DELRAY BEACH — Delray Beach developer Frank McKinney was in just Haiti three days ago, when preparation for the hurricane barreling toward the Caribbean country meant simply fleeing to higher ground to avoid mudslides.
“There’s no Home Depot to go to to buy wood,” said McKinney, founder of nonprofit Caring House Project, which has been building homes in Haiti since 2003, seven years before the catastrophic magnitude 7.0 earthquake. “Typically what they will do is just flee to high ground or away from the storm’s path, and stay upstream to any mudslides.”
McKinney’s nonprofit is collecting donations through their website to render aid in Haiti in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, which the National Hurricane Center expects to bring life-threatening rain, wind and storm surge. The government has closed Port-Au-Prince’s airport, meaning McKinney and others with Caring House Project must simply wait to learn the extent of the damage, he said.
“Even on a beautiful day, it’s difficult to reach people in some regions of the country,” he said Monday.
Any funds donated to Hurricane Matthew relief will be used to purchase food, water and other necessities directly from Haitian suppliers, to support local business in Haiti’s fragile economy, McKinney said. Caring House Project employs Haitian locals to build homes from concrete — rather than bring in volunteers to build homes — to also provide jobs.
McKinney was in a northwestern village of Haiti to coordinate building efforts.
Ed Shakespierre, a Haitian native and executive director of Lake Worth-based nonprofit Color of Hope, echoed McKinney’s description of hurricane preparedness in Haiti.
“Families don’t have the funding to be able to protect their homes, so they wait to sort of see what happens,” Shakespierre said. “They’re not in a position to really do much.”
Color of Hope typically provides educational resources and technology to Haiti, but also aids in natural disaster relief. They currently have 10 volunteers in the Port-Au-Prince area, Shakespierre said.
“We have storage ready to go, with food and other necessities, and people on the ground,” Shakespierre said. “If the need should arise, we’re ready to roll.”
Color of Hope is also accepting donations through their website, which can specifically be used for Hurricane Matthew relief or general efforts of the nonprofit, which also focuses on the “silent storms” passing through Haiti.
“This storm will pass, but the economy and the political situation is ongoing,” Shakespierre said. “The people of Haiti have been suffering ever since the earthquake. It hasn’t stopped.”
Meanwhile in Delray Beach, some resident have had trouble reaching family in the Caribbean country on Monday.
During weather disasters, “it’s very difficult to get to them, to hear from them,” said the Rev. Luc Wilfrid Loriston, pastor of The Church of God of Prophecy, a Delray Beach church with a largely Haitian congregation.
“Most people can’t use phones, and don’t have lights or electricity,” he added.
Like many in his congregation, Loriston, who was in Washington on Monday for church business, couldn’t reach his family members in northern Haiti, he said.
“We’re used to this because Haiti is a very poor country,” Loriston said. “We’re hoping God will save them and our church community, we pray for them.”