McHENRY – Four missionaries from Catholic Assistance Missions witnessed the devastating impact of Hurricane Matthew during a recent trip to Haiti.
Catholic Assistance Missions (CAM) is a McHenry-based organization dedicated to helping those affected by natural disasters and under the weight of poverty. CAM President Justin Smith said the trip was paid for out of their own pockets, and all the donated funds for the trip went to the people of Haiti.
“This trip was actually planned months in advance, and it just so happened the hurricane hit at that time,” Smith said. “So we were asked if we could come to La Caye, one of the cities that was majorly hit by the hurricane.”
When his group got near the city, they realized they may not reach La Caye because of the bridge being washed out and the roads being flooded. Smith said his group then tried loading a delivery truck with food and supplies to bring to the hurricane victims.
“We had a truck go ahead of us to see it if would get there,” Smith said. “But it was robbed at gunpoint.”
CAM then tried loading another truck, hoping it would make it into La Caye.
“There were U.S. military planes flying overhead throughout the day,” Smith said. “And the second truck was able to make it through because the military had stabilized the area at that point.”
McHenry residents Beth Widhalm and Lynette Reid also joined Smith on the recent journey to Haiti.
Reid said a school in the city of Despinasse lost part of its roof from the storm, and so did several homes in the area.
“Some houses had holes in the roof, cracks in the walls and people’s fruit trees were split from the wind,” Reid said.
While the group of missionaries saw some of the storm’s damage, Widhalm said they weren’t able to go to certain areas where the damage was more devastating.
“I wish we would’ve done more with relief work, which is what we were expecting,” Widhalm said. “But for safety reasons, they kept us away.”
During the trip, CAM also distributed food, supplied people with donkeys and helped teach students English.
“We tried to help the people there any way we could,” Widhalm said.