Hands & Hearts Haiti Ministry – Update January 2021
It has been three years since we were last able to visit our Little Sisters of the Incarnation. A number of factors have caused our annual trips to be temporarily curtailed. Initially, we had been notified shortly before our January 2019 trip that conditions in the country were too dangerous for us to attempt a visit. The Little Sisters were concerned with rumors of pending demonstrations and violence and they feared for our safety. Reluctantly we cancelled our trip with the hope that the situation would settle, and we would be able to travel later. We began the difficult process of obtaining ticket refunds and cancelled all the arrangements that had been made for housing and land transport.
We continued our year-long ministry of gathering needed items to ship to Haiti in the fall of 2019. We sewed diapers, clothing, blankets and toys and packed boxes for the annual shipment to Haiti. Faithful volunteers gathered each week throughout the summer to prepare the shipment. Unfortunately, the violence in Haiti did not subside but intensified. We began to question the prudence of proceeding with the container shipment. Reports of robberies at the port in Haiti and of shipping containers validated our decision to delay the shipment until early 2020. A previously planned fund-raiser, A Tea, was held in the Fall of 2019 to help defray the costs of obtaining the goods and supplies to ship to Haiti. In the meantime, we made arrangements at Incarnation Center to store the items that had been ready to ship to Haiti.
We made plans to travel to Haiti in January 2020, but once again our plans were thwarted not only by the continuing violence of Haiti. Once again in December 2019, the Sisters asked us not to come for a visit. They felt it was not only dangerous for us but they would not be able to assure us safety. Again we went through the frustrating process of cancelling tickets and arrangements. Because of the instability that was being reported from Haiti we decided to try to plan a trip with only a few people. It was our hope that we could find out what the Sisters really needed and to offer our encouragement and support. However, in late January 2020 and into early February, the reports of the new COVID-19 epidemic appeared on the horizon. As the days passed and the situation became a pandemic we began to have doubts about the possibility of us travelling to Haiti and being able to re-enter the US. Shortly before the US closed borders due to COVID we made the decision to cancel our trip. Again the exasperating process of cancelling flights, housing and transportation had to be undertaken.
As the pandemic began to take hold in the US, we were faced with the regrettable facts that we would not be able to travel to Haiti any time soon. In addition, storing the goods for Haiti began to become problematic. We had installed heaters in a garage in order to prevent hygiene liquids, cleaning supplies and canned goods from freezing. Unfortunately, the heaters constantly caused electrical malfunctions to take place. Our fear was that the goods destined for the poor of Haiti would be ruined. Allowing them to possibly be wasted was a serious concern. With no possible ship date in sight we began to consider how we could dispense food and hygiene & cleaning items to the poor in our own local environment. Given the shut-downs that were mandated by the pandemic, many persons were struggling to provide for their families. We were able to provide several local charities with donations. Inspite of our labeling in Haitian Kreyol and packaging ready for shipment our donations were gratefully received. Food destined for Haiti’s poor went to the poor in and around the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. Our sadness of not being able to help our Sisters in Haiti was replaced with relief that we could help families in the area who suffered as a result of Covid-19. Non-perishable items such as clothing, diapers, blankets etc. remain in storage waiting for the time we can ship them to Haiti. At that time we will hopefully be able to replace the items we had to disperse.
At this time we are still uncertain of when we will be able to travel to Haiti. Our plan for now is to look forward to a trip once COVID vaccinations are dispensed to the general public. Our first trip will likely be with a very small group. We need to determine what help is most needed and how we can best facilitate it. We look forward to shipping a container once again in the Fall of 2021. We hope to reschedule our cancelled Haiti Fet fundraiser of 2020 perhaps in late 2021 or early 2022. It all will depend of safety protocols related to COVID 19.
Until the day we can travel to Haiti physically, we remain connected with our Little Sisters of the Incarnation in daily prayer and efforts to gather needed support for their apostolic works. Our ministry in Haiti is not finished. It is changed at this time to be one of solidarity in prayer and thought. It is one of staying alert to news of what is happening and being aware that our challenges right now are shared with others. We have many more resources then they. So when we find this time to be hard, we can only remember that for Haiti it is even harder due to more limited resources. In the near future we will sponsor a virtual prayer service for the people of Haiti. We hope to join Hands and Hearts once again with others who support the Little Sisters and Brothers of the Incarnation. Our virtual connections will hopefully give way to renewing the physical networks of support and encouragement that have had to be placed on hold for this while.
God bless the people of Haiti, our Little Sisters and Brothers of the Incarnation and all those who continue to hold the bonds of friendship through the CCW Hands & Hearts Haiti Ministry.