‘Sheltering in place’ is a nice idea, but when you’re isolated in the Haitian countryside, and supplies are dwindling, it has its drawbacks.
That was the situation Darren and Brenda Fulmore of Smith found themselves in last month, along with 22 other volunteers in Haiti on a 10-day mission stint.
“We were safe,” says Darren. “We just couldn’t make it to the airport.”
What was happening was anti-government protests (sparked apparently by fuel price hikes) shut down the main highway. When that happens, supplies of food, gas and much else simply can’t reach parts of the country. Hospitals close, schools close and food runs short.
The Fulmores were held up five extra days – eventually being taken out by helicopter to the Port Au Prince airport. The advice from the Canadian embassy was for Canadian nationals in the country to shelter in place, meaning lay low and wait for things to blow over.
The Smith couple and the others were helping an organization called ‘Haiti Arise,’ which (among other things) runs an orphanage in what Darren calls “a different way. They take parents who don’t have children, or can’t and put them in a home with six to eight kids with no home.” The men of the group were doing electrical and tiling work on one of the duplex residences in the compound.
“The women organized a women’s conference,” says Brenda.
The mission trip was set up through the church conference to which the Fulmore’s local church in Smith (Bethany Christian Church) belongs.
Things were going well enough for the first eight or nine days. When the unrest broke out, the visiting group was told to pack up for an early departure. But it didn’t happen.
“We just couldn’t make it to the airport,” Darren says.
This went on for several days. At some point, a decision was made to hire a helicopter, which eventually took them out on the Saturday (after five days of failed attempts). Complicating matters, says Brenda, was the fact that the mission group was eating the place out of food – a serious matter when supplies can’t be replenished. It was a frustrating few days all around.
“Some people hit the wall, from anxiety,” says Darren.
Calls to Members of Parliament were attempted. Fulmore raised a few eyebrows back home when he called M.D. Reeve Murray Kerik, asking him for MP Arnold Viersen’s telephone number.
“We thought maybe some pressure on the government would help,” he says.
It ended well, but not before a way was found to pay the helicopter company up front. It wasn’t interested in doing the job without the money in its bank account. Brenda says another NGO (non-governmental organization) was able to help with that.
Meanwhile, the dire straits of the Haitian poor continue, unabated. Apart from the trouble in getting out of the country, the Fulmores are pleased with what they saw of the work Haiti Arise is doing.
“I would definitely go back to Haiti,” Brenda says.
“There’s a lot of need,” says Darren.
To find out more about Haiti Arise, visit haitiarise.org.