Haitian-American Associations Mount Hurricane Relief Effort

Hurricane Matthew decimated parts of Haiti, and associations representing the Haitian-American community have stepped up to help the country deal with the aftermath.

Even before Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti last week, the association community mobilized to help. Now, a coalition of Haitian-American groups is coming to the aid of the island nation as it faces the daunting challenge of recovery.

More than 20 Haitian-American organizations have formed the Haitian-American Hurricane Matthew Haiti Relief Effort, partnering with the Man Dodo Humanitarian Foundation, which coordinates aid on the ground and acts as fiscal agent. The group has been collecting medications and medical and other supplies, as well as monetary donations. On Wednesday, the relief effort sent its first team of 30 medical professionals to Haiti.

We have a moral obligation to help.

So far, the coalition has collected three shipping containers full of donations and sent them on their way to Haiti, said Patricia Elizee, president of the Haitian Lawyers Association. HLA is also working with other local bar associations to raise funds for the relief effort.

“Haiti is still dealing with the aftermath of the earthquake six years ago,” as well as the more recent spread of cholera and Zika, Elizee said.

Now that the hurricane has made those conditions even worse, HLA is advocating to allow Haitians in the United States to stay legally under a redesignation of “temporary protected status,” so that all eligible Haitians may remain in the U.S. without fear of being deported. In a letter last week, more than 50 members of Congress urged President Obama to reconsider a decision to resume noncriminal deportations to Haiti.

“It’s inhumane to deport them back” while Haiti is struggling to rebuild after these crises, Elizee said.

The Haitian American Educators Association of the Palm Beaches is collecting monetary donations and school supplies to send to Haiti, working with the local Notre Dame Catholic Church to get donations where they need to go. The association’s members are from Haiti, and “anytime something happens to Haiti, it affects us all—either directly or indirectly,” said Guy Tabuteau, the group’s president. “We have a moral obligation to help.”

“It would be great if people could have Haiti in their minds and hearts” and donate to organizations that they trust, Elizee said, as “the economy in Haiti gets back on its feet.”

Other organizations involved include (among others) the Association of Haitian Physicians Abroad, Haitian American Nurses Association of Florida, Haitian-American Association of Engineers and Scientists, and Association of Haitian Educators of Dade, Inc.

Some of the coalition’s on-the-ground activities are chronicled on a Facebook page called the Haitian American.

Boys in Jeremie, Haiti, stand next to their destroyed home after Hurricane Matthew. (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)

Allison Torres Burtka

By Allison Torres Burtka

Allison Torres Burtka, a longtime association journalist, is a freelance writer and editor in West Bloomfield, Michigan. MORE

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