CBS4 News is featuring a special series of reports this holiday season called the 12 Days of Christmas. The following story is written by CBS4’s Lauren Whitney.
DENVER (CBS4) – In October, Hurricane Matthew slammed the southern peninsula of Haiti as a Category 4 hurricane. The storm sliced through the country, leaving behind monumental damage.
“The hurricane destroyed 90 percent of the crops and 70 percent of the livestock was lost and about two-thirds of the all of the homes are damaged,” Teresa Henry of the Colorado Haiti Project said.
Henry said the days following the hurricane were devastating.
“So we really got some really dramatic calls right afterwards … it was pretty scary,” she said.
With the main road to the capital Port-au-Prince destroyed and crops wiped away, the food supply and economy in southern Haiti quickly became a crisis.
“All the trees were wiped out so they lost their future … the ability to have income for the next six to nine months,” Henry said.
For 27 years the Colorado Haiti Project has been helping in southern Haiti through education, livelihood development, clean water and health initiatives — and water and infrastructure projects.
Jackie Martin of the Colorado Haiti Project thinks their long standing relationship in the area is helping in the rebuilding process.
“We have this really deep relationship, it has trust. It allows us to really work collaboratively and together to listen to the long-term needs of the community,” Martin said.
Despite the damage, Martin says the people are positive.
“I gather so much inspiration from them. Even in the face of devastation where we’ve been speaking to a lot of people who don’t have a home — a roof over their head — or a livelihood anymore. And when you speak with them on the phone, there is joy. There is somehow hope, there is this immense gratitude,” Martin said.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew Colorado Haiti Project sent a team to the area to assess the immediate and long-term needs.
“The best thing we could do was to start what we’re calling an agriculture bank,” Henry said.
Without the ability to replant, the long-term impact of Hurricane Matthew would continue to devastate the country.
“The interim president of Haiti said if someone didn’t step in and help the residents of this really ravaged area get access to seeds soon, Haiti would find itself in a food security crisis,” Martin said.
Colorado Haiti Project is that “someone” to step in with a simple seed.
“These people in this region were not able to get out to find seeds. Now we have more than 30,000 people who are going to be able to come and buy the seeds they need in January to re-establish their crops for the first harvest,” Martin said.
Martin said they hope the agriculture bank expands and continues to help the community in the future by helping people with livestock, silos, and selling their products.
“They know they call us their family in Colorado and they know that we’re here for long term to help them with these really big projects to get them back to where they were,” Martin said.
Back with a roof over their heads and seeds in the ground, there’s a hope for the future of Haiti from the mountains of Colorado.
LINK: Colorado Haiti Project