Langford Rotarians respond to hurricane disaster in Haiti


A Langford group travelling to Haiti in two weeks says the two orphanages it supports are facing food shortages in the wake of hurricane Matthew.

The Rotary Club of Westshore Sunrise already had plans to visit the Caribbean nation when hurricane Matthew slammed its southern coast with torrential rains and 230 km/h winds last week. The death toll exceeded 500 on Monday based on on-the-ground estimates, while the official count was 372. Cholera is spreading and some of the dead are being buried in mass graves, Reuters reported.

The orphanages are in the capital city Port-au-Prince, beyond the hurricane’s most deadly path. But the disaster means already-strained resources are being reallocated — including the Canadian police officers working with the United Nations, who typically bring the orphans food and donations.

Langford Fire Chief Bob Beckett, one of the three Rotarians who will fly to Haiti on Oct. 28, said food stocks have become very low since the officers left. They were first relocated ahead of the Oct. 9 election, which was postponed, then for the hurricane response.

“Typically, every Sunday, they get a visit from the police officers, who often, out of their own pockets, provide money for food,” Beckett said. “They haven’t been able to make those Sunday visits.”

This will be Beckett’s 15th visit to Haiti. None of the children was injured, but one of the orphanages lost power when a transformer was damaged in the storm, he said.

The Rotary Club of Westshore Sunrise began supporting the Baby Jesus of Prague in the capital city after the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 220,000 people. It houses about 25 children.

During a 2014 visit, volunteers were asked to help at the Divine Hands Orphanage, also in Port-au-Prince. When they saw the deplorable state of the property, which supports 52 children, they committed to help. The Rotary Club helped to provide an outdoor kitchen, dormitory for teen boys and dining hall-classroom.

Before the storm, Rotarians planned to use this visit to look at purchasing one of the orphanage properties, so that the $6,000 US it pays in rent annually could go toward other needs.

“We were simply going to go down initially to focus on purchasing the land and coming back and doing a fundraiser. Now, given the storm and short supplies, we’re looking for cash donations that we can take down on the 28th, so we can get power back on at Divine Hands, provide additional food and supplies for them,” Beckett said.

Donations can be made All funds raised will go to the orphanages, he said, not toward administrative fees or airfare.

Other organizations are also accepting donations for relief efforts.

The Canadian Red Cross is assuring donors that funds will make their way to supporting Haitians, distancing itself from its American counterpart. A 2015 investigation by ProPublica and NPR found that the American Red Cross built only six permanent homes in Haiti after raising nearly $500 million US in aid money after the 2010 earthquake.

The Canadian Red Cross has posted its progress after the 2010 earthquake online, including building 7,500 homes.

“Each Red Cross society is different, each country has its own society. So we can’t speak to the work of the American Red Cross,” said Naomi Armstrong, a B.C. disaster management co-ordinator.

The Canadian Red Cross has sent personnel to join existing staff in Haiti.

“Right now, the expectation is that health and clean water will be primary, in terms of what the needs are,” she said.

Donations can be made to the Canadian Red Cross at or 1-800-418-1111.


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