A large part of Haiti has been devastated by Hurricane Matthew causing a massive humanitarian crisis for the foreseeable future. The UN estimates nearly 1.5 million people are in need of assistance and half of those critically so. Due to the significant loss of agriculture (both crops and livestock), recovery will take years.
At GOALS, we were spared the worst of the impact, but our programs and people were still very affected. While we are still assessing damages, we know that many children lost material possessions (such as school uniforms, school books and sport clothing and cleats) when they were washed away by flash flooding and storm surges. Families lost their crops to winds and flooding, and livestock animals and fishing boats were also washed away. In addition, many houses were damaged and some destroyed, while other GOALS families, still living in tarp structures after the earthquake, are patching together bits of shredded tarp to attempt repairs.
Here’s how GOALS has responded so far
Before the storm:
- GOALS coaches alerted communities to the oncoming storm. In coastal areas, staff went door to door to reiterate the severity of the threat. Unfortunately, for the rural poor, there is no real way to prepare for a hurricane. There is little food to stockpile, and nowhere to evacuate to.
- GOALS staff met with partners to discuss immediate logistical support in a worst-case scenario.
During the storm:
- GOALS staff kept in touch with remote areas via WhatsApp. Even in the height of the storm, we lost contact for only a few hours.
- Dozens of people moved into the GOALS center to shelter during and after the event for several days until storm surges subsided and their dirt floors began to dry out and they could return home. We are very, very grateful that our building survived well and provided this important community function.
- After the winds passed, the storm surges and flash flooding began from the heavy rains behind the eye of the storm.
- GOALS staff was able to remotely send data plan top-ups to all of our coaches to allow them to continue to keep in touch via WhatsApp throughout.
Immediately after the storm:
- Two GOALS communities were completely cut off with no land access in or out. GOALS staff in the city of Leogane hired a boat to bring immediate relief supplies to these areas. With two days of solid rain, GOALS prevented an estimated 300 people from experiencing a third and fourth day of hunger with this distribution while access roads were still impassable. See photos here.
- GOALS staff deployed to some of the hardest hit areas along the south coast (from Port Salut to Port au Piment) to assist with logistical support including transport, translation, meeting with local governments, securing local staff and assessing damages, access and security risks for incoming personnel in order to allow other larger aid groups to hit the ground faster and more effectively.
After the emergency phase:
- As the roads dried out, we ensured GOALS families were able to leave their communities to obtain supplies from local markets, which were also slowly recovering.
- Our next response was to provide tools (rakes, machetes, brooms, etc.) to help communities clean up debris on their own (and so GOALS kids could remove trees, branches and other debris from the soccer fields!)
Next is the assessment phase:
- This is where we are currently. Our coaches are nearly done checking on the status of every single one of our 400 enrolled participants, scholarship students, alumni players and literacy students and checking for any other serious damage and loss in their communities.
- And of course, it wouldn’t be GOALS without youth leadership! Two GOALS youth, Bettina and Rose Mirlande, are volunteering to help coaches with data collection.
- After we have a complete and accurate count of specific needs, we will respond accordingly. Our response will focus on:
- Replacing lost materials such as school uniforms, school books and backpacks, sports clothing and cleats. We hope our supporters will respond with donations of soccer uniforms and cleats to help with this step.
- Responding to the ongoing food need: Many crops and livestock were lost, and GOALS communities were already somewhat food-insecure (nearly all GOALS children eat only one meal each day).
- We are exploring opportunities to address loss of income such as helping small merchants recover through micro-finance or expanding our bakery program to offer more jobs to GOALS parents and alumni players.
While we perform our needs assessment, we are also planning a response for how GOALS can assist in other harder hit areas:
- GOALS youth are assembling hygiene kits for our partners and friends at Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMD), and a few older teens will be traveling with CMMD to the region of Cote de Fer to help distribute supplies. Cote de Fer was hit harder than Leogane, but we believe it is safe to access for our older youth.
- When the critical phase is over and it is safe to do so, GOALS coaches are planning to enter affected communities to provide therapeutic play as this is something they are, unfortunately, personally experienced with. After the 2010 earthquake, four GOALS coaches were specially trained in using sport to teach critical health messages for internally displaced and vulnerable populations following natural disasters by Mercy Corps and Partners for Health.
- Older GOALS teens will travel to the hardest hit areas to provide community service by helping to remove debris from beaches, farm lands, schools, churches and other public spaces when it is safe to do so.
Our largest need, however, will be for housing.
Many of GOALS’ families were unable to rebuild after their homes were destroyed in the earthquake of 2010. Dozens were still living in tents or tarps which are now shattered and torn from Hurricane Matthew and, with no alternative, they are still living inside of these ragged structures. Many others have cobbled together shelter from bits of tin to form walls and a roof. One family even continues to inhabit a shelter which was crushed by a fallen tree.
GOALS is determined to provide safe and dignified housing for those who have now lost their homes twice. We are reaching out to partners for a way to make it happen but, with your support, we will go at it alone if needed, albeit on a smaller scale than we could with a partner.
Schools, soccer clubs and individuals wishing to donate materials: YES we can put your donations of new or gently-used sports gear to use helping children in Haiti.
Please see our Donate Equipment page for more details.