SERVING CHARITY IN HAITI WITH MARY
After the earthquake in Haiti
I called Calcutta, the Mother Teresa head office. One of the Sisters told me that they are sending Sisters from Calcutta, New York and South America to Haiti.
It was amazing to see that these young and old ladies have overcome their fear and they have gone to take care of the fallen, where Haitians and other nations are desperately trying to get out. Canadians went to the Canadian embassy for refuge. Countries' militaries would fly in to take their citizens away. So much fear of death. The murderers and rapists free from jail and on the streets. Assault and looting, just fear and fear.
Then I thought of humanity to see the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere forgotten again, a nation in desperate need of mercy has been forgotten by our fear rather than being served by our righteousness.
They stopped all of the flights to Haiti. There was no access to the suffering. I thought about how I could help them, I booked myself asap within the next few days to the Dominican Republic. It was so beautiful to see my friends in charity coming one by one with donations to help the hungry for food. We collected a few thousand dollars and I maxed out my visa for Haiti.
Mary of Fatima brings miracles to my life every day.
The day we arrived in the Dominican Republic was a Feast of Mary.
The first day I hired a driver with a large van and we went to buy food for the Haitians and baby food for children. We purchased over 10,000 packages of baby food,
canned goods and cookies along
with thousands of water purification pills and first-aid kits.
We had boxes of clothing, construction materials and a lot of petrol.
We also purchased a dirt motorcycle to be able to get through the rubble.
We squeezed everything into the 20 seat passenger van.
My driver and I drove south to the Haitian border.
A few days earlier four Dominicans were murdered in Haiti trying to take food to the Haitians. There is also a bad history between the Dominicans and Haitians which do not make it easier either. Luckily my driver had a photo of Mary on his dashboard. I had such a hard time trying to comfort him and to convince him to have faith, to keep touching Mary saying 'Mary would take care of us, I promise'.
But it would not stick with him.
We drove and drove between mountains and rivers,
cities after villages,
banana fields after sugar cane fields.
Then there was approximately 50km of butterfly fields.
One of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. It was such a long drive with bad roads. Ten hours later everything from tropical turned to desert.
The landscape was changing for a different country and then you see army check-point after army check-point. I kept praying 'Dear Mary let these donations get to the children and my Sisters. Then I saw a massive population of Haitians held on the streets by the Dominican army trying to get to the Dominican.
My driver was very afraid when we came close to the border. We turned and then we saw the Dominican flag and the Haitian flag and I kept yelling at him 'go, go, don't stop'.
The actual border was below sea level, so there was water from everywhere, they were having a hard time keeping the water away.
Through the mud we squeezed behind the army truck going to Haiti. The Haitian immigration pulled aside a couple of vans but miraculously they told us to go and I kept yelling at the driver to 'just go, don't look at anyone, just go'. And then we were in Haiti. I was so happy, my driver was extremely afraid.
The other challenge was that the Haitians speak French and neither of us spoke French, we spoke Spanish and English. Off we went to Port-au-Prince. He was so afraid that he did not want to pull aside and ask questions. He said that 'we have all of this food they are going to come and mug us'. Then he said I am poor 'I don't have any insurance, if they damage my car I cannot pay for it. That is all I have'. I kept touching the Mary on the dashboard and said 'Mary will take care of us, I promise'. Finally, I forced him to pull over to a gas station. I said that we must fill up and keep our back-up fuel for later. And we pulled over, now we had no Haitian currency. As soon as I opened the door to get out he held my hand and I held his shoulder to say 'everything is going to be ok, have faith'. I went outside and changed the US to Haitian currency and filled up the gas. Off we went.
We started seeing homes after homes, businesses after businesses demolished. The closer we got to the city more buildings were destroyed.
I just could not believe that there was such a huge difference between the Dominican and Haiti. On one island I felt that I had gone to a third world country like Afghanistan. They were so poor and we kept asking with sign language where is my Sisters' home.
We got closer and closer, there were so many UN soldiers with guns, UN trucks everywhere. You could hear the military helicopters. It looked like a war zone.
We finally got near the Port-au-Prince airport and we went to the Saint Paul Sisters' House. One of the Sisters came with us and took us to the Mother Teresa Sisters. Luckily they both had parking and a gate to close. They closed the gate behind us and we emptied the goods.
While I was emptying one of the Sisters said to me 'ABBAS we just finished our food today'. I felt Mary in my heart. I saw a few Mother Teresa Sisters that I have met around the world. It was such a privilege to see them hands on taking care of the sick, dying and children. They were so busy. I saved some food for the Saint Paul Sisters. We went back to the Saint Paul complex over the hill looking at the airport and the rest of the houses. More than half of the city was pancaked, people's homes, some of them with their families still inside. It was one of the most devastating scenes. People started running after the truck but we got inside and they closed the gate. It was one of the most horrible scenes I have experienced, men, women and children desperately begging for food. I had shivers all over my body.
The Saint Paul Sisters' complex was all pancaked.
All of the houses for the orphaned children, the building with the small rooms and the building for their school was all pancaked.
All that was left was the chapel but it was not safe.
Miraculously none of the children and Sisters were hurt. The Sister with us was so kind. Everyone was camping outside beneath the tarps. My driver and I had not slept for almost 30 hours. I had no energy left in me so they asked me to stay in the complex because it is not safe to stay outside at night. So we stayed with the Sisters over night. She said all of the children would come back at night. They were outside looking for food. I went to the van to sleep. When I woke up a couple of hours later it was dark. I could hear a lot of noises. The Sisters' kindness brought so much comfort, they brought us some cooked potato. My driver was feeling much more at ease because we did not have any more food in the truck
There was no electricity, no water. You could see the airport and every few minutes hear the sound of the jets and helicopters.
In the dark I heard the Sisters praying and singing, it was such a beautiful sound amongst all of the catastrophe, a beautiful sound of faith in the pitch black.
We donated everything we had to the Sisters, including our petrol. We figured we would be ok until the border.
When the light came up I could not believe how many children and families were sleeping outside of their homes on the floor.
It is so terrible not to have a bathroom. We gave everything we had to the Sisters, they were so happy to see us.
We started driving to the border
and the taxis (old pick-up Toyota decorated with a millioncolours) were squeezed with so many people, some with their chicken and roosters. Women and children had gathered a few things to sell in front of them, from oil to things they had found.
When we arrived at the Dominican border they had closed the gates, we both said 'oh oh', we were on the other side with all of the Haitians trying to get out. Luckily he opened the gate and I just told the driver to 'go, go. go'. At our first check-point from 200 feet away a soldier with his big gun decided to pull us over and began speaking fast in Spanish to my driver, then he opened the back door, I said 'oh oh'. He put one person inside and said to take this person to the main town which was almost 150km away. It was a good sign we were realized he was a soldier himself, he had finished his shift and they just did not want to pay the taxi. It was such a miracle because he was our ticket for every army check-point. At every stop he would stick his head out and say 'me' and they would let us go.
There were so many stops, check-point after check-point, at one of the stops we got pulled over and while our soldier was speaking to the outside army guy I saw a small shed and they were holding almost 20 Haitian women and children there. I so much wanted to get out and put them in our car.
We worked for this non-stop with a few hours of sleep in a few days.
Although I got sick as a result of the trip, I must say it was one of the most rewarding charity trips I have ever had. What was so spectacular was when my driver reached to touch Mary on the dashboard and said 'now I believe Mary'.
I brought him so much faith in the poor.
I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.
In GOD We Trust