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Jeanty reflects on Haiti two years later

Jeanty family by Bruce Stambaugh

The Jeanty family: Fritz, Mamie, Benjamin, Samuel and Glory


By Bruce Stambaugh

For the second time in two years, Fritz Jeanty and his family are back in Millersburg, Ohio. They are refugees from the devastating earthquake that hit Port-au-Prince, Haiti, January 12, 2010.

Fritz remembers the exact time the huge earthquake hit, 4:45 p.m. He was there among all the horror and destruction, desperately trying to return to his family. He eventually made it home all right, and his wife, Mamie, and two sons were badly shaken but otherwise fine. Other family members weren’t as fortunate.

Using his basic survival instincts and his canny astuteness to save phone numbers, Fritz was able to make connections to come to the United States. After a harrowing trip to Florida, Fritz and his family eventually ended up in Millersburg.

With the help of many people and local organizations, the Jeantys settled in to life here. Fritz, unable to legally work under the terms of his visa, spent his time volunteering at Save and Serve Thrift Shop in Millersburg.

Fritz was antsy to return to his home country, however. After much planning, he and his family returned to the impoverished island country January 26, 2011. He was full of hope. Fritz wanted to rebuild their home, start a new business based on his Save and Serve experience, and rejoin friends and family.

What the Jeanty family found upon return was excruciatingly familiar. The devastation that Fritz saw initially was still there.

“Nothing had changed,” Fritz said, his brown eyes in deep reflection.

The rubble was everywhere. He said only the non-governmental organizations (NGO) were making any progress, and that there weren’t enough of them.

“People still live in tents,” Fritz said. In fact, the city was even more populated than after the earthquake that killed 300,000.

“People from the country heard there was food and housing in the city,” Fritz said. Neither was true, but the people remained, complicating an already problematic situation.

Fritz’ dream was to establish a used clothing store similar to Save and Serve. That proved unfeasible. He sold two loads of clothes he had obtained, but had little to show for his efforts.

“There were no jobs,” Fritz said. “People didn’t have money.”

The first three weeks Fritz and his family stayed with friends until they could get their heavily damaged home temporarily livable. The goal was to reconstruct their home adjacent to their destroyed one.

A retaining wall had been previously constructed. Fritz built one room in which the entire family lived. A few months later, he added a kitchen. Christian Aid Ministries, headquartered in Berlin, Ohio, helped with the cleanup of the house. Other Holmes County churches, organizations and individuals assisted the family financially.

They still didn’t have running water. Electrical power was erratic at best, being available only on an average of eight hours a day.

Besides the lack of jobs and housing, there were other social problems that permeated Haitian society, too, according to Fritz.

The crime was the worst. The Jeanty family fell victim to that like so many others had there. During the night, hoodlums locked the Jeanty family in their own house, and stole the battery out of Fritz’ vehicle, and vandalized it.

Their house was burglarized after they left for Millersburg in January, too. Fritz said robberies and murders had increased exponentially.

“There were about 100 murders every three months,” Fritz said forlornly.

Another problem in Haiti has been the ongoing cholera outbreak. With Mamie pregnant with their third child, and proper medical care scarce, Fritz realized he had to do something. With another visa, he returned his family to the familiar and much safer surroundings of Millersburg January 18.

Because Mamie had had difficulties in previous pregnancies, Fritz didn’t want to take any chances. Happily, their first daughter, Glory Jeanty, was born healthy and well March 23 at Aultman Orrville Hospital.

The Jeanty family is again being supported by donations from local groups and individuals. They live in a home owned by the church they attend, Millersburg Mennonite. Their six-month visa expires July 17 with their future uncertain after that date.

© 2012 Bruce Stambaugh
This story appears on http://www.holmesbargainhunter.com/.

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Jeanty family is ready to return to Haiti

Fritz Jeanty family by Bruce Stambaugh

Mamie, Samuel, Fritz and Benjamin Jeanty will return to Haiti after spending a year in Millersburg, Ohio following the devastating earthquake January 12, 2010.

By Bruce Stambaugh

There is no place like home. In this case, for Fritz and Mamie Jeanty and their two young sons, Samuel and Benjamin, home is Haiti.

A year after their miraculous exit from earthquake ravaged Port au Prince, Haiti, to Millersburg, the Jeanty family is ready to return.

“From what I understand, it will be like it happened yesterday,” Fritz Jeanty said. “Friends and family tell me that almost nothing has been cleaned up.”

Fritz, 36, has been in regular touch via cell phone and e-mail with friends and relatives in his native Haiti. He knows it won’t be the best situation.

But he said thoughtfully, “It’s time to go home.”

Fritz understands the huge physical obstacles he and his family will face. His grocery store business was destroyed, and will never be reopened. Their home was damaged to the point of being unlivable. The cholera outbreak is yet another concern.

Nevertheless, Fritz and Mamie, 31, are ready to return home, ready to face the devastation and mourn the loss of life of friends, neighbors and family.

“Mamie lost two sisters,” Fritz said. “And right after the earthquake occurred, her 18-year-old brother disappeared. No one has seen him since.”

Fritz said he knows it will be hard to return. But he also knows it is the right thing to do.

“The people here have been wonderful to us,” Fritz said. “We are very, very grateful for all that has been done for us.”

A week after the massive trembler that leveled most of Port au Prince, Fritz used his resourcefulness to get his family to his father-in-law’s home in Orlando, Florida. From there he made contact with people with whom he previously worked in Christian Aid Ministries, based in Berlin, Ohio.

