Chicago church responds to crisis in Haiti

November 7, 2010 (CHICAGO)

It has been a devastating year for the people of Haiti, and pastors from a foundation working in that country were in Chicago over the weekend asking for help.

Hurricane Tomas killed eight people and caused widespread floods and wind damage along the far edge of Haiti's coast. However, for the most part, Haiti was spared the worst of the storm.

Nevertheless, some religious leaders say more help is needed.

Prayers were offered as the country already in crisis was dealt another blow with Tomas on Friday. Sweet Holy Spirit Church of God began its relief effort Sunday.

"We're going to donate water, Tylenol, dried and canned foods, and everything we can do to help the country of Haiti," church member Mercedes Young said.

Haitian towns were flooded and streets became rivers while more than 1 million people remained in tent camps following the January 12 earthquake. Bishop Larry Trotter asked his Sweet Holy Spirit congregation to help.

"These people slept in their own excrement for months, and their stories have to be told over and over again to grab the heart of somebody," he said Sunday.

The 8,000-member church, which has about three dozen Haitian or Haitian-American members, raised roughly $200,000 for earthquake relief in February through its network of more than 200 churches, humanitarian organizations and Haitian pastors, like Apostle Claudie Pressoir. Pressoir runs the Remember The Children Foundation, and she remains critical of the American and international response to the ongoing crisis.

"How many Haitians have to die before a serious system is put in place? It's not about the money that you give to an organization. We must call for unity, togetherness," she said.

Pressoir says the foundation has only received $50,000 since January to sponsor schools, orphanages, and a mobile clinic in the affected areas. Her husband, Robert Pressoir, who is also Haitian, was in Haiti in October when a cholera outbreak began. He says flood waters are making conditions worse.

"When it rains, they have to hold their little babies. That way, the water won't take them away. Is that life?" Robert Pressoir said.

Those gathered Sunday said help was on the way to Haiti again.

Approximately 15,000 families were affected throughout the region and some 30,000 tents were damaged in area during the recent storm.

Bishop Trotter says he has put no dollar figure on his church's relief effort but adds if by next Sunday the congregation has managed to get 2,000 cases of water and 5,000 bags of beans, that would be a good step in the right direction.

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