|Haitian church members distribute UMCOR food|
Residents of Mellier, Haiti, leave an aid
distribution sponsored by the United Methodist Committee on Relief
carrying food parcels on their heads.
UMNS photos by Mike DuBose.
A UMNS Report by Kathy L. Gilbert*
Feb. 2, 2010 | MELLIER, Haiti
“Good brothers and sisters, thank you so much for this food.”
Louis and Madame Felix, 74 and 76, were the first to receive a white
plastic bag containing 18 pounds of rice, three pounds of beans, a quart
of cooking oil and a one-pound bag of salt from the United Methodist
Committee on Relief Jan. 29.
“We were married here and baptized here,” said Mr. Felix, standing in
the yard of Mellier Methodist Church. The church and school were both
destroyed in the Jan. 12 earthquake. So were the homes of the people
sitting quietly on pews and benches under the shade of trees waiting to
get their allotment of food.
Ten church members organized the food distribution and kept order.
Household representatives waited until their names were called to
receive food and Aquatab water purification tablets.
Madame Louis Felix, 74, is first in line to receive a
food package from UMCOR.
A few days before UMCOR arrived with the food, church leaders
canvassed the community and decided which families would receive the
distribution. Families were chosen based on the greatest need; many were
members of the church but not all.
Stories of humanitarian aid workers being mobbed by frantic crowds
were a far cry from the peaceful, respectful distribution handled by
church volunteers and UMCOR.
People were waiting when two UMCOR vehicles drove on the grounds.
They were patient while volunteers arranged tables and chairs and talked
about how to distribute the goods. They sat quietly and paid close
attention to instruction on the use of Aquatabs to purify drinking
“Don’t be mad if you don’t get some beans and rice,” warned
Marc-Arthur Benoit. “There is only enough for 140 families but you will
all get the Aquatabs.”
The first name was called at 10 a.m., the last at 10:45. Men, women
and children walked down the dusty path next to a sugar cane field back
to their makeshifts homes with the bags on their heads and smiles on
The few who did not receive a bag stayed to get the tablets and see a
demonstration on using PUR, a Procter and Gamble powder to separate
dirt and harmful bacteria from water.
UMCOR plans to work in Haiti for the next several years, said Melissa
Crutchfield, an executive with UMCOR.
Six young people who helped divide the food the day before and the
church’s volunteers in Mellier also received a bag. One hundred and
seventy households were served, said Crutchfield.
The Rev. Gesner Paul, president of the Methodist Church in Haiti,
stopped by to see how the distribution was going.
Sharad Aggarwal (left) and Melissa Crutchfield of UMCOR
food ration in Mellier, Haiti.
“When we heard UMCOR was coming to Haiti to help we were very happy,”
he said. “But you know there is a difference between words and actions.
It is not only that you have come and said something but you put your
words into action.”
Rebuilding Haiti will take five or 10 years or even more and we will
need the help of the international community and The United Methodist
Church, Paul said. “It will also take the courage of Haitian people to
overcome what happened on Jan. 12. We must work together to rebuild
Crutchfield, Sharad Aggarwal and the Rev. Edgar Avitia Legarda, staff
executives with UMCOR, came to Haiti Jan. 21 to start assessing the
needs to restore and reconstruct the country.
“What has really struck me on this visit is Haitians helping
Haitians,” said Crutchfield. “From the young people helping us bag up
the food, to the vendor who gave us a discount on the rice because it
was going to aid his fellow Haitians, to the church helping take
responsibility for organizing the food distribution today, to those
leaving with sacks of food, vowing to share with their neighbor. UMCOR
helped facilitate but they really helped each other.”
“Today’s pilot food distribution was just one of the first steps
UMCOR will take – hand in hand with the Haitian people and their leaders
– to relieve the suffering caused by the earthquake and to restore
their homes, livelihoods and communities,” said Aggarwal. “Witnessing
the strength and resilience of the community in Mellier, I am confident
we will be successful in our mission here.”
The group toured several of the circuits where Methodist churches,
schools and clinics were destroyed. After meetings with church
leadership as well as 29 residents of Mellier they chose the rural
community for a distribution of food.
The outlying areas are not receiving as much attention from
humanitarian aid groups as the capital city of Port-au-Prince.
For many, the gift from The United Methodist Church was the first
help they have received.
Recipients leave an UMCOR aid
distribution in Mellier, Haiti.
Octande Grard, 50, said this was the first food she has received
since the earthquake. “We will ask God to bless those who sent this
Olga Cange, 62, said the earthquake “broke my house. Now I live like
the goats on the ground. I am very happy to get this food. May God give
you strength to come back.”
“Next time, maybe you can bring us some plastic houses,” said Felix
Fredtz, 60. “I am very happy for the rice and beans.”
Many people, like Lucy Imacule, 60, also had another special request.
“Please come back and rebuild our church.”
*Gilbert is a news writer for United Methodist News Service in
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615)
742-5470 or email@example.com
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