MCC photo/Paul Shetler Fast

Prescione Roger stands in front of the home she shared with four others, which was destroyed by the earthquake that hit Haiti on August 14. She was a participant in MCC's first humanitarian aid distribution in Saint-Jean-du-Sud, Haiti later that month.

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Join Threads for an update from MCC workers close to the Haiti earthquake.


Listen in as our host, Kyle Rudge, speaks with Annalee Giesbrecht and Paul Shetler Fast about the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti on August 14.

Please note: As of July, Threads will air on the first Sunday of the month instead of the fourth.

Threads, formerly known as Word and Deed, was established in April 2007. It is a 15-minute radio program by KR Words featuring the work of MCC in Manitoba and around the world. Threads broadcasts on CFAM AM 950, CHSM AM 1250 and CHRB AM 1220 at 8:45 am on the first Sunday of the month. 

Audio transcription:

Kyle Rudge  0:02  
It begins with a single thread, woven through another thread, and then another, and another until we have a single piece of fabric. That fabric is stretched, cut and stitched together with another just like it. [MUSIC]

This process is repeated over and over and over. Until we have a beautiful tapestry that all began with a single thread. Welcome to MCC threads, where we look closely at how our stories in Manitoba weave together with the stories of MCC and its partners around the world.

In just the last decade or so the country of Haiti has been through a lot. In January of 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocked the country killing between 100,000 and 316,000 people. Eight days later a second earthquake, this time registering 6.1 hit causing more destruction and loss of life. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy left approximately 200,000 people homeless. In 2016, Hurricane Matthew caused flooding with a storm surge of up to 10 feet. In July of this year, the president of Haiti was assassinated, causing political unrest throughout the country. And a month later, in August, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the southwestern section of Haiti. At present, an estimated 2,207 people have been confirmed dead, the few 100 still missing. This was one of the strongest earthquakes to strike Haiti since 1842.

Annalee Giesbrecht  1:49  
MCC has been working in the affected areas since 2016. After Hurricane Matthew, meet Annalise Brecht, and I coordinate communications and advocacy for MCC in Latin America and the Caribbean. I'm currently based in Mexico City. But before I moved here, I lived in Haiti for a couple years and I'm originally from Manitoba.

Kyle Rudge  2:08  
I figured who better to translate the culture and people of Haiti than another Manitoban.

Annalee Giesbrecht  2:13  
I would describe Haiti as a very challenging but very beautiful country. When I arrived there, you know, I had never really been expecting to move to a place like Haiti, it's very different than living in Winnipeg, or a small town, you know, in rural Manitoba. I lived in Port au Prince, the capital, it's a big city. There's a lot of people, it's very chaotic. There's you know, always a lot of, you know, there's always something going on in the streets. There's always people selling produce or used clothes or you know, whatever you have it on the side of the streets. Haiti has a fascinating history. But one of the kind of results of that history is a lot of poverty, a lot of inequality. And that presents a lot of really sort of serious and complex challenges for the people that that MCC works with.

Kyle Rudge  3:03  
Annalee fell in love with Haiti during her year with the SALT program. SALT stands for Serving And Learning Together. It's a year long cross cultural service experience for young adults.

Annalee Giesbrecht  3:12  
So in my SALT year, I was living with a Haitian family like that's how the SALT program works. And in Port au Prince, like people will sort of, they'll have solar panels, or they'll have like these big car batteries. And so when there's like electricity, that's, you know, normal electricity running from the state, they'll use that to charge up these big car batteries. And then, you know, once that electricity cuts off, because it doesn't run all day, then you can kind of use the electricity from the batteries to power whatever you want. But yeah, you have to be pretty careful about it. And my first year in Haiti, my host family didn't like they didn't have enough batteries or enough electricity stored to run a fan all night. So I could only run a fan while the electricity was sort of running from a state. And the first few days I was there, I was like, Oh my goodness, like it's like 38 degrees, like, I hope, like live. And I didn't want to drain all of the battery or the yeah, I didn't want to drain all the electricity from their batteries overnight, but I knew that the electricity would probably shut off while I was sleeping. So I was like, Okay, I'm just gonna turn the fan off, I'm going to power through, I'm going to sleep. That did not work. I know eventually, over the course of the year, I kind of like my ears got a tune to the change in the sound that the fan would make when the electricity shut off. And I would be able to like wake up, turn the fan off, so I didn't drain the batteries and then you know, try to go back to sleep.

