Shandon man urges help for Haiti after flood, hunger issues plague nation

By Jessica Brodie

COLUMBIA—One United Methodist in the Midlands is putting out a cry for help in joining him with aid for Haiti.

Dr. Hal Crosswell, member of Shandon United Methodist Church, has been involved with medical clinics in Haiti since 1972, when South Carolina United Methodist Volunteers in Mission founder Dr. Mike Watson recruited him and others to volunteer health care assistance to the poverty-stricken island nation.

Over the years, Crosswell developed a deep love for Haiti and its people, helping not only with his time and medical skills but also encouraging his church, Shandon, to help the people of Haiti both financially and with volunteer teams.

“Back in those early days, the hunger problems would break your heart, in the kids particularly with malnutrition and a lot of them dying,” Crosswell said.

With more than 10 million people crammed into a small piece of land that is a third the size of South Carolina, Croswell said, Haiti has always had problems. But thankfully, the church is a major help. The majority of the people are Catholic, but Methodism is the largest Protestant denomination there, and the Eglise Methodiste d’Haiti (Methodist Church of Haiti) has done much to help the people. They have developed many programs, including reforestation and medical clinics throughout Haiti.

Still, between the political instability there, a string of natural disasters, ongoing poverty, overpopulation and other issues, the nation was one crisis away from devastation.

Then came COVID-19.

“Between the pandemic and then all the political instability, the food chain has been interrupted,” Crosswell said, noting church leaders in Haiti have told him they’ve never seen a problem with hunger as intense as today. “The pandemic really hit them hard.”

Unlike the United States, there are no social services there, such as Medicaid, to help them, so churches are backbone of the effort.

In the aftermath of the pandemic, UMVIM started the Haiti Hunger Program, and to date they have donated more than $100,000 to help. Every dollar raised purchases beans, rice and food for the people.

Then, this spring, Haiti was hit by a storm that caused massive flooding in northern Haiti, which washed away hundreds of thousands of homes and prompted a huge death toll, compounding the hunger problem.

“So we’ve redirected—now instead of the ‘Haiti Hunger Program’ it is the ‘Haiti Hunger and Flood Relief Program,’” Crosswell said.

People can donate to Haiti relief through UMVIM-SC, and the funds will help the people directly.

“The situation in Haiti remains critical,” said David Draeger, Eglise Methodiste d’Haiti mission volunteer coordinator. “Between the one-two punch of the COVID pandemic and the turmoil from the political unrest throughout the country, times are very difficult for the people of Haiti. Food insecurity is still a major problem for the people on the streets in the cities and the roads and pathways in the countryside. Many people literally do not know where their next meal is coming from but somehow they continue to persevere.”

Draeger said an emergency grant from the United Methodist Committee on Relief has been applied for, but they have not yet received a response. While they wait, they are hoping people will pray about whether or not helping Haiti is something God is calling them to do.

Cathy Trevino, secretary for UMVIM-SC, said while she has not yet been to Haiti on mission—it’s on her “bucket list”—she understands the situation there is terrible.

“Having been to Cuba and Ecuador and seeing the hardships there, I can only imagine how bad it is in Haiti with the addition of the added violence,” she said. “The donations already sent help immeasurably, but people are still starving. I have encouraged my church, St. Mark in Greenwood, to make a donation. It’s going to take a lot of support to feed so many people. But we can do it. We are The United Methodist Church, after all.”

To help, make checks payable to UMVIM-SC/Haiti Hunger and Flood Relief and mail to Jennifer Parker, UMVIM treasurer, 143 Glenbrooke Circle, Columbia, SC 29204.

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