A Nisswa couple who volunteer each winter at a Haitian orphanage said via e-mail Wednesday that they are safe following Tuesday's deadly earthquake but are worried about the food supply at the orphanage.
Frank and Jeanette McLaughlin are in Pignon, a city of about 35,000 people located 60 miles from Port au Prince, a place where many groups from Brainerd have gone to help those who live in the poverty-stricken area. The McLaughlins created Haiti Mercy Mission, a nonprofit organization to raise funds to help the orphanage run by Haitians Dr. Acene and Annerithe Jean Pierre.
Frank McLaughlin said in his e-mail that they felt the earthquake and several aftershocks since. He said the orphanage director was in Port au Prince during the earthquake, as was one of the orphans who attends school there, and fortunately they are both safe.
A child injured in the earthquake was tended to in a Port-au-Prince hotel. Associated Press
"We got one call from them that they were OK but the phone lines and cell towers have not worked since," said McLaughlin. "They do not want anyone going to Port now and we have word they are stopping all traffic 10 miles outside of town."
McLaughlin said the orphanage has stocked up on food and fuel but they are worried about the food supply. He said a 50-pound bag of rice cost $30 on Tuesday; the same bag of rice cost $50 Wednesday. He said the orphanage has about a month's supply of food on hand right now after a large shopping trip Wednesday. Their food bill was $4,000.
"We have Internet access when we can run the generator and I have bought all the gas I could find," he said.
Tom Johnson, who along with his wife, Lois, are active in supporting Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity mission in Kobanal, Haiti, said Wednesday that the mission was not damaged in the earthquake. Johnson and other members of Brainerd Area Catholic Churches last month sent a 45,000-pound shipping container, the heaviest they have ever sent, filled with supplies to the Haiti mission. The mission is located about 30-40 miles from Port au Prince but Johnson said it takes a full day to travel there because of the horrible road conditions.
Johnson said a group of Minnesotans, including some from this area, were expected to travel to the mission Sunday but he wasn't sure if they'd be able to get in the country with all the rescue efforts and emergency medical teams being sent there. Attempts to reach some group members were unsuccessful Wednesday.
Johnson said he hopes that the international attention on Haiti's tragedy helps shine a spotlight on its poverty and needs.
"It's very sad. The Haitians have had so much tragedy in their lives, but they will rise again," Johnson said. "These people are industrious. They're not used to getting any help. If we had something like this happen, we would look for First Responders and someone to help us. ... The world has kind of written off Haiti. Nobody really cared about Haiti. But now when people go there and they meet the Haitian people, I think there could be something positive that happens."
The Brainerd Rotary Club is also in the process of spearheading efforts to raise funds and send supplies to Haiti.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5858.
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