South Miami churches move to help Haiti

Several churches in South Miami are preparing to render aid to Haiti after Tropical Storm Isaac struck the island on Saturday.

As authorities in Haiti and aid organizations continue to assess the damage, churches in South Miami are taking in donations.

Some of the churches’ programs to help Haiti have been assisting orphanages and schools for decades. Now they are focusing their efforts on the victims of the storm. On Tuesday, Haitian authorities reported at least 24 people had died during the storm and three were missing.

“We are in the midst of still conducting needs assessments. Our field office is focused in areas of Port-au-Prince and the southeast,” said Melissa Crutchfield, of the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

First United Methodist Church of South Miami, 6565 Red Road, is a member of the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Their ongoing programs in Haiti include one called Money-Wise, designed to help women who run small businesses.

“If there is a way that we could help these women recover, we will,” Crutchfield said. “We will continue to support them in the way that we already have.”

It may take a while to assess the damage and deliver the aid. The Miami Herald has reported destruction through Jacmel and other southeastern cities. Many farmers have lost their livestock and crops. Rivers such as the Fesles Marigot Grand River have flooded and damaged roads leading to mountain villages.

The Riviera Presbyterian Church, 5275 Sunset Drive in South Miami, is also planning to help Haiti. Pastor Laurie Krau is a member of the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance national response team, which has focused on helping Haiti before. The team met to discuss the needs Tuesday.

“We have a special account to relief misery,” Kraus said. “We have done benefits and will continue to help in any way we can.”

Efforts at the Epiphany Catholic Church, 8235 SW 57th Ave. in South Miami, focus on the remote mountain areas of Port-de-Paix and Gros Morne. At the church’s school, students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade are encouraged to donate to a program that sponsors 30 schools in the area.

The program is called Amor en Acción, Spanish for “Love in Action.” It runs under the auspices of the Archdiocese of Miami to support the education of about 4,500 students and provide meals to about 2,500 in Haiti.

“It’s a beautiful program. We have donated uniforms and have been committed to helping them for years,” said Gloria La Saga, of the Epiphany School. “We even have pictures of the Parish De Costiere here.”

The program also accepts donations for medications such as antibiotics and medical equipment to target the storm’s long term impact. Because of the flooding, the deadly cholera epidemic could worsen.

“The devastation was less than we feared, so we are waiting for direction from our partners in Haiti,” said Teresita Gonzalez, of Amor en Acción. “Haitians are a strong people. They wake up the next morning and try to figure out how to get on with their lives. They are very perseverant, but they can use our help.”

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