LES CAYES, Haiti
—Families in southwest Haiti are still reeling from the destruction caused by Hurricane Matthew in early October. Entire food supplies have been destroyed, tens of thousands of homes have been flattened, and nearly 100,000 families are now homeless.
Our colleagues in Les Cayes, Haiti—one of the areas hit hardest by the hurricane—continue to support vulnerable children and families with food, informal education, trauma counseling, and other services.
We spoke with a few children in Les Cayes to understand how the hurricane has affected them.
Alexis, standing in front of her classroom at the SOS School, which was badly damaged by the hurricane.
Alexis, 8, is one of 389 students at the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School in Les Cayes, Haiti.
She was sleeping when Hurricane Matthew struck on Oct. 4. Like many families in southwest Haiti, Alexis’s family lost their home.
“We heard the wind, so we got up and went to stay close to the corner where my godmother was. When we looked, the roof was coming off. It fell on where we had been sleeping, on the bed. My mom and dad picked us up and started running for us to get out of there.”
Alexis moved with her parents, two siblings and godmother into a neighbor’s house, where they’ve stayed since the hurricane. Many of Alexis’s classmates at the SOS School have a similar story to hers.
The SOS School in Les Cayes, one of four in the country, suspended classes for a week before reopening after the hurricane. Across the country, 774 schools were destroyed or badly damaged, leaving an estimated 116,000 children out of school.
At the SOS School, eight of the 12 classrooms were damaged. While repairs continue, the school has extended its hours to allow for students to come in shifts and attend class in the usable classrooms. This way, students can keep on track with their studies. There is also a school psychologist who is working with the students to help them cope with trauma.
Werlande at a community center in Les Cayes where SOS distributes food kits to families affected by the hurricane.
Werlande’s family saw their home destroyed by Hurricane Matthew. For food, they now go to a community center in a neighborhood of Les Cayes where SOS is providing food kits to affected families. The food kits contain rice, spaghetti, canned salmon, beans, milk and more.
SOS supports three community centers in Les Cayes. In addition to providing food, SOS staff organizes recreational games for children. Many of the children, including Werlande, have fallen ill since the hurricane.
“I was coughing a lot yesterday,” Werlande told us recently.
Being forced from their homes has caused the children to be deprived of sleep and regular, healthy meals. Many families in southwest Haiti had depended on their small farms to eat. Hurricane Matthew destroyed most—and in some areas, all—of their crops.
Asim (right) with his SOS brothers and sisters in their home at the SOS Village in Les Cayes. The SOS Village was built to provide homes for children orphaned by the 2010 earthquake.
Like most of the more than 90 children growing up at the SOS Village in Les Cayes, Asim, 9, lost his main caregiver—his mother—to the 2010 earthquake. In fact, the SOS Village Les Cayes was built specifically to provide homes to children who were orphaned by the 2010 earthquake.
When Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti last month, Asim was worried about other relatives of his—his grandmother and aunt. The two live in Jérémie, a city on the coast of southwest Haiti that was nearly completely destroyed by the hurricane. Because communication was cut for days after the hurricane, it was impossible for Asim to reach his family. In fact, it took three weeks until he was able to hear from them.
“I asked how they were,” he said. “I asked if the house was damaged in the hurricane, if the sea didn’t destroy their homes. They told me they were fine, nothing happened to them.” He smiled. “I felt good.”
Although his grandmother and aunt weren’t physically harmed, they did lose their house. Today, there is just a pile of twisted debris where their house once stood.
Children in Haiti Need Your Support
As Haiti struggles to recover from the destruction caused by Hurricane Matthew, children are left without food, shelter and access to medical are.