On Oct. 4 2016, Hurricane Matthew hit the poverty stricken country of Haiti, uprooting trees, ravaging crops and demolishing infrastructure.

Haiti Arise was one of the many non-profit organizations that responded quickly to the disaster, sending supplies and extra crews down to the distressed country.

Produced by Jolene Rudisuela

Marc Honorat, CEO of Haiti Arise, says that Haiti has not yet recovered from the 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew has made matters worse.

While the earthquake affected one province in Haiti, the hurricane’s impact spanned five provinces, destroying up to 90 per cent of the land in those areas.

Honorat adds that before the hurricane, the unemployment rate was 80 per cent and now things are looking increasingly worse.

“You can’t even consider Haiti as a third world country. It used to be considered a fourth world country but because of that disaster now, I absolutely think it’s maybe a fifth world country.”

Honorat was born and raised in Haiti and grew up experiencing the poverty and corruption in the country firsthand.

Coming from a family of fifteen children, his parents struggled to afford food, clothing and schooling for all of them. The burden being too heavy, Honorat was given away at the age of five to become a child slave.

He says he remembers a woman coming to talk to his parents the day he was given away but was too young to understand what was happening.

“When they finished talking, that lady came over and grabbed me by the hand and started pulling me behind her,” says Honorat. “I looked back to see if my parents [were] going to come and take me away from her. They stood there and watched me go.”

At the age of twelve, Honorat was rescued from slavery by one of his brothers, put in a children’s home and finally started kindergarten. He was later sponsored by a family from Airdrie, Alta. who helped him through school and college and eventually, brought him to Canada.

After the devastation of Hurricane Matthew, thousands of Haitians have been left without homes. Haiti Arise volunteers have been working hard to repair houses using sheets of tin and lumber. Photo courtesy of Haiti Arise 

Fast forward to 2003, Honorat and his wife, Lisa, started Haiti Arise as a way of making a difference in the country.

Since then, the organization has helped the country by building homes, a medical clinic and a technical school.

However, right now, their priority is helping with disaster relief.

“The most important thing is the people,” says Honorat. “The people are in dire need because they lost everything that they have.”

He adds the first priority is to distribute food and hygiene kits but they will also help with the massive cleanup and rebuilding efforts.

Lisa says that Haiti Arise volunteers have been working very hard, with one crew repairing 65 homes in eight days. By the end of October, the organization had also held three food distributions which served over 6,000 families.

Barry Hoffman has been volunteering with Haiti Arise for over a year and is also helping with the hurricane relief. He says helping Haitians has given him a new perspective.

“The thing that really impressed me about Haiti was the people,” he says. “[In North America], the media always give Haitians a bad rap, but when you get down there and see these people living on two bucks a day and they always have a smile on their face and they’re always appreciative – that blew me away.”

Haiti Arise has over 100 volunteers in the country with new teams joining every two weeks. Honorat says they aren’t going anywhere after the immediate need is gone.

“We are not what you call just a relief organization. What you call disaster relief – that’s pretty much like six months maybe up to a year. But after the disaster relief, we’re not leaving.”

With a permanent base in the country, Haiti Arise will continue to do what they can to help the people rise up out of poverty.

jrudisuela@cjournal.ca

The editor responsible for this article is Trevor Solway and can be contacted at tsolway@cjournal.ca