Helping Haiti

By Kai T. Hill

During a recent Sunday service at the Notre Dame D'Haiti parish in Miami, the upbeat melody keeps the crowd swaying.

The congregation sings gospels in Creole. Some lift their arms in the air. Others close their eyes. The drums, guitar and keyboard harmonize. It's a typical Sunday at this sizable parish in the Little Haiti neighborhood. Yet, the Haitian-American and immigrant congregation has a specific prayer request: Help those in Haiti.

Father Jean Jadotte, associate pastor of Notre Dame D'Haiti parish in Miami, encourages sacrifice from his members. Photo by Kai T. Hill/CRS

The parish is one of many that have answered the call by the Archdiocese in Miami in Florida to raise money for the impoverished island nation as it suffers through the current global food crisis.

"As brothers and sisters in the Lord, it is our duty to make a charitable response to their needs and stand in solidarity with them," says Archbishop John Favalora. In a recent letter he asked pastors throughout the archdiocese to take up a special collection that will be donated to Catholic Relief Services' programming in Haiti. CRS serves thousands of families in Haiti. In addition to providing immediate relief from the current hunger crisis, the agency is developing longer-term solutions to food and economic insecurity.

Cries for Help

For this parish, the crisis is up-close and personal, as many have already received phone calls from relatives desperate for help.

"It's terrible," says Jean Joseph, a parishioner who migrated to the United States 20 years ago. "It's very hard for them to buy food if I don't send money. The economic crisis is terrible."

Joseph's three children who sat next to him in the far right pew are fortunate. But children in Haiti are not. "Children sleep outside in the street. The situation is very bad. It's getting worse every day," he stresses.

The cost of basic food staples, including rice, beans and corn, has increased by an average of 50 percent in recent months. The little money families have to buy food has been lessened by the surge in worldwide food prices brought on by increased fuel and transportation costs, among other existing challenges. Still recovering from last year's devastating floods, the impoverished Caribbean nation is about to enter another storm season.

Vegetables harvested by students who participate in an agricultural program sponsored by CRS and Bethel Clinic in Fond des Negres area of southern Haiti. Photo by Mychelle Farmer/CRS

Since the current food crisis set in last month, CRS staff have been on the ground helping families and communities cope. CRS President Ken Hackett visited programs in Haiti last week. CRS will also distribute 85,000 pounds of rice donated by Goya Foods, the family-owned Latin American food company based in New Jersey.

The Archdiocese of Miami, a longtime CRS partner, initiated the fundraiser last month. Father Jean Jadotte, associate pastor of Notre Dame, encourages sacrifice from his members. Delivering his sermon in Creole and English, he directs the crowd to pray.

"We live in a world that is interconnected," he says. "The international community has to help this country by developing its own resources. Sending food to Haiti is temporary."

CRS' Work in Haiti

As a way to combat existing hunger, CRS Haiti and our local partners help small-scale farmers produce more food and sell their goods to increase their income.

With more than 50 years of experience in Haiti, CRS is now one of the largest U.S. humanitarian organizations working in the country. Serving nearly 200,000 of the poorest and most marginalized Haitians, our projects provide assistance with health and nutrition, education, water and sanitation, HIV and AIDS, agriculture, and migration.

Kai T. Hill is an associate web producer for CRS. She works at the Baltimore headquarters.