With the threat of Hurricane Matthew long gone from South Florida, Miami-Dade County is setting its sights on helping thousands in Haiti who felt and continue to feel the severe impacts of the hurricane.
According to Haitian officials, more than 800 have died and the nation’s government estimates that hundreds of thousands are in need of assistance. The hurricane was the second major natural disaster to hit the island in less than 10 years. In 2010, the country was struck by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that left thousands dead.
Hurricane Matthew ripped through the island nation as a Category 4 cyclone on Tuesday with winds exceeding 120 miles per hour. Due to weak infrastructure, many buildings throughout Haiti have been destroyed — leaving thousands without homes.
With South Florida having one of the largest Haitian populations in the nation, many community organizations have started drives to help with relief efforts.
Members of Planet Kreyol, the Haitian-American student organization at the University of Miami, are taking action by forming a group of students to help collect donations and send them to Haiti. Planet Kreyol President Asia Cadet and other volunteers went to CMS Warehouse on Sunday to sort and package donations.
Cadet said the effort is ongoing, and she is in the process of working with other university groups, including Student Government and the Association of Greek Letter Organizations to set up donation boxes around campus.
Cadet said the response she has gotten from people, even those outside the UM community, looking to help has impressed her.
“It’s been pretty amazing actually,” Cadet said. “I’ve gotten emails from high school teachers, students from Utah, students from Palm Beach, adults from California, a university in Italy, as well as emails from all over our campus and the medical campus.”
The international shipping facility members of Planet Kreyol went to over the weekend, will stay open for the rest of the week, accepting donations and volunteers. CMS Warehouse is located at 3333 NW 168th St.
Haitian-American student organizations at Florida International University, Miami-Dade College, Barry University and other South Florida institutions are partnering up with the Haitian Consulate and City of Miami to help Haiti, and the relief efforts are being planned all across the state.
The Haitian-American Hurricane Matthew Haiti Relief Efforts group is specifically looking for nurses to sort medication and for drop-off points for people to donate items in Lauderhill, Pembroke Pines, Key West, Ft. Lauderdale, Plantation, Homestead and Orlando, Florida.
The list of supplies needed on the website includes: Ziplock bags, feminine supplies, personal hygiene items, household chlorine bleach, absorbent towels, pain relievers, Benadryl, baby food, formula, diapers, pacifiers and medicine droppers. The full list is available here.
Cadet, whose family lives in New Jersey, said she did not plan to go home because she didn’t expect the severity of Hurricane Matthew
“I didn’t really know that it was going to be so serious until it became so serious,” she said.
She said her grandmother reached out to family in Haiti and they were all safe. Another member of Planet Kreyol at UM, sophomore Mirza Tanis, said her family in the United States was unable to reach her family and friends in Haiti for multiple days because there was no signal.
She found out two of her family members were safe through Facebook’s “I Am Safe” feature, which allows people to let their social network know they are not in danger.
Tanis was born in Haiti, but has lived in Miami since she was two years old, so she was accustomed to the threat of hurricanes unlike many other UM students.
“Growing up, we never really took hurricanes seriously,” she said. “So when we see on social media that it was worse than expected, of course that takes us back.”
Other organizations in Miami have joined in the effort to help Haiti, as well.
The ManDodo Humanitarian Foundation, a faith-based, nonprofit organization, has been preparing and collecting donations for Haiti since just after Hurricane Matthew struck the nation. Money donations can be made online at mandodo.org.
The Archdiocese of Miami will be accepting donations in Miami for Haiti at Norte Dame d’Haiti Church at 110 NE 62 St. The donations will also go toward helping those affected in Cuba.
The City of Miami Fire Department is collecting non-perishable food items, diapers, baby food and first-aid supplies at all of their fire stations throughout the county.
Saturday’s football game against Florida State University recognized those impacted by Hurricane Matthew, and both universities presented a check for $50,000 toward hurricane relief efforts.
Hurricane Matthew left the Florida peninsula, hitting coastal cities such as Jacksonville and St. Augustine along the way, and went through the Carolinas before turning east toward Bermuda. The storm was predicted last week to loop around and hit Florida a second time, but no advisories for the state have been issued.
For more information on how to volunteer to help in Florida after the storm, visit volunteerflorida.com.
For those looking to donate money to relief efforts online, visit WhiteHouse.gov for a complete list of agencies to donate to. To volunteer with Planet Kreyol or donate supplies on campus, email Asia Cadet at firstname.lastname@example.org.