In Septemeber 2008, I traveled 6000 miles to Haiti's Kenscoff mountains. My mission: to care for some of the orphaned and abandoned, the sick, malnourished and premature infants of this beautiful but beleagured Caribbean nation.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Storm Update

Apparently, news of tropical storm Hanna's impact on Haiti has reached Scotland. If I had known that, I would have updated you sooner. Please know that everyone at GLA is ok.

This particular storm took us by surprise; we had expected it to pass by Haiti, but it changed course at the last minute, catching everyone unawares.

Our staff though, responded quickly and efficiently. They got everyone and everything inside, battened down the hatches and waited until Hanna passed. Inside, daily life went on as normal.

There were some anxious moments for the grown-ups; from the second floor balcony the office staff and I cringed as we observed the a gust of wind raise the corrugated tin sheeting that shelters the area where volunteers work with the children.

Wind and rain came through the closed windows and whistled through the baby house. Doors slammed and downstairs, smaller kitchen utensils clattered.

On the first floor, the paediatrician wondered aloud how she was going to get home. I wasn't sure she would.

As we ate dinner amid high winds and torrential rain, John Bickel, who co-directs God's Littlest Angels with his wife Dixie, looked out at the palm trees whipping furiously. He nodded, and with a knowing look and a faint smile, observed that this was the worst storm he had experienced in Haiti in the 17 years he has lived here.

Later that night, part of the dining room table was flooded. A monopoly game was in progress. The players moved a few meters across the room and continued their game.

We surveyed the buildings and the surrounding area in the aftermath of the storm. We lost corrugated metal sheeting that covers one of the balconies at the orphanage. At the toddler house, the gate was damaged and they lost a satelite dish and some solar panels. In the wider community,trees were uprooted and stones walls had been toppled.

Elsewhere in Haiti, a major river in the port city of Gonavies burst its banks. Over 500 people are thought to have died in the floods. We will never know how many rural people lost their homes and crops. We have heard that humanitarian aid has began to arrive in the worst affected areas, where some homes are completely submerged and thousands of people lack access to safe drinking water and food.

At GLA, we are thankful that no-one who lives or works here was hurt. The morning after the storm, Haitians were out clearing debri that was blocking the mountain road. We have plenty of food here and water trucks continue to deliver water to our properties. Repairing the storm damage, though will be costly.

We have prayed for people who remain in the path of the storm, and we are relieved that hurricane Ike lost some power over the Atlantic on Friday.

Although hurricane Ike is not expected to take a direct hit at Haiti, the soil is waterlogged, and the rivers are all ready overflowing. Any further rain could be devastating for this country, which has been hit by 3 storms in 3 weeks.

In the meantime, life at GLA continues as normal...

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