Just twenty-four hours prior to our scheduled flight to Haiti on November 30, we decided to postpone the trip. For about two weeks prior to our decision Haiti had been the scene of large and sometimes violent demonstrations in the streets or Port au Prince calling for the resignation of Haitian President Jovenel Moise. The demonstrations included blocking a number of streets with burning tires and a general nationwide strike that lasted two or three days.
The decision to cancel our trip is a rare occurrence and was not made lightly. Working in Haiti requires an understanding that from time to time there will be similar disturbances. The majority of these activities occur in the center of Port au Prince and are located several miles from the airport. When our groups travel to Haiti, they leave immediately from the airport, traveling away from the city center toward our sister parish two hours away in Boucan Carre. Over the years we have not encountered a threat to the safety of our group, either in or outside Port au Prince.
We cancelled this trip after the US embassy on the morning of November 29 ordered the evacuation of all families and dependents from Haiti. This was likely a precautionary act by the embassy, but the US State Department also raised the Haiti travel Advisory to Level 3, “Reconsider Travel.” Given these circumstances, we did not feel that continuing the trip was an acceptable risk. We informed Delta Airlines of our intent to postpone the trip and were given a credit on our tickets, meaning we can return at any time prior to July 27.
For the members and families of our Haiti Outreach group, and for the dozens of individuals who support our mission, we would like to emphasize two important points. We have not abandoned our efforts in Haiti. All of those involved in the cancelled trip have committed to return at the earliest convenient time when we will, among other tasks, install solar panels on our remote clinic in Bouly.
As we plan for this and other trips, the safety of our volunteers will remain a priority that takes precedence over any other consideration. We are mindful that traveling in Haiti is not a matter of zero risk, and never will be. That said, we will always err on the side of safety to protect the members of our mission teams.
We are hopeful that we will able to continue with the upcoming mission trips.
December 15-22: Medical mission. Dr. Drew Dirmeyer, 679-5444
Early February: Medical mission. Dr. Dean Mire, 384-3391
March 18-22: Student mission trip. Cindy Mire, 384-3392
Anyone interested in learning more about our program can visit our website at http://haitioutreachprogram.com. Our next meeting will be Thursday, December 6, at 6:30 in the library of Sacred Heart School.