An outreach mission in Haiti, run for the past 34 years by a Southampton church, sustained considerable wind and flood damage after Hurricane Matthew slammed into the island nation’s southwestern peninsula Tuesday morning, church officials said Thursday.
The damage came as the mission, walled-in and comprising 10 buildings, many housing classrooms, has struggled to recover from the effects of the powerful earthquake in 2010 that devastated much of the country.
As of Thursday afternoon, there were no reports of deaths or serious injuries among the 30 staffers, all Haitian, said James Boyd, a volunteer with the Southampton Full Gospel Church, which operates Mission Reach Out Haiti.
Word on the students, about 600 in prekindergarten through ninth grade, was harder to come by, he said, because they live long distances away.
Late Thursday, Haitian officials said at least 283 people had died as a result of the Category 4 hurricane.
Buildings and equipment, located on the mission’s 4 acres on the outskirts of the small city of Leogane — about 26 miles west of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince — sustained about $30,000 worth of damage, Boyd said. Parts of roofs blew away, he said, and electrical wiring, security cameras, gates, toilets and stove burners sustained damage.
Boyd and others on Long Island affiliated with the church have stayed up to date with mission staff and area conditions through online video chat and messaging services like Skype, WhatsApp and Periscope.
The local food supply, already limited, took an additional hit, Boyd said, with damage to fruit trees, with bananas, mangoes and figs “knocked off and taken off to sea.”
The destruction from Matthew certainly is a setback, said the Rev. Donald Havrilla, the church’s pastor, who with Eileen, his wife of 53 years, started the outreach in 1982. Originally meant to spread the gospel, the mission has expanded to provide education for children, as well as employment and training opportunities.
Still, the people of Haiti, who are used to hardship, are resilient, he said, and, with their limited resources, are likely well into the cleanup process around their homes, which are mostly huts.
The need, though, is great, he said. For the mission, this week’s damage comes on top of $70,000 worth of still-needed quake-related repairs, including the rebuilding of the church.
Given the challenges of transporting goods to Haiti and getting them through customs, the most effective way for individuals to help is through financial donations, he said, with further information available at Missionreachout.org.
“With God’s help and good people who want to pitch in,” Havrilla said, “we’ll do what we can.”