schools for the Diocese of Los Angeles, prepared this report from post-Matthew Haiti, along with guidelines for offering support and suggested agencies.

I am back from a trip to the Central Plateau/Artibonite area of Haiti with a very nice group from St. Timothy’s School, Raleigh, North Carolina, and Trinity Episcopal Church, Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina.

The devastation in the southwest has been terrible. Not only were homes destroyed, but everything in them was blown away—clothing, dishes, everything. A little farther to the east, the overall destruction was not as bad but roofs were lost, buildings were damaged by the rain, and crops and animals wiped out.

Jeremie was among the hardest hit. A fly-over survey estimates that 1% of the structures are undamaged.The observer said, “If it wasn’t concrete, it’s not there.” Jeremie was the literary capital of Haiti, the town from which the Dumas family (The Three Musketeers) came and which was the home of many significant Haitian authors and poets before and after them.

Les Cayes on the beautiful southern coast was the region’s largest city. A very good business school associated with the Episcopal University of Haiti is located there as is the enchanting island of Ile a Vache just off its coast. Taking care of students and faculty and their families who may have lost loved ones and/or living quarters and/or been injured is the most immediate need, and getting the business school up and running again (it lost its roof, so there was quite a bit of damage in classrooms) will be a crucial element in the eventual economic recovery of the families connected with it and the city.

For the rest of the country, Hurricane Matthew amounted to a very, very bad rainstorm. Roofs that were already leaking leaked more. Some crops were flooded and some roads were damaged, but by no means all, and nothing like the destruction in the southwest. The main roads are fine and electricity, food, water, transportation, and so on are all pretty much back to normal.

News reports in the US have been infuriating. I heard a radio news item which said, “In Haiti, food, water, and medicine are not available and looting is rampant.” In the southwest, there was nothing left to loot even if there had been looters. I presume the person who wrote the story was referring to people picking through the rubble trying to find their possessions. In the rest of the country, food and water are indeed available; it’s a matter of not being able to transport them to the southwest because of roads and bridges being out. The US military is there helicoptering supplies in a well-organized and orderly effort to help. There were many expressions of efforts to “do it right” this time around and learn from the mistakes and lack of coordination following the earthquake. (Read Jonathan Katz’s The Big Truck That Went By for a good analysis of aid after the earthquake.) On our plane going in, Paul Farmer of Partners in Health was personally accompanying a shipment of part of a million doses of oral cholera vaccine being sent by the World Health Organization primarily to the southwest.

How to Help in Haiti

First, the DON’TS:

  • Don’t give to an appeal for individual assistance to someone you do not know or have a connection with. Random people asking for personal assistance are probably neither Haitian nor located in Haiti. Unfortunately there are always a handful of people waiting to profit from the misery of others.
  • Don’t give to brand-new start-up NGOs. After the earthquake there were literally thousands of folks who came in from other countries, built themselves an air-conditioned office, bought an SUV, and settled down to accept more donations to fund questionable projects. Stick with the organizations that are already there doing good work with Haitian input and Haitian employees in ways that benefit Haitian people and the Haitian economy.
  • Don’t try to send “stuff.”It’s hard to get stuff to Haiti, and most of the stuff you would send is for sale there anyway. People just don’t have money to buy it. Boatloads of free stuff just puts the stuff-makers and stuff-sellers of Haiti out of work.


  • Check out U.S. charities before you give with Guidestar or another non-profit rating service to make sure most of your funds are not going to overhead.
  • Consider giving your support regularly over time. What’s needed now is rescue—food, medical care, clean water, tarps for shelter. What will be needed in the near future is recovery—assistance with construction efforts, infrastructure upgrades, agronomy projects. What’s needed long-term are friends and partners to plan together for next steps: building capacity and resilience.


If you are in the Episcopal School Partnership Program, support for your own partners is the most critical need. Although other parts of Haiti were not hit as hard as the southern peninsula, the rest of the country lost livestock and crops and are dealing with flood damage. We have heard that many of the schools and churches (and at least one kitchen!) you built were used as shelters during the storm, so you’ve already helped. Your partners know what the greatest need is for their area. The protocols for sending funds to the Partnership Program are attached.

Several of you have asked about upcoming partner visits you’ve scheduled or are planning. If you are not going to the southwest, your visit should proceed as you would any other year. The dollars you spend anywhere in Haiti will be particularly useful this year. If you are headed to the Southwest, check with your partner priest.

If you don’t have a school partner and want one, please contact The Rev. P. Roger Bowen or Serena Beeks. If you are attending Biennial in New Orleans, please come to the Deep Dive session on Wednesday or catch us at another point during the conference.

Financial Assistance

Donations of money to reputable non-profit organizations are the most responsible and effective ways to help. The following is a list of organizations we have observed first-hand over many years.

Episcopal Relief and Development is providing direct assistance for food, water and shelter to church partners and displaced families sheltering in Petit Trou de Nippes, Paillant-Jeanette, Miragoane, Torbeck, Beraud, Jeremie, and Bainet. The organization’s staff has received information on specific vulnerable families through the network of Episcopal priests and is on the ground providing support in each community. Approximately 520 families are currently receiving assistance through these efforts.

“The Haiti response is developing rapidly as transport and communications are restored to impacted areas,” said Abagail Nelson, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Senior Vice President of Programs. “The hurricane caused extensive flooding and mudslides, power outages and water shortages—compounding concerns about the possible spread of cholera. The Church is reaching out to the vulnerable in its midst.”

Maison de Naissance is an excellent healthy mothers/healthy baby birthing center near Les Cayes. Babies continue to be born, now in the company of the families sheltering there.

FSIL in Leogane is the first 4-year baccalaureate nursing program in Haiti, now including Nurse Practitioner, Occupational Therapy, and M.A./Midwifery programs as well. They can be supported through their US fundraising arm, Haiti Nursing Foundation. The nursing students have risen to the occasion during emergencies including Hurricane Matthew, providing emergency medical care to the surrounding area.

For a Reason supports Haitian students through school with a commitment to accompanying them all the way through college or professional school. FAR is responding to Matthew by providing emergency financial support for food, clean water, medical care, and/or shelter for the families of the primary and secondary students it serves. (Serena Beeks is on the board.)

Children’s Medical Mission of Haiti supports St. Vincent’s Centre for Handicapped Children in Port-au-Prince. They are in very constricted temporary quarters since the earthquake destroyed much of the school but have just obtained a good piece of property and are on the verge of moving to better temporary quarters on the new site while they develop their new facilities. Students with families were sent home before the hurricane, but the 30 or so residential students and staff weathered the storm in situ. Needless to say the temporary shelter was not improved by the storm, nor was the new site, and St. Vincent’s is working hard to make repairs so that the school and all its programs can start up again. (The Rev P. Roger Bowen is on the board.)