Hurricane Matthew Update | “Head down, stay going….”

Our Programmes Manager in Haiti, Ailish O’Reilly, gives a powerful insight into our emergency response on the ground in the wake of Hurricane Matthew in this series of blogs.


It is Thursday already again.  I wake briefly at around 5am but quickly drop back to sleep until 7am.  It’s a marathon sleep and, for a few minutes, I think we have all overslept, but, sure enough, Damien is already on the wharf and heading to Kaykok.

John and I get organised, and I head on to visit Sr Flora and the children in the local orphanage, before meeting up at the office.  The De Gras car is back to do some more distribution: we have enough left for two zones, and it heads off with 120 kits.


When the team arrives, I jokingly tell them we have been robbed as, since they left yesterday afternoon, the whole place is cleared out.  It is untidy so, in fairness, one could think we had been robbed!

We turn our hand to re-organising, cleaning and mopping.  An hour later, we are back in shape.  It is opportune as people tend to gather outside the office, hoping to get bags of aid or, like in some areas, to steal what they can.  As it is market day the village is full: everyone can see the office is empty, so that immediately takes this pressure off our small team.

People don’t like telling their friends and neighbours that they cannot give them aid, but we need to stick to the systems that the mayor has in place; otherwise, the whole aid distribution will become corrupt. For this reason, we hope the United Nations (UN) helicopter does not land, although he makes two approaches before deciding not to: market day is not a day to set down as you will have a large audience.  If they came with aid now, there would be a small riot.  I manage to contact someone in the Les Cayes base and ask them to leave it until the morning.  We can coordinate the landing if they wish.

Damien arrives with the shipment from Kaykok: that goes straight to depot, and we can use this to start making more food kits tomorrow.

The owner of our office building arrives to tell us that repair work is started, and he hopes to finish very quickly.  Chache Lavi might soon be moving home!

Two Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) from the United States (US) arrive on the boat and, after a visit to the medical centre, we collect supplies from Sr Flora and head out on a house call to Jean Nexon.  They clean and dress his foot.  We forgot a tarpaulin, so one of the motos makes a dash back to the village of Madame Bernard.  Jean Nexon’s mother Deulita is delighted with the tarpaulin.  We dress her knee injury: she fell carrying him from their house to their neighbour’s house during the night of the hurricane.  We have known for some time that she gets little help from the rest of the family when it comes to looking after Jean Nexon.

The food, medicines and tarp we bring are such a boost to her. 

We can place Jean Nexon on a blanket outside under the new tarpaulin porch.  We arrange to come see him again tomorrow and help her to bathe him.

In the office, we have a steady stream of visitors.  The CPC and the president of the women’s organisation in Seulette stop in to ask for help with cleaning a well.  The two EMT guys should be able to help out as they are a sort of all-round emergency response team.  The contact with Seulette came about as a direct result of our meeting with Mandy yesterday.  All of these link-ups are positive for the future.  We are hoping to work with them in Chache Lavi, and had met with them to discuss this the week before the hurricane.

There is a short respite and, instead of making another follow-up call, I use the time to call my daughter.  It’s a precious 15 minute call in the middle of the madness, and we are so happy to connect.  She understands what is happening better than most, having just spent her summer vacation in Île à Vache volunteering with us.  With regards to all, we sign off.

Moto drivers are coming by to be paid and people looking for some food aid or tarps.  We get ten more tarps distributed to the hill, up by where I live.  It is not enough for full shelter but will help if the rain arrives as promised.

We are working on an emergency aid proposal, so this is another few hours of computer work.  The power shuts off the fan, and we literally perspire water as quickly as we can drink it.

The guys that have been doing support work with us have decided we will have a barbecue, and I’ve petitioned for a short day – maybe even a half day.  We have a shipment of aid due in, so we do a split.   We finish at 4:30pm and get home before 5pm.  Dinner is soon ready, and, by 7pm, everyone is fed, showered and changed.  The call comes in at 7:20pm that the boat has arrived, so it is all back down the hill to unload, put the food into depot, and call it a night.

Another long day.  Another good day.  Head down, stay going…

To help Haven’s recovery efforts in Haiti, please give what you can here.  100% of funds raised go directly to our emergency relief work on the ground.

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