Local groups raise funds for Haiti

woman waits with her belongings in a flooded camp for people displaced by the Jan. earthquake during the passing of Hurricane Tomas in Leogane, Haiti, Friday Nov. 5, 2010. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
November 8, 2010 4:25:24 AM PST
Haiti has been spared a direct hit from Hurricane Tomas. But heavy rains in the country are flooding the camps where refugees have lived since last January's earthquake.

Haiti's misfortune, some might say, is approaching biblical proportions -- the earthquake, a cholera outbreak and now water everywhere that is turning subsistence living into something even more squalid. But Haitians have faith, and fortitude and local activists are determined to help those in the storm's path.

Rivers of muck threaten to wipe out the meager set-ups the earthquake survivors have called home for 10 months.

"I'm afraid that if it keeps raining my tent will be completely flooded and I'll have no place to go," said one Haitian.

Robert Pressoir has just returned from Haiti where he runs Remember the Children, an American charity that runs 12 schools and 20 orphanages in the country of nine million. He says little has changed since January because large aid organizations don't work well in Haiti. And with the storms now, people who care have to think about how their giving can have the most impact.

"You have to go to the grassroots organizations, the small churches and stuff like this. That's where you can give your money and that's where you are going to find people with good hearts who will help out since the beginning of the earthquake," said Pressoir.

After years of deforestation, the people who live on the mountain know the rains threaten their homes. One woman said she lost her husband in the earthquake. "I know it is plastic but it is all I have," she said.

In Port-au-Prince, the rains could worsen the cholera outbreak, which United Nations officials thought had been contained. Chicago's Haitian lawyers association is raising funds for the people back home.

"Remain engaged and educate, kind of stay aware and spread the word about what is going on in Haiti...it is quite a bit of a challenge," said Kesner Bienvenu, president, Haitian American Lawyers Association.

For an Illinois state senator, Hurricane Tomas is just another obstacle to overcome. Kwame Raoul was supposed to head out on an aid trip to his ancestral home Saturday.

"When people are suffering and people need help my thought is try to get it to them by any means necessary," said Raoul.

The big concern for cholera is the puddles. They have built up and medical officials in Haiti say they could spread the virus.

The wind isn't too bad but the rain in Port-au-Prince is forecast to continue overnight.


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