Natural phenomena have extracted heavy physical and mental tolls around the world during the previous 30 days. We watched as Hurricane Harvey slammed into the Gulf Coast of Texas. Hurricane Irma followed on Harvey’s heels as she battered the Caribbean and marched up Florida. All the while, a violent 8.1 earthquake moved the earth beneath the Gulf of Tehuantepec off the southern coast of Mexico, near the state of Chiapas and reduced 41,000 homes to rubble. With our attention focused close to home, we ignored the heavy monsoons in India, Bangladesh and Nepal that killed more than 1,200 people, affected 40 million others and shut 1.8 million children out of school.
Hurricane Irma drew my attention because our oldest son Nick and his family live in St. Marys, Georgia; my friend Gail Megaloudis Rongen, my Haitian cohort lives in Ft. Lauderdale; and we work closely with Guepard Boxing Club in Cité Soleil, Haiti (GBCCS) who trains and feeds 120 kids in their program. By God’s grace, all survived, my son, my friend and the kids, although Gail is still without power after seven days.
While I cannot speak for the human response to the monsoons in Asia and to the earthquake in Mexico and Guatemala, we’ve all seen the impressive response to the two hurricanes in the United States. Physical, financial and psychological aid rush to the affected areas. Billions of dollars pour in like the heavy rains that the hurricanes brought with them. As President Trump tweets to Florida,
“Just like TX, WE are w/you today, we are w/you tomorrow, & we will be w/you EVERY SINGLE DAY AFTER, to RESTORE, RECOVER, & REBUILD!”
A nation of 325 million rises to support Texas and Florida.
My friends and the children we serve in Haiti receive no such support. They are on their own. They rely on the strength of the people to survive and return normalcy to their lives if indeed there is such a thing.
Conversation During the Storm
As Irma approached the island on the evening of September 7, I established regular contact with my friends Justin and Apino who manage the program in Cité Soleil along with Jaru who was in Cuba preparing for a boxing match. This will give you the flavor of the conversation …
Gene – Are you and the children safe?
Justin – I just come to visit the house of a lot of children they are Ok. Yes we are safe … The sea increase near house of ti niko. The majority of children live near the sea But I see all they are safe.
Gene – That is the best news I have heard all day … Please keep me advised … You are heroes. You are brave. Take care of yourselves and the children.
Justin – the wind has to remove the roof one of our cook, Celia … Now it’s raining a lot I can’t go in my house I sleep in the kitchen. A lot of children not okay for this moment they don’t have a good house the wind take the roof of house. Some of them sleep in the national lycee where we do the summer camp … We are not okay for this night
Then on September 8 …
Justin – For the moment we are okay we don’t know for this night we have a good soon … It’s so bad yesterday night. Next Monday we will open the kitchen. If we have food today we will cook for them they don’t have food. I’m going to buy woods for the house apino.
Team Guepard Responds
I sent that message to Team Guepard, the group of 14 people who continue to financially support our efforts with these young men as they train and feed children in Cité Soleil. Team Guepard rallied led by Dwight and Letty Cox, our friends at Southwest Airmotive in Eloy, Arizona. We transferred money on Monday, and by Wednesday, our kitchen returned to its normal operation of feeding 120 children, four days each week.
The Strength of the People
I reflect on this experience. You can visit the capital city of Port-au-Prince today and still see the cathedral in rubble save for the alabaster crucifix that stands outside seven years after the 2010 earthquake reduced the island to dust and stone. It is difficult to find such stark evidence of the Los Prieta earthquake that struck San Francisco in 1989 or even of Hurricane Katrina that slammed New Orleans in 2005. The American infrastructure allows us to rebuild and recover relatively quickly. There is no infrastructure in Haiti.
Although Haiti has more NGO’s and non-profits operating within its borders than any other country on Earth, too often the money fails to reach the people who need it most. That is why we work directly with Jaru, Justin, Apino and the Guepard Boxing Club. They train four days each week and are now feeding 120 children on training days through the kitchen Team Guepard has funded at GBCCS’s request since May. We transfer the money directly to Justin and they use it to purchase the food to feed the children. There is no one else to support what they do.
These young men are heroes. They will not receive the much-deserved publicity that first responders receive in the United States, but what they do is no less important and no less effective. Without them, there is little support if any. I received this message from Justin this morning.
Justin – I don’t have words to tell you thank you for what you do for the children you’re a good person God know what you do you make the children happy about the life.
Gene – It is Jesus who sets the example for people like you and me to do the things we do.
Justin – That make the world better
He’s right. Without an infrastructure, it is the strength of the people helping people that makes the world a better place to be. If you would like to join Team Guepard, please consider a donation. We need $2,000 each month to operate the kitchen, which prepares over 2,000 meals for 120 children each month. We are also trying to address the education of the children. If you can help us help people help themselves, please donate now.