3:30 P.M. EST Feb. 25, 2010 | MIAMI (UMNS)
Church World Service helps provide care for medical evacuees from Haiti.
A UMNS photo by Adrian Durañona, CWS.
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For two Haitian families receiving medical treatment in Miami, the earthquake that nearly destroyed Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12 is a scar that won’t ever fade away.
Estamene Lamour and her daughter, Stania Jean, and Alice Michaud and her daughter, Guilene Honore, say they are haunted by the disaster.
They are not alone. Church World Service organized support for severely injured Haitians airlifted to U.S. hospitals and the four are among the 62 medical evacuees and accompanying family members received by late February by the service’s Miami office.
Five more have been sent to the relief agency’s Durham, N.C., office and an affiliate, Refugee Resettlement and Immigration Services of Atlanta, has received 45 Haitians.
The evacuees’ injuries include amputations, burns, brain damage and spinal cord injuries, said Erol Kekic, CWS Immigration and Refugee Program director. “Many of the medical evacuees are children. Many have said they want to go back to Haiti as soon as possible, but it is hard to know how soon this might be possible. They will require a vast network of support in the cities of placement.”
Lamour, a 58-year-old food vendor, said she was at home with her 28-year-old son Frantz Jean, the oldest of her four children, when the quake hit the Haitian capital. “The whole house was shaking,” she recalled.
“I did not know what to do,” she said. “I fell down many times as I was trying to escape. I reached a point where I lost consciousness after being hit in the neck and the back of my head by the debris from the collapsing walls.”
Lamour’s neck injury was so severe that the Red Cross had to fly her to Miami, accompanied by Stania Jean, her 26-year-old daughter, who was not injured. Both are homesick and trying to deal with the separation from the rest of their family members back in Haiti. Jean, who has a ninth-grade education and no job, said she was grateful to be in Miami and hopes to go to school to learn English.
Determined to recover
Like many other badly injured earthquake victims, strength and determination are etched on Honore’s face. She almost lost her left leg, and is now trying to recover from an operation to fix her fractured femur.
“My two-story house started collapsing,” she explained. “I grabbed my 3-year-old son Makenson Alteus and held him tight in my arms. A big iron gate fell on me and my son, protecting us from the falling concrete walls. I was screaming, my left leg was caught in the gate and my right hand was also trapped while holding the baby with my left arm. I cried and screamed my heart out for help until I was pulled out from the rubble two hours later.”
Michaud, 58, who traveled with her to Miami, whispered, “If it was not for this trip to the United States, I would have lost my daughter.”
While being thankful to the Americans for helping her daughter, she said, “I am not staying here. I want to go back home to my family.”
But Michaud, who makes ends meet in Haiti as a flea market vendor selling food and other types of goods, wants to go home when her daughter is better. On Feb. 16, the pair flew to Louisville, Ky., where Honore is now recuperating with assistance from Kentucky Refugee Ministries, a CWS affiliate there.
For Honore, Lamour and other injured Haitians recovering in the United States, faith communities “are an integral part of the network of support,” Kekic said.
Church World Service is looking for local congregations or groups in these locations who are willing to make a three-month commitment to assist with transportation, food, hygiene kits, clothing, translation services, housing and emotional support.
Offers of assistance may be made to the agency’s New York office by calling (212) 870-3300 or sending an e-mail to email@example.com.
*Lindor is a caseworker with Church World Service-Miami. Additional information was provided by Church World Service.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.