Six young Haitian Methodists spent an afternoon dividing 55-pound bags of rice and 100-pound bags of beans into family-sized portions to feed more than 160 families who have had little assistance since the Jan. 12 earthquake.
"This is meeting their first need," said Val Keteline, 24. "The people will be very happy."
Staff members of the United Methodist Committee on Relief came to Haiti Jan. 21 to assess the damage to the country. On Jan. 29, they will distribute food to Mellier, a rural town outside of Port-au-Prince. The distribution will serve as a pilot program for UMCOR, said Melissa Crutchfield, an executive with the relief agency.
"We are starting on a small scale, distributing enough food for over 750 of the most vulnerable people," she said.
The families will receive rice, beans, oil and salt. The portions are enough to feed a family of five for five days. The community also will receive aqua tablets to purify their drinking water.
Pierre Naccsae, a Methodist Church lay leader from Mellier, will provide UMCOR with a list of the residents who most need the food, including widows, child-headed households, the elderly and single women supporting children.
"What we learn from this small project will help us prepare for much larger distributions in the future," Crutchfield said.
'God is happy'
UMCOR officials Crutchfield and Sharad Aggarwal and the Rev. Edgar Avitia Legarda, an executive with the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, spent the first few days in Haiti visiting communities served by the Methodist churches in Haiti. They talked to church leaders, held a focus group of 29 residents of Mellier, attended meetings of other international humanitarian agencies, did market research and came up with a plan the small group could handle with the help of church volunteers.
The volunteers took pride in helping the relief effort.
"God is happy with each good thing you do," said Sirjena Paulo, 22. "This is not the first time the church has done this for people."
Rose Stephane Bazile, 25, finished her teaching degree before the earthquake. She had planned to pursue a degree in psychology. She is hoping classes will start again, but she is not sure if the school will reopen.
"Right now, Haiti needs psychologists," she said.
Samuel Loomery, 17, has one more year of school and he wants to be a diplomat. But after the earthquake, he is not sure that dream will come true.
"I have hope in God because he gave me a second chance at life," Loomery said.
After four hours of work, each of the young people left with a bag of food for their own families.
An afternoon of volunteering left them wanting more.
"Samuel told me this was very fulfilling and they asked me if they could come back again," Crutchfield said, smiling. "I told them there will be plenty more opportunities in the future."
*Gilbert is a news writer for United Methodist News Service on assignment in Haiti.
News media contact: David Briggs or Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or [email protected].