A family of Léogâne

November 14, 2011

A woman with her two kids.

Wilnor, Marie and their children. —Photos by Jessica Reid, HRT

Meet Marie and Wilnor. The couple live in a tent in the town of Léogâne, Haiti.  Léogâne, which had a population estimated at 180,000 to 200,000 people when the 2010 earthquake struck, was at the epicenter of the disaster.  It sits about 20 miles west of the capital city of Port-au-Prince. A majority of the homes and businesses in Léogâne were destroyed or damaged in the quake.

Presbyterians have long walked alongside Haitians in this small city through PC (USA)’s partnership with the Episcopal Church of Haiti.

The land where Marie and Wilnor now live sits on the property of the “Faculty of Nursing Science of the Episcopal University of Haiti” which is the only nursing school in the area.

The school was made possible through Presbyterian World Mission’s longtime  partnership with the Medical Benevolence Foundation. MBF secured donations and grants for the construction and operation of the nursing school which trains nurses who serve across Haiti.

Donate to Presbyterian relief efforts in Haiti
Online - www.pcusa.org/haiti
Text - OGHS to 20222 to donate $10

The last time members of the Presbyterian Haiti Response Team (see box) stopped by to see Marie, she was pregnant with her second child.  Now, months later, she is smiling and holding her baby girl, Wilderline, who was born in May of 2011. Her young son stands next to her and waves as Wilnor watches over them all protectively.

Speaking through a translator, Marie and Wilnor talked with the team about their experiences during the earthquake and discussed their plans for the future.

Meet the Haiti Response Team
Due to the magnitude of the earthquake, it quickly  became clear that the impact of the disaster affected multiple ministry areas and working together was necessary to help as many people in need as possible. The HRT was formed and consists of the following ministry areas which are all part of the General Assembly Mission Council (GAMC):

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance
Presbyterian Hunger Program
Presbyterian World Mission

“I was at home during the earthquake. I was very afraid because I thought the Earth would open and everyone would start falling into it,” Marie told us.

“I did not mean to come here [nursing school property]. It was an accident. Everyone was running into the school yard, and I followed the crowd.

“I saw everyone running into the school yard. When I entered, I did not expect to find anything.  But, this was the closest and safest place to be.”  

The nursing school grounds served as a refuge for lots of families in Léogâne.

“Many in the area rushed to the nursing school, looking for help,” Pix Mahler, PC (USA) mission co-worker for Haiti, said. “The students suddenly found themselves getting real-world experience in a chaotic and overwhelming circumstance.  They handled it well and helped fill the gap with so many people injured and in need.”

A man with his two children.

Wilnor and his children.

The school was created thanks to Presbyterians working side-by-side with the Haitian people. The first class was admitted into the school in 2005, and four classes have graduated since. The school is supported and continues to operate thanks to the help of Presbyterians. 

Following the 2010 earthquake, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance sent $200,000 in aid to Léogâne. Those funds were used to provide support to the nursing school and the nearby Holy Cross Hospital, also supported by Presbyterians for more than 30 years.

After the earthquake, Marie stayed on the nursing school grounds with her then four-year-old son, Malcolm, and Wilnor, soon found her.  They put up a tent but it offers little protection from the elements and heats up quickly.

“A child does give me hope and dreams for the future, but it is hard,” Wilnor said.

“Hope is when you know what’s coming but right now I do not know what’s coming and there isn’t hope.”

A women in her tent home.

Marie in her tent home.

Recognizing the need for housing to help the most marginalized among the people, the Haiti Response Team recently approved $600,000 to build homes for hundreds of people in the Léogâne area.

This housing program is done in partnership with Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC). Providing housing means families throughout the rural town can focus on more than just surviving; they can look to a better life for their families.

“I want to find a job,” Wilnor said, sounding hopeful for the future. “I want a better life for my children, so having a job would mean I could continue to take care of my wife and children. I would get up every day and work.”

Haiti’s Story
GAMC is currently working on a documentary following the lives of those touched by the 2010 earthquake in Haiti – allowing Haitians to tell their own stories.

A man demonstrating how a camera works to children.

Scott Ippolito shows Haitian children how the camera works.

This will be a long term project spanning several years, so you can see the impact of the relief work you’re contributing to and see how families and neighbors are coming together to overcome incredible odds.  

Please check out our webpage or our Facebook page under Haiti Response Team regularly for updates on Marie, Wilnor, and the stories of other Haitian families who are working to rebuild their lives with the help of Presbyterians and God.  

Donate to Presbyterian relief efforts in Haiti
Online - www.pcusa.org/haiti
Text - OGHS to 20222 to donate $10

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