Interview with Pastor Reggie, August 31, 2021

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Good morning, Pastor where are you today?
I am in Cavaillon.

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How is the information flow between the main office of Start of Hope Haiti in Port-au-Prince and you in Cavaillon, we know communication has been a problem due to networks being damaged?
It's going well. I was in Port-au-Prince last week and we talked about the budget for the large intervention with Myrta D and Tony B. This is the budget requirement that was sent by SOH Haiti to Star of Hope International. We talk often when the communication works.

Do you know anything about the type of intervention that is planned?
Yes, Tony tells me Star of Hope plans to do food intervention with food kits for families in the local area Cavaillon, the area has a population of 60,000 inhabitants and is divided into 5 communal geographic areas: Boileau, Martineau, Gros Marin, Marin Henry, and Larock. That will be a two-time staggered delivery for maximum longevity of food security. Star of Hope also plans to include back-to-school backpacks with school supplies. All school supplies were destroyed so we must replace them. We also plan to build 100 dwelling structures for families.

That's fantastic. Tell me about the funds we have sent for emergency food. How many meals will that buy?
Every $1,000 buys 1000 meals delivered or a dollar a meal. The hurdle with this is that the meal is not the most expensive part of the intervention, the gas or the charcoal for cooking, the spices, and then the gasoline to distribute the meals to the people where they need them the higher burden of the cost.

Is the food kitchen and delivery going on today?
Yes, the food kitchen with the fantastic women who volunteer has been going on every day, we are over 800 meals given or delivered per day.

Have you seen funds from any other people to help you in this time of need?
Yes, we have received a gift from an organization I have worked with in the past as a host for their teams when they come down to visit on trips. They gave a gift that was large enough to build the two shelters.

So, are the people still sleeping in the shipping containers?
No, the people are sleeping in the 2 shelters that are 14' x 30' ft long and they are jam-packed every night because the people feel safe when they're here with us. Remember the people have lost their homes, many houses are just a pile of rubble. Some homes were not even what you would call a shack now they are nothing at all.

Do the people feel safe in general in the whole area?
Yes, they do but there still are some bad people out there. We received a donation from another organization. They gave a lot of food packs, and boxes of sanitary kits. It is so sad and hurts to report but unfortunately when we went to Les Cayes to pick them up the team was robbed by bad men with knives and machetes. We lost everything, the whole transport, however, the team was not harmed.

What are your thoughts on the future of the intervention?
It's going to be a lifesaver to provide food packages because people will run out of food. We also found out that Star of Hope Haiti wants to give cement to help the people rebuild or build depending on the situation. I feel this is great, but the people will be encouraged to provide their cement themselves to match the gift. I understand this is a good method and normal to create "ownership" however, sometimes the people truly have nothing, no reserves. This is the case. So, I'm working with another organization that hopefully will match the bags of cement, and then the people will have enough to build a small home even though they have zero income and zero money. I think that's the way it should be, I am praying for a positive answer.

What else can you tell me about the interventions?
Well right now, I am working with a Boy Scout Troop in Port-au-Prince. They said they want to come down and help. So, I plan to find wheelbarrows and shovels and have them start to remove the rubble and debris from the people's houses, everyone's house. This is so that when the intervention is ready to start with Star of Hope's cement and food will be able to get to the people. And the houses can start to be repaired directly is key. You see, the areas must be cleaned before they can be repaired or even built new. Simply put we must get ready to build so when the materials and people come we can get it done.

You know we need prayer. When we deliver these food items, when we do these things and have interactions, we always try to talk to the people whose hearts are opened, and ready to hear about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our volunteers need to know that people are praying for them and lifting them. That is why I ask that the people pray to help the gospel be heard in a heartfelt manner and the people will be open to receiving the gospel.

We're also trying to use this intervention to mobilize a Christian Crusade. We're trying to get the Crusade together for four to five thousand people on the 12th -19th of September. I really wouldn't have thought about this but a sound company from Port-au-Prince called and said that they would like to help out any way they could, and they're basically going to lend the sound of the equipment and the stage equipment, but we still have to pay for the gas to get it here. We will probably have to pay for security to watch over the equipment when it's here. That will cost in any event but will be able to reach four to five thousand people a night for three nights.

Is anything planned to help the people in their situations emotionally?
There is a pastor in the USA that I know, he used to live in Haiti, and he called me and told me that there is a Doctor of Psychology that wants to come down and talk to the people about stress and trauma. We are trying to work that out. The seminar would be college-level, but they would break it down so that the man on the street would be able to understand it and use it. Then a lot of people who might attend would be able to share hints and tips on how to take care of people under extreme stress in the local area. That seminar is going to take in about 1000 people.

What else can you tell me about your needs?
Again, we need prayer, that's what we need the most. Of course, the money is great and provides food, and it helps a great deal. However, right now, we have another tropical storm bearing down on us. It's going to hit the same area. It's a lot of compounded stress for people. Some have lost everything 100% of all they owned, and they just are at the end of their rope. Now another storm heads this way. It is a very bad situation for all here.

So, people feel safe but what about crime where you are?
As far as crime, there's no new crime in the area again people are just trying to help other people, it is wonderful to see this first hand. In Port-au-Prince, we've received a lot of calls from people who want to come and help and donate. Once again, the problem is transportation, the gangs, and robbers on the road or still, a problem we hear it might get better, and safer for transports soon, however, gasoline and personal safety outside of the local area is not advised.

What about the local government officials are you working with them at all?
Yes, I know the mayor and we have given him the use of our 40-foot container since we have now built the structures to house overnight visits for the ones who have lost 100% of their homes.

What about you, considering the giving of lunches and then the Star of Hope food kits, how do you determine who gets help?
We don't have that problem because almost 100% of the homes in this area are destroyed completely. Therefore, when we go out and give the food we give it to every house in the area. No one is overlooked because of any issue that they might have; everyone gets a free meal.
When Star of Hope comes with the larger interventions Tony B will use his knowledge and criteria to pick the recipients, ahead of time.

What do you want the donors and potential donors to know?
We want them to know how grateful we are. We also want them to know that things are very complex, and people are still afraid because there's a new storm coming. A tropical storm is going to hit in a day or two, affecting the same area with huge amounts of rain and wind.

Also, we are so far away from the big city Port au Prince and even from the local city Les Cayes. We're afraid that we will be forgotten by the larger organizations. People in the rural areas are often forgotten in disasters, too far away, no news coverage here. We don't want to be forgotten because we are off the main roads and not in a big city, that's why we're so grateful for Star of Hope and our other donors.
Of course, we ask for your prayers and we want you to know that we're so thankful for the food you are sending.

End of interview. Note: Pastor Reggie, Reginald Celestin, is a paid employee of Star of Hope Haiti, he runs different AWANA programs, youth Christian teaching, community Christian teachings. Star of Hope Haiti has an independent Board and a Director, together they will determine the scope of the intervention we will start. We are very grateful for his service in this disaster. 

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Facts: Haiti
map_of_haiti250.jpg

Population: 9,923,000 (2009)
Government: Republic
Area: 210,712 Sq Mi
Capital: Port-au-Prince
Per Capita Income:  $790 USD (2009)
Currency: Gourde
Language(s): French and Creole are the official languages.
Primary Exports: Clothing, shoes, mango,cocoa and coffee
Religion: Catholic