Haitian-American students react to hurricane devastation, plan volunteer effort

Photo courtesy the Flickr page for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent.

More than 100 people in Haiti are dead as a result of Hurricane Matthew, and that number is expected to go up, according to Haitian officials. The hurricane tore through the nation on Tuesday, leaving a country already-ravaged by a recent cholera outbreak and an earthquake six years ago even more devastated.

Members of Planet Kreyol, the Haitian-American student organization at the University of Miami, are taking action by forming a group of students to help collect donations and send them to Haiti.

Asia Cadet, president of Planet Kreyol, said she is trying to recruit volunteers to go package items as soon as the storm’s effect on Miami is over.

“I’m hoping to go personally Sunday or Monday, and I’ve already had several volunteers reach out to me,” she said.

So far, Cadet said she has four or five volunteers in addition to the organizations’s executive board. Haitian-American student organizations at Florida International University, Miami-Dade College, Barry University and other South Florida institutions are partnering up with the Haitian Consulate and City of Miami to help Haiti, and the relief efforts are being planned all across the state.

Supplies will be stored in CMS Warehouse, an international shipping facility, at 3333 NW 168th street in Miami Gardens.

The Haitian-American Hurricane Matthew Haiti Relief Efforts group is specifically looking for nurses to sort medication and for drop-off points for people to donate items in Lauderhill, Pembroke Pines, Key West, Ft. Lauderdale, Plantation, Homestead and Orlando, Fla.

The list of supplies needed on the website includes: Ziplock bags, feminine supplies, personal hygiene items, household chlorine bleach, absorbent towels, pain relievers, Benadryl, baby food, formula, diapers, pacifiers and medicine droppers. The full list is available here. 

Cadet, whose family lives in New Jersey, said she did not plan to go home because she didn’t expect the severity of Hurricane Matthew

“I didn’t really know that it was going to be so serious until it became so serious,” she said.

She said her grandmother reached out to family in Haiti and they were all safe. Another member of Planet Kreyol at UM, sophomore Mirza Tanis, said her family in the United States was unable to reach her family and friends in Haiti because there was no signal.

She found out two of her family members were safe through Facebook’s “I Am Safe” feature, which allows people to let their social network know they are not in danger .

“I hope they’re fine. I’m pretty sure they’re fine,” she said.

Tanis was born in Haiti, but has lived in Miami since she was two years old, so she was accustomed to the threat of hurricanes unlike many other UM students.

“Growing up, we never really took hurricanes seriously,” she said. “So when we see on social media that it was worse than expected, of course that takes us back.”

Tanis visited Haiti two summers ago and said she was surprised by the condition the nation was in, given she was visiting the capital city of Port-au-Prince, and it had been several years since the earthquake struck.

“I realized it was a lot worse than we probably thought it was … There’s no streetlights, there’s no pedestrian passways. There’s people just all over the place. There’s debris and trash all over the floor in the actual capital, right next to the airport,” she said.

Tanis said she was drawn to the Haitian-American student organization because she was not around many people from her same culture throughout high school. She is planning to volunteer with the relief effort group as soon as Hurricane Matthew winds and rain subside.

Those interested in volunteering or donating supplies can email Asia Cadet at acadet@miami.edu.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available. 

Featured photo courtesy Flickr account for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent.