Midlands missionaries say need was great in Haiti before quake

By Jack Kuenzie - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - As the world prepares to send massive amounts of aid to Haiti following the devastating earthquake there, Midlands church groups are also rolling up their sleeves in preparation to help.

Jody Davidson and Sue Netzloff are retired nurse practitioners. As members of St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Columbia, they've also done mission work in Haiti.

"When we went, it was devastating in itself and to put this kind of disaster on top of that is absolutely unbelievable," said Netzloff.

"No ambulance, no medical service," described Davidson. "Very little good water to drink or bathing water. Hardly enough food for many of the people. The housing is dirt floors and shacks."

Terry Henshaw is a teacher and fellow missionary. "When I came back from Haiti, you are changed," he said.

St. Mary's has been deeply involved in Haitian relief for more than a decade.

Most efforts concentrating on a school in Les Cayes about 120 miles from the capital of Port-au-Prince.

They believe education is critical to solving Haiti's many problems.

"They're just craving that," said Netzloff. "And I believe it's the only answer that's going to improve their country and as well as countries getting together and supporting them because I really believe over the years they have been totally exploited."

The images coming out of the devastated country were all too familiar for Dr. James Watson at Columbia International University.

"When I first heard it, I realized that it would be devastating to the country given the infrastructure, the lack of transportation, the lack of communication and just knew it was going to be an overwhelming humanitarian situation," said Dr. Watson.

Dr. Watson has been involved in education and missionary work in Haiti. Where, he says, living has long been an everyday struggle.

"You heard last night on the news where there was no electricity. That's a normal occurrence. The electricity usually goes off in the evening around 6 o-clock. And if you don't have a generator, then you are in darkness until it comes back on," said Dr. Watson.

Dr. Watson says some of Haiti's most populated areas have lost already substandard infrastructure and hundreds of thousands now lack basics for survival.

"The idea of food is going to be very, very important because they live on a daily basis. Because they don't have electricity, they don't have refrigeration," said Dr. Watson. "Life is a daily basis as far as food goes. Getting people the food they need and the water that they need, because Haiti is a dry country.

Dr. Watson says even with massive relief efforts now underway, recovery for the island nation will take many years.

But there is some good news out of Haiti since the quake.

Two church members, John and Joyce Pipkin, had arrived in the capital only hours before the disaster struck.

Early Wednesday morning, they emailed a daughter to tell her they were safe.

Over the years, church volunteers have provided clothes, food and water and education for hundreds of adults and kids in southwestern Haiti.

The need is even more desperate now.

You can help by sending donations to:
St. Mary's Episcopal Church
170 St. Andrews Road
Columbia, SC 29210.

Please mark your check for 'Haitian Disaster Relief.' One hundred percent of the donation goes to the people of Haiti.

Copyright 2010 WIS. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.