GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Haitian family visiting West Michigan is pleading for help after the impoverished country was devastated by Hurricane Matthew.
Pastor Benis Guerrier and his family planned their trip to the United States long before Hurricane Matthew tore through the Caribbean. They left the country as it started to strike.
The official death toll in Haiti was 372 as of Monday evening — but some have said it could be higher than 500 in the hardest-hit areas, the Associated Press reports. Buildings were destroyed and there was heavy flooding.
Guerrier, who had been living in Florida, decided to return to his home country of Haiti and start missionary work after an earthquake struck there in 2010. Now, much of what has been rebuilt in Haiti since then is gone again.
“It is heartbreaking because after six years we have earthquake in Haiti, now we have the major, major Hurricane Matthew that hurt Haiti so bad,” Guerrier told 24 Hour News 8 over the phone Monday night.
No one he knows was killed in the storm, but the island where he lives is badly damaged.
“A lot of animals who died. A lot of small houses have been uprooted and destroyed. And lot of trees and also a lot of flooding,” he listed. “A lot of call and text come to me: ‘This what happened.'”
Guerrier has formed several partnerships in Michigan as part of his missionary work. That’s part of the reason why he was visiting the U.S.
This week, he met with several local doctors who visit Haiti to provide medical relief. They need even more help now.
He also stopped by Ada Elementary Monday afternoon. The school has developed a unique writing partnership with the schools in Haiti, giving kids thousands of miles apart the chance to connect.
“That’s what’s motivating them to write to these kids, is because they do know that the kids have a different life there and they’re very full of questions and very intrigued,” Penny Beatty, a teacher at Ada Elementary, told 24 Hour News 8.
Guerrier and his family now have a small piece of Michigan to take home with them: a video of the kids in Ada showing moral support in a time when it’s needed more than ever.
“We take the video to show to them, “Hey, there’s a whole lot of people thinking about you guys,'” Guerrier said.
Guerrier said the hurricane only further showcases the everyday need for missionary work in impoverished countries.
He and his family will be heading back to Haiti within the next few days to start the rebuilding process all over again.
If you’d like to help his organization, the International Ministries of Hope, and in turn people of Haiti, you can go to its website.