AND GAIL EPSTEIN NIEVES
Marie V. Fritz was listening to the radio in Miami Monday when she heard her first cousin’s name, Bebe Bernard, among the long list of Haitian flood victims.
Downed phone lines and impassable roads make details impossible to come by, deepening Fritz’s grief. What of Bernard’s children, Bernard’s husband, other mutual relatives?
”I’m depressed,” Fritz, 50, of Fondverrettes in northwestern Haiti, said Thursday. “I feel powerless because I can’t go help and I can’t get in touch to see how things are.”
Touched by the scene of death and destruction in their homelands, Dominicans and Haitians in Miami-Dade and Broward counties on Thursday stepped up a humanitarian effort to send food, water and medicine back home.
On Spanish and Haitian radio, the talk was of the devastation centered in the Dominican town of Jimaní, which borders Haiti.
”Today is a national day of mourning,” said Ana Maria Segura, vice consul general for the Dominican Republic’s consulate on Brickell Avenue. The consulate is the nerve center for the collection drive and will oversee the shipping of goods back home.
”I’m not Dominican, but I know human suffering,” Idalia Faxas said as she unloaded clothes and other goods at a donation center in Hialeah.
So far, the center has collected two truckloads of goods.
”It’s the least I can do for my people,” said Nelson Dominguez, who walked up with a case of bottled water.
The center’s executive director, J. Amada Vargas, said Spanish-radio mogul Raul Alarcon has donated a plane to fly the goods to Hispaniola.
Over the Memorial Day weekend, there will be radio marathons to collect money and food.
Local Haitians are also organizing a humanitarian effort. Gepsie Metellus, director of the Sant La Haitian Neighborhood Center, said the Haitian government put out a call for nonperishable foods, water, soap and bleach, salt and sugar, bedding, flashlights, batteries, cooking grills, buckets and utensils.
Alix Baptiste, secretary of state for Haitians living abroad, said from his office in Port au Prince that he is traveling to Miami this weekend and will bring updated information about humanitarian needs.
Catholic Charities in Miami is waiting on a ”needs assessment” from workers on the ground in both countries before specifying what kinds of donations are needed, said Brian Stevens, a spokesman for the group.
Meanwhile, the church is putting out a call on radio and at all parishes in the Archdiocese of Miami seeking monetary donations. ”If the agencies on the ground tell us money is best, we’ll send money and they can purchase things there,” Stevens said.
In Miami, Fritz scoffed at the notion that the Haitian government will do anything and prays that outsiders will distribute aid. ”If history is to repeat itself, I’m not very hopeful about what’s going to happen,” she said.