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Haiti – Megan Bumgardner

On October 4, 2016, Hurricane Matthew swept through Haiti – taking lives, destroying homes, and devastating a nation that was already living in poverty.

On October 14, I received a phone call from my sister-in-law. She wanted me to fly to Haiti with her husband, the president of Friends of IFOSuD, and a photographer on Monday – just three days away.

The intent of the trip was to document the damage done by the hurricane so fundraising for relief could begin as quickly as possible. I agreed to the trip, aware that the hurricane had hit Haiti…but how could a North Dakota girl know anything about the reality of a hurricane’s destruction?

We flew into Port au Prince and met the Haitian staff for IFOSuD.

IFOSuD stands for International Farmers’ Organization for Sustainable Development; they train Haitians to farm so they can provide food for their families and communities. The Haitians were so excited that we were there to bring hope, medical supplies, and would soon be bringing awareness to North Dakota donors about the real situation in Haiti.

The second day…

We got up early to make the excursion to Jérémie, the city that was impacted most by the hurricane. As we drove in our caravan from Leogane to Jérémie, the landscape changed slowly. Everything got dirtier, the roads got rougher, and the amount of people begging along the road increased drastically.

It was excruciating to drive down the road behind our slow food truck. We were forced to look directly into every face, feel the enormity of their loss, and witness their frustration as we moved on, unable to stop or we would run out of food to deliver to our destination.

As we reached our destination, we learned that cholera was spreading throughout the area. We were excited to bring food to these people, to offer them some hope in their dismal situation; however, when we opened the doors to the food truck, they began to fight and we were forced to close the doors.

Driving out of that village was a scary and heartbreaking experience.

I sobbed as the people chased us, screaming for food, but unwilling to calm themselves enough for us to safely distribute it. (We delivered the food to a local hospital that promised to deliver it in smaller amounts to the village that week.)

The villagers weren’t bad people. They were starving people. People desperate enough to fight for anything that could help them survive another day.

As I left Haiti, I felt so small.

How could I make an impact when so many people needed food, water, and shelter? John Wooden, the well-known UCLA basketball coach, said, “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

So that is the choice I am making – to raise awareness, to speak for the Haitians who have no way to come to America and speak for themselves. I don’t know if I will impact the future of Haiti, but I will not forget them. I cannot forget them.

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Posted:November 18, 2016

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