Alberta missionaries back at home after escaping civil unrest in Haiti
Two dozen workers with a Christian relief group are back at home on Sunday after they had to quickly get out of Haiti last week.
Rioting broke out in Port-au-Prince after citizens rose up to demand the resignation of President Jovenel Moise.
The protesters are angry about skyrocketing inflation and the government's failure to prosecute embezzlement from a multi-billion-dollar Venezuelan program that sent discounted oil to Haiti.
Haiti Arise, an aid group that was established back in 2000, has been working in Haiti for the past 15 years. During that time, the organization has helped build an elementary school, a trade school, a medical centre and even a children’s village.
When the group learned about the growing violence in the capital, they decided to get out while they still could.
“The issues began when food depots were closed, fuel depots were closed. People couldn’t even buy food, if there was any available, because the money got devalued. So, we were starting to run out of food for all our people,” James Roberts, vice-president of Haiti Arise, told CTV News on Saturday.
Haiti Arise managed to contract helicopters to fly the workers from their compound to Port-au-Prince. From there, they were able to get flights to Miami and eventually back to Calgary.
Marc Honorat, one of the co-founders of Haiti Arise, is still in the country making sure that everyone is safe as well as preparing a plan for relief once the protests are over.
His wife, Lisa, and their daughter flew back with the rest of the group and landed safely in Calgary on Sunday afternoon.
She says she and Marc are very familiar with how volatile the situation can get there.
“There have been lots of demonstrations in Haiti over the past year. There are lots of people that are unhappy with the government and the way the president is doing things. It’s just been escalating and building up,” she says.
Honorat says protests typically only last for a specific period of time but this time, it got “scary.”
“It was all over the country, not just in the city. There have been roadblocks and looting and burning tires, burning cars. If anyone tries to go out on the street, they will destroy your car. It’s very dangerous.”
Getting to the airport wasn’t easy for many people, she says.
“A man we talked to on the plane yesterday said he got through by driving but at every checkpoint, he had to pay between US $500 and $5,000 just to get through.”
Roberts says the group’s work isn’t over in Haiti.
“We have a disaster relief section of Haiti Arise and so if anyone wants to participate in that or donate to that, you can go to HaitiArise.org, click the donate button and there’s a spot there for disaster relief.”
All of the donations to Haiti Arise’s disaster relief fund go directly to support those in need.
The violent riots over the past week have resulted in several deaths.
The Foreign Affairs office urges all Canadians to get out of the Caribbean nation as soon as they can. Anyone still in Haiti can get in touch with Global Affairs Canada by calling 1-613-996-8885 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
(With files from Brenna Rose and the Canadian Press)