South Florida Sun-Sentinel
March 1, 2004

South Florida Haitians rally to send relief to island

By Edgar Sandoval
Staff Writer

The conflict in Haiti has divided congregants at the Haitian United Methodist Church in Hallandale, but they found common ground Sunday over the need to help thousands of their countrymen and women cope with the street violence in that small Caribbean nation.

News of the crisis and Aristide's exile Sunday prompted area Haitian churches and other organizations to mobilize assistance for Haiti.

"We all belong to Haiti, despite ... what we believe," said Luc Dessieux, pastor of the church. "They need the help. We can help."

The Methodist church in Hallandale is one of many local churches and organizations collecting food, clothes and medicine in hope of sending help. Though receiving donations is the primary focus now, many church leaders do not know how to deliver the goods where they are most needed.

Some say they will have no choice but to wait until the violence quells.

"Right now it is really difficult to send shipments of food and medicine. We have sent items there before, but now with the crisis, we are not sure how we will do that," said Felicia Beaubrun, wife of the pastor at Bedia Haitian Church in Fort Lauderdale. "We'll find a way to send them stuff."

In Miami-Dade, the region with the largest Haitian population in South Florida, County Mayor Alex Penelas, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Miami, the Miami-Dade United Way and area media outlets all form part of Operation Helping Hands/Dando Una Mano to send money and aid to Haiti.

Because of the recent wave of violence, Haiti is seeing a shortage of food and medical supplies. The coalition, which formed in 1998 to assist in emergency situations, is asking the public primarily for money donations. The coalition plans to send the funds to Haiti-based non-profit organizations to purchase supplies.

"We should not stand idly by as an entire nation cries out for help," Penelas said in a prepared statement.

In Broward County, relief seemed to come on a smaller scale, with area churches working independently to collect goods. Betty Kukin, program director at First Call for Help, a crisis help and referral service for all Broward residents, said she was not aware of any major relief organizations, such as United Way or Red Cross in Broward County, starting programs for Haiti.

In Palm Beach County, the Haitian American Community Council is also accepting much of the same donations, said Daniella Henry, the council's executive director.

"The more we can get the better," Henry said.

Henry C. Moise, a pastor at Haitian Missionary Baptist Church in Miramar, said his church sends aid on an on-going basis, but the current crisis in Haiti compels them to send more. "What we see on the images in television every night is very sad, demoralizing," Moise said. "This is a humanity issue. How can we not help?"

Edgar Sandoval can be reached at or 954-385-7910.

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