Perris man waits to hear from family members
By Chris Levister –
On the outside Redeemer Apostolic Fellowship may look like an abandoned storefront. But for native Haitians like Oda Lamarre it is respite for the soul. Worship services on Sunday were very emotional as details of the horror in Haiti unfolded. Lamarre kept glancing at his cell phone, moving it from his right hand to jacket pocket while cradling his four year old daughter Jessia.
“I feel numb right now,” he said as he clutched his phone.
Lamarre, a 43 year old surgical nurse who lives in Perris was waiting for word on whether his aunt Glassie, cousins Jake and Vinda who live in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince had survived the earthquake. In the wake of the devastating quake, Lamarre has frantically tried to call friends who lived near his cousins or worked at Port-au-Prince’s General Hospital where Glassie was a social worker.
The silence is all the more unnerving he said since Jake and Vinda are adept at using mobile communications, Facebook and Twitter.
“Before the quake we texted or talked by phone at least once a week. They planned to visit this summer.”
Like many of the thousands of Haitian immigrants in the United States, Lamarre stayed up all night after the earthquake, fielding and making phone calls, crying, praying and crying some more.
“I asked God what has happened to them, but I have no word. It’s too enormous to comprehend. It’s like a dream, a sci-fi movie.”
Members and concerned residents gathered at the church to pray, plan and burn through calling cards, said Lamarre. “We’ve made a lot of calls, but most of them never went through. Text and e-mail messages, still no word, mostly you wait and hope. You can’t sleep. It’s so frustrating.” He seemed to lose himself in the melodic music and prayer. The sermon in French, Creole, and English provided comfort and hope.
“We need a miracle,” he said scratching his head. Lamarre was born in 1966 and came to the United States in 1989. “Lord, just give us a sign. Why Haiti? Why put such a burden on people who have suffered so much?”
His thoughts raced back to his impoverished boyhood land. “The people are poorer than poor. The government and infrastructure were in bad shape before the quake, now this.”
Kneeling on the ground, congregant Cassie Mozingo asked God to watch over the people of Haiti. “It’s just so unfair Lord. In a blink of an eye it’s wiped out. Let the hope shine through,” she said. Mozingo also a social worker signed up to serve as a volunteer so she could put her training to good use in Haiti. Lamarre says he received an e-mail from a friend who works for the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince. That man described the situation as surreal, but said he and his family survived the quake. Lamarre whose parents operated a restaurant in Los Angeles’ ‘Little Haiti’ community during the 90s is urging people to make cash donations to funds and organizations like the Red Cross, the United Way and Yele Haiti, Wyclef Jean’s grassroots organization or the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund (former President’s Bill Clinton and George W. Bush).
He said while these organizations are in a better position to get emergency help to the people. “My concern is, after the first wave of volunteers go home, the real suffering begins.”
Lamarre met with church members and others to talk about ways the Inland community can help the victims abroad. “I’m laying out the groundwork for the rebuilding and future stability in Haiti.” Congregants, church leaders and visitors placed offerings in an African grass basket which was blessed and placed among several boxes of donated clothing, can goods and bottles of lotion, aspirin and cough medicine.
Larmarre is encouraged by the worldwide response to his native Haiti. “It warms my heart to see so many people wanting to help.”
Governments worldwide have pledged nearly $1 billion in aid, and thousands of tons of food and medical supplies have been shipped. But much remains trapped in warehouses, diverted to the neighboring Dominican Republic, or left hovering in the air. The non-functioning seaport and impassable roads complicate efforts to get aid to the people.
The U.S. Air Force said Tuesday it had raised Haiti airport’s daily capacity from 30 flights before the quake to 210. Meanwhile the U.S.’s oldest Black medical organization, the National Medical Association (NMA) and the oldest Black Greek letter organization Alpha Phi Alpha, Inc. have launched separate appeals to aid Haiti earthquake victims. NMA President Willarda V. Edwards, M.D., MBA, says there is a great need for Creole speaking medical professionals. “Monetary donations are the most critical need now to ensure that aid organizations-NGOs on the ground and the U.S. government have enough resources to meet demand. Depending on specialties, there will be opportunities to work in existing hospitals, on the hospital ship USNS Comfort and at emergency field hospitals.”
Alpha Phi Alpha, Inc. General President Herman ‘Skip’ Mason made an urgent appeal for financial donations through the fraternities’ on-line disaster relief fund.
“To date, we have identified more than 30 Alpha brothers with family ties to Haiti. Our plan is to provide each documented family in Haiti a donation of cash to assist them in their recovery. Brothers, we will have faces to go with our donations. “We are our brother’s keeper?”