FORT LAUDERDALE ― With his country is feeling the devastating impact of four hurricanes, Haiti’s President visited South Florida in hopes of securing more aid for his hurricane ravished country.
Rene Preval spoke candidly about the deplorable state of Haiti and his hopes of restoring it.
Preval says the first and foremost priority is to get help to the millions of Haitians who are suffering.
“The first phase was rapidly bringing assistance to these isolated communities, the second phase is bringing over 6 months food aid to these communities,” said Preval told a CBS station in South Florida during an interview. “The third phase will be re-construction-rebuilding bridges rebuilding houses for these people who are in an extremely difficult situation.”
Preval flew to Florida to meet with leaders in Broward County who reached out to him with a plan that would provide Haiti thousands of portables that were used in 1992 when Hurricane Andrew hit.
“So we may have around 6 to 7 thousand portables that will be implanted throughout the entire Republic of Haiti to house schools, to house health centers and also shelters nearby so that people can be protected and safe,” said Preval.
The international community has heard Haiti’s cry for help and has responded by pledging millions of dollars along with supplies to get the country back on its feet. Preval said South Florida has been very generous in making donations.
Preval said he has been powerless to do much since he inherited a country with deep economic problems. He said that much is expected from him while he has precious little to help the country forward. During a recent trip to New York, Preval urged patience and call in his better off countrymen to come to the rescue.
“When we came to power there was 40% percent inflation. Now inflation is down to 7.5 percent. When we came to power growth was negative, last year we experienced 3.5 percent growth. This does not mean that people are satisfied but it does mean we are stepping in the right direction,” replied Preval.
U.S. Representative Alcee Hastings is pushing for temporary protective status for Haitians in this country. He says it’s inhumane to send men and women back to Haiti when the country is recovering from severe storms. The temporary protective status would allow Haitians to work legally in this country and halt the deportations of non-criminals.
Miami-Dade County Commissioner Dorrin D. Rolle has announced a multi-million dollar humanitarian aid donation of medical supplies to storm-ravaged Haiti.
Rolle, whose district has a large Haitian population, has been working together with Artists Village, Inc., a non-profit organization, to oversee the distribution of $10 million worth of antibiotics to go to Haitians in need of medical treatment after four devastating storms destroyed several villages on the island.
Commissioner Rolle’s ”Help for Haiti” concert held on Sept. 27th, also raised $42,000 and filled a 40-foot container with donated items by the end of the event. These efforts are being duplicated all across the United States as churches and schools are raising funds to help the storm victims. For instance, a church in North Carolina is raising more than $50,000 to refurbish an hospital in Bainet.
The Palm Beach School district is pledging to send portable classrooms to replace destroyed schools across Haiti.
Portable classrooms could help students across the entire country, including the 1,250 who attend the Haut Saint Marc Elementary School in western Haiti, where floodwaters destroyed homes and crushed five classrooms. The Rev. Jesumond Pierrilus, who was born and raised in Haut Saint Marc but now lives in West Palm Beach, started the school 29 years ago. It is the only school in the isolated village, he said, and often the only place where students can count on one meal a day.
But even the food has disappeared.
“We’ve got to find food,” said Pierrilus, who runs a nonprofit group in Haiti called Christ’s Messengers In Action Inc. The students also need school supplies, medical supplies and clothing.
Pierrilus intends to raise enough money one day to also build a second story on the school so he can offer education to middle and high school students. The closest school for teenagers is in the city of Saint Marc, which is often times too far for students to walk. Even the schools in the city of Saint Marc were closed for more than a month because hundreds of flood victims who lost their homes began living in the schools.
In Miami-Dade, the new Superintendent Alberto Carvalho not only pledged his district’s donation of 600 usable portable classrooms, but also promised to help Haiti acquire others from the state.
In addition to the portables, Haiti has also been promised four garbage trucks, two school buses and school supplies to fill several hundred of the portables once they arrive.