News from Haiti
Alec Bersch ’07, who works for HEARTS WITH HAITI, was in Haiti when the earthquake struck and is still there. He sent an email, which found its way to Father Matt who shared the news.
(Note: HEARTS WITH HAITI, a non-profit organization whose primary mission is to support the vision and ministry of the St. Joseph Family in Haiti, which includes the St. Joseph’s Home for Boys in Port-au Prince, Wings of Hope in Fermathe, and Trinity House in Jacmel.)
His email follows:
First of all, ... every member of the St. Joseph's family is alive, standing and well. That includes my sister KC, Renee, and Christopher Henry's pat, who is here. Bill (the director of St. Joe’s) was seriously injured in the earthquake, as was TiPatrick (a St. Joe’s boy), but they are ok, in good spirits and should be fine. Haiti is in shambles-- the president's palace is effectively destroyed, the Catholic and Episcopal cathedrals are both destroyed, and even the Carribean supermarket near St. Joe’s, which was practically a two story fortress, is also destroyed.
… Tuesday night was definitely the scariest night of my entire life. I have never been in an experience in which I truly feared for my life, but more importantly than that, I was fearing for the lives of all the Wings’ kids. There were small earthquake tremors about ever 20-30 minutes, lasting about 3-5 seconds each, and continued consistently till about wednesday morning. The night of the earthquake, dead bodies were littering the streets, and even today, when I went down to St. Joe’s, I saw bodies on the streets. Thankfully, I think we are finally out of the earthquake tremors...
…St.Joseph's building is extremely damaged... the top three floors are gone... complete rubble. The remaining floors are very, very damaged. Needless to say, the building is completely uninhabitable. About half of the St. Joe’s Arts Center next door to the home is destroyed, but the rest is ok--currently being used as a storage depot. Luckily, Bill's office is in good shape, and currently Michael (founder and executive director) and Walnes (assistant director of St. Joseph's) have set up home in the office.
Wings is in bad shape, but not nearly as much as St. Joe’s. For those of who don't know, Wings is built in 2 sections. The first half is the original building that they moved into in 1994/5. The second half is a huge expansion that was built in 1999/2000. The second half, the expansion, has severe damage, and while the staff can go in for whatever we need, no kids are allowed over to that half. The first half is in great shape, and the two halves are completely separated, due to the quake. All of the boys from St. Joseph's are here at Wings, and currently our entire living space consists of two rooms, a small kitchen, the front gate and hallways. Luckily, we have drinking water, food, and our water systerns are still working so we have water to wash with. I honestly do not know details about Trinity house in Jacmel, but I do know that while there may be damage, the Trinity House boys are ok.
.. Bill was in the chapel at the time it collapsed, and he managed to get out of the chapel due to the grace of God, and some incredibly quick thinking. Tipatrick was hurt by the earthquake too, but he is alive. These two guys are ok, and that is something to be so thankful for. And most of all, we are all here-- we are alive…
…I have one request-- please, please please spread this story. We have to rebuild as though this is the beginning, and we need as much awareness as possbile. Please forward this email, talk to others, spread the story. We need to raise money, and we need to gain supporters. All I ask is that if you tell others, please confirm the details as you tell them: there are so many things spreading around the media based on rumor, and we need to have clarity in the truth. I know that my mother just recently gave an interview with the Baltimore Sun, I am currently in contact with a reporter too. I've heard reports that people all over the US are trying to raise money, spread awareness and make change--- there is even a congressman involved!
This is a chance to rebuild, and make homes that are even better than the previous! The buildings are merely physical shells... they don't contain the spirit of the family. Our spirit is still strong, and we will remain strong as we assess the situation, and continue forward with our lives. When we have our 25th anniversary celebration, it will be very meaningful, and more appropriate than ever. The previous 25 years have passed, and now is the time for a new beginning.