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Florida missionary urges help for Dominican Republic, Haiti in wake of tropical storm

Florida missionary urges help for Dominican Republic, Haiti in wake of tropical storm

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Florida missionary urges help for Dominican Republic, Haiti in wake of tropical storm

Nov. 9, 2007  News media contact: Tita Parham*
800-282-8011  Orlando {0761}

An e-Review Feature
By Erik J. Alsgaard**

Although Hurricane Noel brushed the east coast of the United States in early November, it brought only strong winds, heavy surf and episodes of beach erosion.

The Dominican Republic and Haiti weren’t so lucky.

With water levels almost to the rooftops of their homes, people living in the southwest region of the Dominican Republic flee the flooding in their community brought on by Tropical Storm Noel. Photo by Connie DiLeo. Photo #07-0702.

Before it became a hurricane, Tropical Storm Noel bore down on the island of Hispaniola, on which the two Caribbean countries are located, generating deadly levels of rainfall. Initial reports indicate more than 115 people were killed as a result of mudslides and flooding in the Dominican Republic alone.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is already responding through local churches in both countries — the Evangelical Dominican Church and The Methodist Church in Haiti, which partners with the Florida Conference.

Connie DiLeo, a missionary with the General Board of Global Ministries from Largo, Fla., shared first-hand accounts of the devastation with e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service from her place of ministry in southwest Dominican Republic.

“On Monday night, Oct. 29, the rains started and never stopped,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Bombita was evacuated in the early hours of Tuesday and was flooded within one hour. Two days later, La Hoya flooded.”

Bombita and La Hoya are poor Haitian migrant communities located near the southern-most border with Haiti. Several years ago, a hand-shake agreement between two dictators of the respective countries allowed Haitian immigrants to cross into the Dominican Republic to work in the area’s sugar cane fields.

Churches and the United Kingdom- and United States-supported Community Partners Development Program (COPA) have erected Christian schools and clinics in the areas to minister to workers and their families, many of whom live in squalid conditions.

The storm directly hit two of the COPA schools and clinics, according to DiLeo, damaging or destroying furniture, computers and equipment.

On Nov. 2 DiLeo wrote the rains were continuing: “We are still under water up to our roofs (yes, ours, as I live there, as well). The school, the clinic, the volunteers’ houses, the COPA office and every house in the village are under water!”

By Nov. 5 the lack of basic necessities was urgent.

“Food is the immediate need here: rice, beans, oil, etc.,” DiLeo wrote. “Our hardest struggle right now is trying to cope with being disaster relief workers, while at the same time being victims. I am quite sick of the three outfits I have! I went to church last night truly looking like a refugee.

“I feel confident that COPA will recover and replace damaged items, but the burdens of the people weigh heavily on my heart.”

On a hopeful note, DiLeo added: “My team here consists of 10 people. Four of them are girls, 18 years old, and this is tough for anyone to deal with, but ones so young, yet they are doing so well and are wonderful helping the children in the centers to cope.”

DiLeo serves as project manager for both of the schools and has been serving with COPA for the past six years. COPA is a General Advance Special of The United Methodist Church, project number 12884N.

Local United Methodist churches and individuals may assist with relief efforts through donations to UMCOR. One-hundred percent of every dollar given goes directly to the need. Offerings from Florida Conference churches may be designated for Hurricanes 2007 Project #982511 and sent to the Florida Conference Treasurer at 1140 E. McDonald St., Lakeland, FL 33801.

Future United Methodist Volunteers in Mission opportunities will be available in the Dominican Republic, according to the Rev. Dr. Larry Rankin, director of Global Life and Learning for the Florida Conference.

More information on the situation in the Dominican Republic and Haiti and UMCOR’s response is available by contacting Rankin at 800-282-8011, extension 131, or


This article relates to Disaster Response/Missions.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Alsgaard is director of communications for the Florida Conference.