Groups begin preliminary work for long-term recovery in Haiti

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Groups begin preliminary work for long-term recovery in Haiti

By Jenna De Marco | June 3, 2010 {1178}

A massive earthquake that shattered Haiti’s structural foundations also left behind human emotional, spiritual and physical aftershocks.

The Rev. Beth Fogle-Miller gets to know some of the children at an orphanage near Port-au-Prince. Photo by Phil Roughton. Photo #10-1455. Click on picture for larger photo or view in photo gallery with longer description.

Healing that aftermath has become the focus for many in the Florida Conference who want to reach out to the country through established, as well as unexpected, ministries.

After traveling to the tiny Caribbean nation recently, the Rev. Beth Fogle-Miller is encouraging a coordinated, long-term response to the unspeakable devastation.

“It really is just pretty much beyond description,” said Fogle-Miller, who serves as director of Florida Conference Connectional Ministries.

During her trip, Fogle-Miller met with the Rev. Gesner Paul, president of the Methodist Church of Haiti, which has shared in mutual ministry with the Florida Conference for many years, but formally since 2006 when leaders of both churches signed the Haiti/Florida Covenant. Fogle-Miller also met with representatives from United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) and United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).

All the meetings pointed to a desire for better coordination and communication between the conference and these groups so efforts aren’t duplicated, she said.

Also, instead of speculating about what help is needed, Fogle-Miller said, it is important to focus on needs the Methodist Church of Haiti has identified. Those include rebuilding schools, churches and homes, as well as general redevelopment. Getting schools functioning again is an “essential link in making sure children eat,” Fogle-Miller added.

A steering team of people from the Haiti/Florida Covenant task team, the Haitian ministry team and others familiar with UMCOR and UMVIM processes is being developed, Fogle-Miller said. Pam Garrison, manager of the Florida Conference Disaster Recovery Ministry, will lead the group. The goal is to provide comprehensive information about what various groups are doing and how churches can become involved. 

“The conference involvement is not to control it, but rather to facilitate more effective involvement,” Fogle-Miller said. “We’ve also pledged to keep the Methodist Church in Haiti informed as best we can about groups (visiting Haiti) and projects.”

Continued prayers are one place churches can begin now to address the “mammoth” needs that resulted from the disaster, Fogle-Miller said. Another “desperate” need, she added, is financial donations to help the Methodist Church of Haiti recover from damage to local churches.

Churches like this one will be rebuilt in part with funds from the Florida Conference. Photo by Bill Harley. Photo #10-1456. Click on picture for larger photo or view in photo gallery with longer description.

“We took a big financial gift over because they need the money for pastoral salaries and … building supplies and labor,” Fogle-Miller said. The contribution, totaling $125,000, was collected through Florida Conference Advance Special #100190.

Churches build upon relationships

A common, positive thread Fogle-Miller sees in many churches and ministries is their desire not to turn their backs on Haiti in this crisis.

“There was no way you could look at that destruction and then just go on,” Fogle-Miller said. “We need to be careful that we respond appropriately and not let it go in the background.”

Results of a recent conference survey of churches and outreach ministries show that hundreds of lay and clergy volunteers have already served thousands of hours to aid Haiti’s recovery —preparing UMCOR-sanctioned health and layette kits, holding fund-raising events, planning for future ventures and providing legal aid.

Several United Methodist church leaders plan to keep the country front and center by continuing or strengthening partnerships established before the earthquake.
At First United Methodist Church in Coral Springs, lay members like mission director Cheryl Price have been traveling to Haiti on mission trips for several years. “God just placed Haiti in my heart,” she said, explaining her ongoing passion for the country.

I think the danger is us going there believing that we’re going to give to them — that the only benefit is us to them. We have as much to learn from them as they do (from) us. The spirituality of these people that have endured so much is striking. In Haiti … God’s big.

