By Gerald V. Paul
As Hurricane Matthew barrels across the Caribbean, leaving a trail of death and destruction, concerned members of the Caribbean Diaspora in Toronto, are galvanizing support for relief initiatives to assist those in the affected areas.
Matthew is one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes in recent history and briefly reached the top classification, Category 5, becoming the strongest hurricane in the region since Felix in 2007.
At press time, unconfirmed reports listed nine deaths as a result of the hurricane during its week-long march across the Caribbean.
“Our hearts are hurting for the devastation in Haiti and Jamaica from Hurricane Matthew. The people of Haiti, in particular, do not have the reserve to handle a disaster of this magnitude. So we here in Toronto are blessed to bless others,” said Samantha Mahfood, Executive Director of Food for the Poor Canada. which provides aid to communities in the Caribbean and Latin America.
She noted the organization built 65,000 homes in Jamaica and Haiti, throughout the years, and supported the distribution of food and medicines across the islands. “Already, Food For The Poor is fully engaged in supporting the Hurricane Matthew disaster relief effort. Over 30 containers are on their way to Haiti and 20 have been sent to Jamaica.”
“Hurricane Matthew is one of the most powerful storms in to impact Haiti and Jamaica in over a decade. Food for the Poor Canada- working in both countries- is now accepting cash donations to relieve some of the devastation.” Mahfood said.
Matthew was reported to have reached Cuba, some fifty miles east of the US base at Guantanamo.
Meanwhile officials with Haiti’s civil protection agency noted they were 1,300 emergency shelters across the country, enough to hold up to 340,000.
In a radio address, interim President Jocelerme Privert urged Haitians to listen closely to official warnings and be ready to move, “To those people living in houses that could collapse, it’s necessary that you leave those houses and take refuge in schools and churches.”
Antoine Derose, President of Pierspective Entraide Humanitaire, a Toronto charitable organization, who returned from Haiti last week, said he is concerned for all Haitians, including over 300 students , families and friends who are making use of a school they started 5 years ago. “Today the school is adding vitality to the Corail community; willing to give all help that is possible,” Derose said.
And Haiti-born Stanley Livalois who is closely monitoring the situation in his homeland said “we are waiting….praying….hoping for the best.
He said they will try to mobilize all the help necessary to assist their fellow citizens.
And Caribbean friends at the International Development and Relief Foundation, a Toronto charitable organization, is preparing to respond: In a statement, IDRF, said “As the intensity of Hurricane Matthew continues to grow and its path routes towards the Caribbean, IDRF is preparing to respond to this devastating storm that is estimated to affect over 300,000 people.
IDRF previously worked in Haiti after the devastation caused by Hurricane Hazel and the earthquake.
Persons interested in making a contribution to Food For The Poor of Canada Inc. can make a deposit at any Toronto Dominion Bank – Account #0512 0513 767.