Striking Haiti’s southwestern coast on October 4, 2016, Hurricane Matthew left behind a trail of devastation. Enormous trees uprooted. Homes toppled to their foundation. Bridges collapsed. Streets flooded. It was nearly a week until some of the most remote mountain communities were accessible. Six months later, many families are still putting the pieces of their life back together.
For Ivanese and her children, the morning of October 4 was filled with terror. Being awakened in the middle of the night by the sounds of a palm tree collapsing and the deafening drumming of rain on their home’s metal roof, they feared for their life. It soon became apparent to Ivanese that the wind and rains would not spare their home.
Less than 100 meters away stood the community’s church – a sturdy concrete building. Ivanese and her family braved the wind and the rain as they dashed from their battered home into the church. Along with many others in their community, this family took shelter from the storm in the church. The wind blew the rain into the church’s unfinished windows, but families remained safe.
Hour after excruciating hour passed, without the storm dissipating, and families began to wonder when this torrent would stop. Slowly, the winds did begin to subside, though the rains continued for the next few days.
The writer of Psalm 91 begins by saying that “whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” The image of Ivanese and dozens of others taking refuge from the storm in God’s house – the church – is an incredible picture of the faithfulness and protection of our loving Heavenly Father.
Yet, what Ivanese and her neighbours discovered as they stepped outside of the church for the first time was devastating: dozens of homes left in piles of rubble, trees strewn across the road, and crops completely wiped out.
The First Six Months: Emergency Response Phase
When you read about Hurricane Matthew in the news, and the destruction it left in its wake, you were moved by compassion and generously donated to World Renew. In the 6 months since Hurricane Matthew, over $1.6 million has been received by World Renew from individuals, churches, organizations and through matching funds from the Canadian government!
This incredible outpouring of generosity has made it possible for World Renew to respond to the needs of Ivanese Joseph and 25,000 others living in the mountains of Haiti’s southern peninsula.
When Hurricane Matthew hit her community, Ivanese and her family lost nearly everything – their home, their crops, and nearly all their household possessions. As a member of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, World Renew has received funding from Global Affairs Canada to provide 3 months of food assistance, as well as seeds to plant, to Ivanese’s family and 1,600 others.
In the mountains it’s hard to find land to grow crops on, so Ivanese and her children must walk over an hour just to get to their land. Despite the difficulties, Ivanese remains hopeful for the future. “Thank you World Renew for the food we have received so that we did not go hungry,” she shared.
Moving Forward: Recovery and Rehabilitation Phase
“Looking towards the next 6 months, World Renew is now focusing on rehabilitation and long-term recovery,” says Kenneth Kim, World Renew’s Director of Disaster Response and Rehabilitation. “This includes shelter repair and reconstruction, psychosocial support, and agricultural recovery.”
Strong winds completely destroyed many buildings, and left countless others without roofs. The magnitude of damage was largely because buildings were not constructed to withstand hurricane-force winds. World Renew is helping 925 families repair or rebuild their homes, ensuring that they are hurricane resistant, strong enough to withstand future storms.
Living through a natural disaster like Hurricane Matthew can be a traumatic experience. To help communities as they recover from this trauma, a biblically-based radio program is being provided, offering psychosocial support to those recovering from the hurricane.
The next step in the recovery process will be a two year agricultural recovery and resilience-building project funded by the Foodgrains Bank. This includes providing farmers with seeds for different crops to replace those lost during the hurricane, training farmers on agricultural techniques to improve their harvests, and establishing agricultural cooperatives to enable collaboration between farmers. Through this recovery project farmers will become more resilient, having the opportunity to grow non-traditional crops that are less vulnerable to weather events all year round.
“This response is an incredible testament to what can happen when people come together to reach out to those in need,” says Kenneth Kim.
Your generous support and prayer is a continual reminder to Ivanese and to thousands of others that they have not been forgotten by the body of Christ in their time of need.
This is your ministry. In the coming months please continue to keep the people of Haiti in your prayers.