Bill Harley

Her church has sent medical teams and helped a Haitian school, church and foundation — all of which were destroyed or severely damaged in the earthquake. In response to the disaster, the church sent a large shipping container to Haiti filled with 90,000 pounds of medical supplies and food.

Additionally, the church’s Haitian pastor, the Rev. Syler Raymovil, traveled to Haiti in February to help distribute food and assess needs.

“He fed hundreds of people while he was over in Port-au-Prince,” Price said.

Members of the congregation are also exploring long-term rebuilding. Two representatives from the church visited Haiti and purchased property in the earthquake-ravaged city of Léogâne — located just west of Port-au-Prince. The goal is to build housing and eventually a new church, school and medical clinic in that location, Price said.

Another plan is to send a medical and construction team to Haiti in mid-September.

Price hopes the work her church is doing — one person at time — is making a difference, despite a situation that sometimes feels overwhelming.

“Sometimes you feel like it’s not really much … (but) maybe that’s all they needed — the hug or that somebody else cared,” Price said.

Madame Paul gives a medicine-sized cup portion of strawberry soda to some of the 97 children she and three other women care for in a house Paul rents. It is one of several orphanages in Haiti that hopes to become part of the Global Orphan Project network. Photo by Vee Stepelton. Photo #10-1457. Click on picture for larger photo or view in photo gallery with longer description.

The Rev. Phil Roughton, senior pastor at Christ Church United Methodist in Ft. Lauderdale, is also hopeful his church can play a role in helping even just a portion of Haiti’s most vulnerable population — its children.

“We must target a group of people and a village and invest in that group of children to do all that we can to help that group,” he said.

To do that, Roughton’s church is working through a nonprofit organization called The Global Orphan Project, which helps build communities that sustain orphans around the world. Roughton made the trip to Haiti with Fogle-Miller to learn more about the group.

“It’s an awesome organization,” he said. “I’ve never been more impressed with a parachurch ministry, for their clarity of focus, stewardship (and) phenomenal team of people.”

A church, school, multiple-orphan homes and micro-businesses anchor the Global Orphan Project communities. A “house mama” cares for about 10 children in each modestly built home.

Contrast that ratio with the numbers from an orphanage not affiliated with The Global Orphan Project, Roughton said. In one, four people were caring for nearly 100 children under 3 years old. They lacked proper hygiene and clothing, as well as meaningful human connection.

“It’s just tragic beyond belief,” Roughton said. “They are just desperately hungry for touch, affection and all of those things.”

Christ Church’s lay leader, Bill Harley, also traveled to Haiti with Roughton. He says he felt mixed emotions as he interacted with people there.

The contrast between “people who’ve gone through tremendous things, but yet their spirit is so much alive” was palpable, he said, and though many children had endured great loss, they were smiling, too.

Bill Harley says many of the children he and other Florida Conference leaders met while visiting Haiti were smiling, despite having endured great loss. “At the heart, they are still kids. They like to be hugged, they like to be held, they like to kick a ball around,” he said. “In many ways, these kids are happy kids.” Photo by Phil Roughton. Photo #10-1458. Click on picture for larger photo or view in photo gallery with longer description.

“At the heart, they are still kids. They like to be hugged, they like to be held, they like to kick a ball around,” Harley said. “In many ways, these kids are happy kids.”

It is for these reasons Harley believes the Haitian and American people should share their unique resources.

“I think the danger is us going there believing that we’re going to give to them — that the only benefit is us to them,” he said. “We have as much to learn from them as they do (from) us. The spirituality of these people that have endured so much is striking. In Haiti … God’s big.”

Christ Church will likely respond to the need by supporting the full development of a village through the project, Roughton said, although it will take time and funding before the vision will be complete. Another option is helping fund the Global Orphan Project’s possible purchase and support of an existing “orphan transition village,” Harley said.

South Florida offers immigration clinics

With much of the focus on helping people who live in Haiti, other service to Haitian nationals living in the United States has been happening across the Florida Conference.

