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Local missionaries ponder how to best help Haitians

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Ann Marie Ames
Pedro Oliveira Jr.
January 14, 2010
— It feels like a wake.

Everyone sitting quietly, sadly.


Waiting.


That’s how LeRoy Himebauch of Delavan described his feelings Wednesday, the day after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck the impoverished nation of Haiti.


The earthquake is the worst to hit Haiti in 200 years. A Haitian politician told The Associated Press that 500,000 could be dead, but conceded that nobody really knows.


Himebauch and other missionaries gathered Wednesday afternoon in the office of Delavan dentist Tom Schuetz to talk to the Gazette about Haiti and what’s next for their mission work.


Schuetz and his wife, Cindy, since 1988 have traveled on dozens of missions to the mountainous region of La Montaigne in Haiti. The rural community is northwest of the small city of Jacmel, which is on the southern coast of Haiti.


The Schuetzes are the president and vice-president of Friends of the Children, a non-profit organization that organizes medical, dental and health education missions to La Montaigne.


It’s “extra hard” for anybody who’s been to Haiti and knows the pre-earthquake conditions to imagine what things look like now, Tom said.


Normal “big city” problems such as traffic congestion are made worse by roads that are barely passable in the best of conditions, Himebauch said. The roads don’t have shoulders, so broken-down cars simply stop traffic, he said. Junk cars, vendors and pedestrians line the narrow roads.


Much of the country lives in poverty and the rest in “squalor,” Himebauch said.


“It’s chaotic, dirty and crowded,” Tom Schuetz said.


Residents use run-off from mountain streams for baths, toilet facilities and drinking water, group member Tom Reichert said. They make repairs to their houses as they can afford to buy a bag of cement, Cindy Schuetz said.


One of the poor-quality bags could be used for years of construction, she said.


After decades of volunteer work, the group has made friends with many volunteers and Haitian residents, Himebauch said.


“We’ve watched some of the children grow up,” he said.


They have made phone calls to friends, but phones ring and no one answers, Tom Schuetz said. Instead, they wait for e-mails and updates on social networking sites to learn news.


In the big picture, major international aid groups will be the first to bring relief efforts to Haiti, Reichert said. The focus will be on urban centers such as the capital of Port-au-Prince.


Smaller groups such as Friends of the Children will need to make sustained efforts to help smaller communities such as La Montaigne, he said.


The group already had a mission trip planned in late February, he said. If the airports and roads are open to La Montaigne, they will go, Reichert said.


“That’s where we need to stay focused,” he said.


Williams Bay efforts

Judy Haselhoef of Williams Bay has received dozens of e-mails and several phone calls from people trying to help.


Haselhoef is the co-founder of Yonn Ede Lot, which means “one helping another” in Haitian Creole. The organization is a Walworth County-based non-profit that provides assistance for different growth projects in Haiti.


“I have a mixture of people that I’m concerned about,” Haselhoef said. “Some of them are Haitians who work in Port-au-Prince. Others are people who, like myself, go down there to work in Haiti.”


Haselhoef's partner, who co-founded Yonn Ede Lot, was just in Haiti in November. Haselhoef was planning to go in June.


A close call in Beloit

Kris Dunlop is a pastor at Central Christian Church in Beloit. He told the Gazette he was on the last flight out of Haiti before the earthquake struck Tuesday afternoon.


Church members started making phone calls as soon as the news of the earthquake broke, he said. They got through to one friend before the phone system was overloaded, he said.


The church supports two Haitian orphanages. None of the children were seriously hurt, but girls are living under a tarp after a wall of the orphanage collapsed, he said.


TO HELP LOCAL EFFORTS
Janesville Noon Rotary: Contact a local Rotarian by visiting the club’s Web site at janesvillerotary.org or send a check made payable to the Janesville Rotary Foundation to P.O. Box 301, Janesville, WI 53547-0301.

South Central Wisconsin Chapter of the American Red Cross: Donations to the fund may be sent to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013 or made by phone at 1-800-257-7575.


In addition, donors may text the word “HAITI” to “90999” and a donation of $10 will be given to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts.


Yonn Ede Lot: To send financial contributions to the Walworth County non-profit for relief efforts for Haiti, contact Judy Haselhoef at (262) 245-1229.


Friends of the Children: Visit haitimdm.org or call Tom and Cindy Schuetz at (262) 728-2351 or Tom Reichert at (262) 949-6530 to help the non-profit based in the Delavan-Darien area. Mail checks made out to Friends of the Children to P.O. Box 775 Delavan, WI 53115.

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