GOLDEN GATE — More than six months have passed since an earthquake devastated Haiti, but for many in Southwest Florida’s Haitian community, the shock and pain of the disaster remains.
That’s because many still have family members in the island nation.
“We all have our families out on the street … that’s something we can’t even talk about too much,” said Pastor Daniel Garcon of the Nehemiah Evangelical Church in Golden Gate. “It’s hard for them and it’s hard for us. They suffer and we suffer, too.”
More than 200,000 Haitians died and an estimated 1.5 million people were left homeless by the 7.0 earthquake that hit Haiti’s capital of Port au Prince on Jan. 12.
Yet, those in Haiti weren’t the only ones who had to deal with the psychological stresses of the disaster.
Nationwide, state and local agencies began to reach out to the Haitian-American community to provide counseling and moral support.
And although some accepted the aid, many in the Haitian American community have opted to work through the issues with the help of family, friends and faith.
That’s how Golden Gate resident Shedna Cange, 31, said her family has dealt with the months following the 7.0 earthquake.
It was Cange’s mother, Golden Gate resident Marlene Napoleon, who learned the day after the quake that Cange’s cousin, 25-year-old Edwine Theyaa, died when the Port-au-Prince house she was in collapsed during the quake.
How to help
For more information on relief efforts still going on in Haiti:
■ American Red Cross: To find out more of the American Red Cross’ efforts in Haiti visit www.redcross.org/Haiti.
■ Hope for Haiti: To find out more of Hope for Haiti’s ongoing efforts in Haiti, visit the nonprofit’s office at 1021 Fifth Ave. N. in Naples or call (239) 434-7183. Visit www.hopeforhaiti.com.
■Nehemiah Evangelical Church: To find out more of the church’s efforts in Haiti, go to www.thenem.org or call (239) 304-8648.
At the time, Cange said that even though the family took Theyaa’s death hard, they were holding it together for Napoleon’s elderly mother.
Nearly a week after the six-month anniversary of the disaster, Cange said the family still hasn’t been able to break the bad news to her grandmother.
“We’re doing fine. She’s doing fine … but she still doesn’t know,” Cange said.
As for her family in Haiti, Cange said she traveled to the island nation in June to visit and see how they were doing.
“They’re not doing good,” said Cange, who has called Golden Gate home for 23 years, in a worried voice.
The most difficult part was seeing first-hand the hardships her extended family was dealing with, Cange said, in comparison to her life in the United States.
That’s a burden all of the Haitian families she knows are working through, Cange said.
“We are dealing with it by ourselves,” Cange said.
It’s something Lila Colin said she understands, because her five children are among those surviving on the streets of Port-au-Prince.
“Sometimes I don’t talk to nobody. I just pray,” said Colin, 49.
Back in January, a day after the quake, Colin was staffing the store counter at the Super Caribbean Food Store in Golden Gate and unable to tear her eyes from CNN’s coverage.
Photo by LEXEY SWALL // Buy this photo
She only stopped watching to pull out her Bible and show off some pictures of smiling teens and a young adult — her kids.
It wasn’t until 15 days after the earthquake that Colin’s children were able to contact the Golden Gate resident.
“They called and it made so happy,” said Colin who referred to the call as a lifeline. “I thank God, because he helped my kids. Everything is gone, but my kids are OK.”
Now, all she can do is hope and pray for the well-being of her children.
“It’s hard. I worry and worry for my family,” she said.
Garcon said he understands that some in the Haitian American Community felt they have to deal with the pain of their family’s situation on their own.
“It’s hard for my wife to know that her mother is on the streets,” he said.
Nevertheless, people within the community reached out to each other, Garcon said, just to see how they were doing and comfort anyone who needed it.
Faith, he said, has helped many in the church get through this difficult time.
“It’s hard on them (our parishoners), so we pray with them and spend more time in fellowship,” Garcon said. “We teach them how to deal with this difficult time and remind them that no matter what’s going on, Jesus is on our side. Jesus is here with us and with the Haitian people.”
HOW YOU CAN HELP
- Hope for Haiti
- Mission of Hope - Haiti
- American Red Cross
- Text "HAITI" to 90999 to donate $10 to Red Cross relief efforts in Haiti
- World Harvest Mission
- Catholic Relief Services
- Contact Nesly Loute of the Haitian American Association of Southwest Florida at firstname.lastname@example.org or (239) 601-2023.
- Contact Angie Valentini of Helps Outreach at 239-273-2258 or visit them at 2025 J&C Boulevard in Naples.
- Text YELE to 501 501 and 5 dollars will go toward Wyclef Jean's Yele.org Haiti earthquake relief fund
- Americans concerned about family in Haiti can call the U.S. State Dept. for info: 1-888-407-4747
- ABOUT THE EARTHQUAKE: Major quake hits Haiti; many casualties expected
- PHOTOS: Haiti Earthquake
- VIDEOS: Haiti Earthquake
- INTERACTIVE: Earthquakes - causes and consequences
- INTERACTIVE TIMELINE: Haiti earthquake
- SPECIAL SECTION: Get more coverage of the Haiti earthquake relief efforts in our special section