Kyle Rudge  4:31  
Last month, Annalee had made plans to take a few days rest with the interim country rep for Haiti. They were together in the Dominican Republic. As a short geography lesson Haiti and Dominican Republic share the same island that makes up their two countries, Haiti on the west side, Dominican Republic on the east. 

Annalee Giesbrecht  4:48  
We were really looking forward to it. You know, it had been a stressful a couple of months for both of us, just with the assassination, trying to figure things out, you know, not being able to do a lot of the things that we had planned for my visit in Haiti. So we were looking forward to a few days of sort of, you know, just rest and relaxation and recharging. So we were just having breakfast at the place that we were staying in a small town in the Dominican Republic, you know, kind of planning our day getting ready to go to the beach, and we started getting these text messages. You know, we started getting these messages in the group chat that we have for the MCC staff in Port au Prince, you know, people saying like, Did you feel that like, are you okay? And we were like, oh, like, that's never even went before you know what happens, right? Like those are never the messages that you want to see flooding into the group chat. It slowly became clear what had happened.

Paul Shetler Fast  5:41  
I am Paul Shetler Fast, MCC's global health coordinator. And I'm based out of Goshen, Indiana.

Kyle Rudge  5:48  
The Global Health coordinator for MCC oversees all the health programming across MCC, and that is both internally with the staff, but also externally with our partners around the world. Before Paul's role as the Global Health coordinator, he and his partner served in Haiti as country representatives with MCC.

Paul Shetler Fast  6:05  
Having having served in Haiti having lived alongside people in Haiti, you, you get a sense of how fragile life is, you know, how, how quickly, you know, a beautiful day can turn bad how, you know, there'll be times when we would be working at the office on a seemingly normal day, and all of a sudden, there would be, you know, the gangs will taking control of a road, and we can't get home to our children, that life can turn, you know, on a dime. And when when we heard my wife and I, here in Goshen and we, we were playing with our children and got the alert on our phone that this had happened. And all of a sudden started getting messages on WhatsApp from friends from MCC staff from connections in Haiti, it brought us back instantly to that feeling of vulnerability, that feeling of just profound uncertainty that you that no amount of planning, no amount of, sort of, something you can do on your own, can fully protect you, that you are, you know, people in Haiti, when you when you say you're going to plan a meeting, when you say you're going to see them tomorrow, you know, they'll always say, See Dave lay, if God is willing, it, it was yeah, it was, it was sad, it just yeah, breaks your heart to see people, a lot of these communities had not yet recovered from Hurricane Matthew, in 2016.