Through South Florida Urban Ministries (SFLUM), legal aid volunteers helped 35 Haitian nationals apply for temporary protected status (TPS) in February, according to Brent McLaughlin, the ministry’s executive director. TPS is a special designation that may be granted by the U.S. government to nationals who can show they have resided continuously in the United States since Jan. 12 and been physically present here since Jan. 21, when the status was designated. If their application for the status is approved, they can continue living and working in the United States until at least July 2011 without risk of deportation.

“It is a great opportunity to enhance their (immigration) status and allow them to stay longer,” McLaughlin said.

Obtaining TPS often helps the applicant’s extended family in Haiti, too. That’s because the typical Haitian national sends about 30 percent of earned income back to family and friends living in Haiti, McLaughlin said.

Offering legal assistance was “a way to help provide support to many unknown and unseen people back in Haiti,” he added.

Sunny Wilmot (right) works with Catherine Bruno, 12, as she completes her application for temporary protected status at an immigration clinic sponsored by the Florida Conference Justice For Our Neighbors ministry at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Orlando. File photo by Tita Parham. Photo #10-1440. Originally accompanied e-Review Florida UMNS #1172, 05/12/10. Click on picture for larger photo or view in photo gallery.

The Rev. Janet Horman, who is also an immigration attorney, recruited the legal aid volunteers through her contacts in the community. Horman is pastor of Killian Pines United Methodist Church in Miami. Haitians were invited to attend the TPS legal clinics on three consecutive Saturdays at three different SFLUM church sites in South Florida.

“We held the clinics where SFLUM already has active ministry … so that trust was already established,” Horman said.

Each client’s situation was unique. Several were in the United States on valid travel visas when the earthquake struck, another was here for educational purposes, and one woman was a widow of a legal U.S. citizen.

“It’s a wonderful experience to be able to help someone get something that will help them so much,” Horman said. “There’s no way to describe the benefit that these folks will be able to enjoy, and it will help their families.”

In addition to assisting Haitian nationals, TPS “helps all around with a sense of order, with the smooth running of society,” Horman said.

A similar clinic was held at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Orlando in February.

The deadline to apply for the temporary status is July 20; some U.S. fees apply, although waivers are possible. More information is available by contacting Mayuris Pimentel, supervising attorney for the conference’s Justice For Our Neighbors ministry — which holds monthly clinics in the Orlando area and Clearwater that provide free legal advice and services to anyone needing help with immigration issues — at or 407-896-2230. Horman may be reached at Additional information is available at through the “Haiti Earthquake Response” menu option.

CROS supports Haitians inside and outside its walls

Like many Haitians in Florida, Viviane Fils-Aime has suffered the loss of family members from the earthquake. But she is also grateful for the support her co-workers have shown her.

Fils-Aime is the gleaning coordinator at CROS (Christians Reaching Out to Society) Ministries in West Palm Beach, a conference outreach ministry.

“I think, personally, CROS has been so good to me,” she said.

Many Haitians are still living in tent cities after their homes were damaged or destroyed in the earthquake. It’s a growing concern now that the Atlantic hurricane season has begun. Photo by Bill Harley. Photo #10-1459. Click on picture for larger photo or view in photo gallery.

CROS has helped both its own staff members and provided donated clothing to people who fled Haiti after losing their homes. Several traveling to the northeastern United States through Florida lacked winter clothes.

“All they had were the clothes on their backs,” Fils-Aime said.

CROS also sent about 100 pounds of toiletries to Haiti for women and children living in tent cities. The products arrived there in Fils-Aime’s checked baggage when she traveled to the country Easter weekend.

It’s now June — the beginning of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season — and the tent cities remain.

“My brother who lives there is telling me … they don’t see much going on to remove these people from the tents,” she said. “That’s kind of on my heart.”

More information about ways to help Haiti is available on UMCOR’s website at

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Haitians in Florida await news of family, friends after earthquake

News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011,, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a freelance writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

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