Hurricane Irma Update

By: Paul Young

The eye of Hurricane Irma stayed off the north shore of Haiti, sparing the Fond Blanc community from the devastation experienced elsewhere in the Caribbean. However, the wind and rain still had an effect on our orphanage community.

During the storm, the wind whipped up a sheet of plywood that then crashed into one of the children, Loudmia, breaking her leg. It was a blessing that Frè Son was there to get Loudmia to the hospital, where she has had surgery to repair her leg. She is staying with Pastor Jean Claude in his home in Port-au-Prince until her medical treatment is complete and she can be safely transported back to Fond Blanc.

The structures at the orphanage were largely undamaged. It is something of a miracle that the balcony floors were poured in the church just two weeks ago. The goal was to use those floors as permanent roofs over the classrooms, and if Pastor had not pushed ahead at that time, the hurricane might have delayed the work – and the classrooms – by many months.

Everyone who has been to Fond Blanc knows how those steep mountainsides collect rainwater and can turn our river into a powerful force. When a hurricane dumps ten or more inches of rain on those mountains, a price is going to be paid while that water is returning to the sea.

The really consequential damage was downstream in Cazale where the only road up to Fond Blanc was completely obliterated where it had run alongside a bend in the river, leaving no automobiles on the Fond Blanc side. For the foreseeable future, all food and supplies will have to be carried by motorcycle up from Cazale. The Haitians are masters at enduring hardship, but this will put a real bottleneck in our operations.

Video of Road in Fond Blanc

We have provided a lot of assistance in the past to fix that road when storm water has eroded it, but we’ve never seen the whole road just disappear until now. After the hurricane, Andy Atwell went immediately to Haiti to assess the damage and we will post his report upon his return. Until then, here is what we know:

The consensus on the ground right now seems to be that we should not undertake any permanent repairs until after hurricane season ends because of the risk that limited resources could be wasted in the next storm. When the storms finally abate and the river recedes, we will have more favorable conditions for constructing a proper road that will last. A delay would also allow time for Pastor Jean Claude to personally pursue assistance from the government in Port-au-Prince. While we have never had high expectations of the Haitian government, Pastor hopes to at least secure the necessary permissions from the authorities to take official charge of the repair project. This could be quite beneficial to the solution because of a history of tension between the townspeople of Cazale and Fond Blanc. This road matters a lot more to Fond Blanc than it does to Cazale.

This will mark the third time in seven years that supporters of Fond Blanc will have had to divert significant time and resources to this road. While we cannot ever dismiss the power of storm water to wreak havoc with the plans of men, we are trying to be good stewards here; and we want to invest in a road solution that has a better chance of being permanent. Please watch for updates on this developing situation.

It is always humbling to see the Haitians so full of gratitude for what was spared and so resilient about what was lost. There is a life lesson for all of us here at home in America. Hurricane season officially lasts another month. Please continue to pray for protection for Fond Blanc and our brothers and sisters who live there.

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