Annalee Giesbrecht  7:38  
MCC has been working in the affected areas since 2016, after Hurricane Matthew. So we fortunately have sort of a good network of partners that we specifically started working with in disaster response. And they're based like, very much in the affected area, but they're not based in the cities. So you'll see a lot of information about aid and stuff going to the cities, okay. And joining me, which are sort of the major urban areas in that part of Haiti, but our partners are based in the rural areas. So in the mountains, sort of, in between those major urban centres, and those are places where aid isn't necessarily going to be going right away, which makes us you know, very well placed to respond to communities that have been affected in rural areas where we might not be getting sort of the same quality of information about, you know, what's been damaged, what's been lost. So in those communities, like because a couple of them especially are like high up in the mountains, they were affected by the earthquake in some kind of different ways. There are a lot of landslides, which you know, can take out not just buildings, but crops, so especially things like plantains, but like any kind of crop, you know, a lot of farmers crops in Haiti are really built like on the side of mountains, it's a very mountainous country. So you kind of like that's what your options are, right? Like, if you want to grow stuff, you got to grow it on the side of a mountain. And a lot of places people also lost a lot of like the produce or the other things that they would sell at the market. So this is something that especially affects women. So a lot of you know, women lost basically, all of their capital, all of the like things that they were going to be able to like pay school fees for their kids, right, this earthquake happened like mid August, kids start school in September, right, like that's when they're gonna have to start paying for school. And then another thing that MCC has really started developing over the last couple or the last several years, including in this part of Haiti is you know, working on mental health and the psychosocial effects of disasters. So you know, as I mentioned, a lot of people have really terrible memories of the 2010 earthquake, really terrible memories of Hurricane Matthew, which affected this this exact same area in 2016. And so we're kind of evaluating, you know, what are the psychosocial effects like how are people going to be experiencing with and living with the trauma of this natural disaster? How is this gonna affect things like gender based violence and that's one of the things that we're hoping that our disaster response can respond to, in addition to the sort of long term effects of, you know, rebuilding people's gardens, helping them sort of rebuild their livelihoods and rebuild all of that stuff that they lost.

Kyle Rudge  10:13  
Shortly after the earthquake, Paul was actually there. He knew the landscape and the geography, he understood the challenges. And he loved the people.

Paul Shetler Fast  10:22  
There was just devastation everywhere, there was homes destroyed, schools, clinics destroyed, basic infrastructure, ruined. Thousands of people had their lives up ended, many died. But what struck me in that was was the resilience the cultural resilience of, of Haitian people. And there was one woman who we were we were interviewing or hearing her story. And you know, she had just gone through so much in her life, her husband had been had died in in gang violence. He was not involved in the gangs. But Haiti has had these, these very violent and unpredictable gangs, which have controlled large parts of the country, and he was caught in crossfire and killed. She had lost a child to disease, tragically, and unexpectedly several years before. And then now she has sort of barely been able to scrape together this life with her with her family and her remaining children. And then the earthquake happens. And she, you know, she's in the market, when it happens. She's a market woman selling produce and other goods in the market, knocked from her feet, you know, knows that her children are back at the house and starts running. And I just as a parent, I can't imagine the terror, what would be going through her mind, seeing houses falling around her running up the hill, to get back to her family, to to see how they are and she gets back there. And her house is starting to crumble. There's a crowd gathered around it shouting, she can hear her children inside, but it's shifted on its foundation. So the doors won't open. They can't get her children out. And she can hear rock rocks falling on the inside. And you know, at the last minute, thankfully, one of the walls actually fell out and her children could escape. And so her children were okay. They were they were scared. They were a little hurt. But they were okay. And as she was telling us the story and all the emotion behind it, what she kept saying was up choisy Sherman display, I am choosing the path of hope. And that I think encapsulates a lot of Haitian culture that you don't deny the harsh realities, you're not, you're not glossing over it, these are not rose coloured glasses. Life is hard, and it is unfair, it is unjust. And people have a lot, they have an uphill struggle just to make make do. And yet people consistently choose that path of hope. And she said, um, you know, I'm choosing to rebuild my life block by block. And, you know, I think that that is that's an inspiration. Because, you know, I think it's very easy to choose the path of despondency or giving up, of hopelessness. And I think when you see people in that kind of a situation that close to tragedy, saying, No, I, you know, I won't, I won't be the victim here, I will choose the path of hope. It's very inspiring to join them in that.

Kyle Rudge  13:35  
I've been asked to express a sincere thank you for the people of Manitoba, with regards to Haiti. Your generosity and willingness to help has already been incredible. You are a part of that hope that Paul mentions, and MCC invites more prayers for the Haitian people affected by this decade of tragedy and political instability. If you'd like to continue to financially support or even just join in the support with MCC in this relief response, you can do so online at MCC threads is produced by kr words with story assistance from Nikki Hamm Gwala. Thank you to Annalee and Paul, for your work and willingness to share with us your love and story of the people of Haiti. I'm Kyle Rudge, and this is MCC Threads.

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