Pflugerville family with ties to Haiti worries about Matthew recovery

This aerial photo, taken along the southwestern cost of Haiti, shows the damage caused this week by Hurricane Matthew. (Courtesy: Mission of Hope Haiti)
This aerial photo, taken along the southwestern cost of Haiti, shows the damage caused this week by Hurricane Matthew. (Courtesy: Mission of Hope Haiti)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Pflugerville family of five missing Americans in Haiti have finally reconnected with their loved ones, as they wait for them to leave the country and return to the U.S.

The Americans are members of a non-profit missionary organization, called “Living Water For Haiti” that works to build homes and drill water wells in the city of Jérémie.

Extended family members of the Howards were in Haiti completing a mission trip for the group and were supposed to arrive back in the U.S. on Tuesday. Instead, their flight home was cancelled due to Hurricane Matthew’s impact on land.

A Pflugerville family says their relatives were missing after Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti (Family Photo)
A Pflugerville family says their relatives were missing after Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti (Family Photo)

For the first time since news that her relatives were among five missing Americans in Haiti after Matthew hit, Sara Howard was able to FaceTime with her loved ones on Friday evening. Howard said it was good for her to see for herself that they are alive and safe.

The women told Howard they were inside a solid structure when Hurricane Matthew made impact earlier this week.

“Windows broke, blew out. But, we were okay,” the American volunteers told Howard over FaceTime. “But, anyone who did not have a cement roof, it… it… it’s gone. Completely gone.”

The group says the destruction in Haiti is overwhelming.

“Everything is destroyed,” said Chelsey Crabtree, one of the five Americans volunteering in Haiti.

“The trees are stripped and they’re across the roads. Lines are all down,” they explained. “People who are already without have lost their homes.”

Hurricane Matthew's Aftermath in Haiti (Courtesy: Mission of Hope Haiti)
Hurricane Matthew’s Aftermath in Haiti (Courtesy: Mission of Hope Haiti)

Delivering supplies to those who need them has also posed a problem, the volunteers said. “Right now they can’t even get them by boat because the destruction along the coast is so severe.”

Rose Hickman, another volunteer, told Howard about an experience the group had with a young boy after Hurricane Matthew hit.

“He kept saying to me, you know, ‘Can you send help? We’re going to starve,’” said Hickman. “They were pointing to their homes that were gone. They were twigs.”

In addition to famine, Hickman says the country’s livelihood has been severely compromised because crops and trees were destroyed in the storm.

“Harvest was supposed to be at the end of October, November,” explained Hickman. “Avocados were plentiful. Passion fruit, bananas, and now, all that fruit is gone and wasted.”

Howard’s family is concerned that because Matthew has not yet weakened as it approaches American soil, Haiti may not receive the assistance it so desperately needs.

“We have the ability to repair, to save peoples’ lives. We have shelters. We have schools,” said Hickman. While Haitians are a resilient people, the volunteers said the country’s capability to recover and rebuild is very different than the United States’ capability to do so.

Before Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti, the American volunteers say they told the Haitian people about the approaching hurricane.

We told them, ‘You gotta get to a substantial structure. You’ve gotta evacuate.’ They have nowhere to evacuate,” said Hickman.

Now, more than ever, the volunteers say people around the world cannot forget Haiti.

“This could cause a ripple effect for years for Haiti and they were already desperate,” added Crabtree.

Representatives of Mission of Hope Haiti, a local humanitarian organization, share that concern.

“Here we are six and a half years post 2010 earthquake. The infrastructure is still rebuilding,” explained Joshawa Hodges, the development director for the Cedar Park-based organization. “We would get real-time updates on what a storm would do in Florida. It may take five to six, seven days plus just to understand what the real catastrophic damage looks like [in Haiti].”

If you’d like to make a donation, you can do so by visiting www.mohhaiti.org/relief or text to give by texting “@mohhaiti” to 52014.

For more information about “Living Water For Haiti,” visit their webpage.

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