Within days the Jeantys were settled into a home in Millersburg, and donations of money, food, furniture and clothing were made. A Haitian Relief Fund was established to help the displaced family during their stay in Holmes County. At that point, the length of their stay was undetermined.

Fritz Jeanty by Bruce Stambaugh

Frtiz Jeanty volunteered five days a week at Save and Serve Thrift Shop during his year-long stay in Millersburg.

Fritz spent his time volunteering at Save and Serve Thrift Store in Millersburg five days a week, while Mamie cared for the boys. Samuel enrolled in Head Start preschool and soon learned English. Once the family adjusted to their temporary home, Mamie also volunteered at the store.

With his family safe, Fritz began thinking about their eventual return to Haiti. While assisting at Save and Serve, he marveled at the efficiency and goals of Save and Serve.

Knowing the need for good, inexpensive used clothing would be great in Haiti, Fritz imagined starting a similar store in Port au Prince using Save and Serve as a model. He shared his plan with the Save and Serve board of directors and they were supportive of his desire to help his fellow citizens while establishing a business to help his family survive, too.

Encouraged by their response, Fritz moved ahead with his plan. His father-in-law donated some land, and construction for the clothing store was begun.

A 26-foot box truck was donated to Fritz, and it was filled with clothing and shoes, which were also donated. Fritz and a driver, Ed Yoder of Millersburg, left for West Palm Beach, Florida. on January 10. Once there, the truck was loaded onto a cargo ship headed for Haiti.

“I need to be in Haiti when the truck arrives,” Fritz said.

He and his family plan to leave January 25. But it won’t be easy either for the Jeanty family or for those with whom they have worked.

“Fritz has been a tremendous help to us,” said Eric Raber, co-manager at Save and Serve. “He will definitely be missed, but we also wish the family well.”

Fritz plans on restocking his used clothing store in Haiti through the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) thrift store operations based in Akron, Pennsylvania. Such outreach businesses are part of MCC’s mission.

The Jeantys will live with family until Fritz can restore a room in their damaged home to a point where it is inhabitable.

“We will get one room ready,” Fritz said with his usual confidence, “and work on the rest as we can.”

As for the cholera, Fritz said that they would take the necessary precautions.

“We will only drink clean water,” he said. “We will wash our hands and make sure everything is clean before we eat it.”

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Abigail Troyer experienced a shakeup of plans

Abigail Troyer by Bruce Stambaugh

Abigail Troyer of Sugarcreek, Ohio showed of the T-shirt signed by each member of the Heart to Heart International team she assisted in the Haiti earthquake.

By Bruce Stambaugh

When the earth roared like thunder, everything changed for young Abigail Troyer.

The 19-year old rural Sugarcreek woman was in Haiti visiting a friend who worked at a home for poor girls in Leogane, a city of 120,000. When the massive earthquake hit on January 12, Troyer’s vacation turned into a spontaneous mission trip.

With the frightening sound and incredible shaking her first thought was to exit the food storage building she was in. Troyer said she was able to stay on her feet to get out. But once outside she had to crawl on her hands and knees due to the fierce shaking.

“After the shaking stopped, I couldn’t believe it really happened,” Troyer said. “I wasn’t hurt, but I was emotionally spent.”

Troyer said she huddled with the staff and girls in the compound of the school, which is operated by Blue Ridge Missions, headquartered in Montgomery, Indiana. The school helps poor girls with education, hygiene and basic life skills.

Troyer said one of the problems was that the tremblers kept coming every five to 10 minutes, and she wondered when they would quit. Fortunately, no one at the school was seriously hurt, although the buildings and protective concrete wall were severely damaged. Troyer said it could have been much worse, too. She said several of the girls were delayed in going into a building that was destroyed.

“It was scary, especially at night,” Troyer said. “Outside in the streets it was chaos.” Fortunately, the school had a generator, which was run periodically to provide some light for security.

“We also had a couple of guard dogs that protected us,” she said. “Some men from Blue Ridge Missions arrived via the Dominican Republic five days later.” All that time, the staff and schoolgirls slept outside on mats and blankets, Troyer said.

Troyer has worked as a graphic designer at Carlisle Printing in Walnut Creek for two years. But her real ambition is to go to college to become a Registered Nurse.
Little did Troyer know that she would get some first-hand nursing experience before she left for Haiti last New Year’s Eve. But several days after the quake, she got recruited to help the injured.

An aid organization called Heart to Heart International, based in Kansas City, Kansas, sent medical personnel to assist with the multitude of injuries caused by the quake. In searching for a place to locate, members of the group came upon the girls’ school.

“Heart to Heart set up a temporary hospital in the neighborhood,” Troyer explained, “and since we had water from a well, they did their laundry at the compound.”

Once she saw what Heart to Heart was doing, she volunteered her services. Troyer assisted with the injured, and boxed medical supplies for the nurses and doctors.

“I helped clean wounds and wrapped bandages for six days,” Troyer said. “It was amazing to see the wounds heal in that amount of time.” She said she worked with the nurses and doctors six to eight hours a day.

“Originally I went there for a vacation,” she said. “Helping like that wasn’t what we had planned, like shopping, which of course didn’t happen.

Troyer did manage a few souvenirs, just not the ones she had imagined before she left Ohio. A favorite is the colorful flag of Haiti in the form of a scarf. Another is a T-shirt signed by all the Heart to Heart staff with whom she worked.

Troyer has plenty of pictures that she is more than happy to share. Since her return, she has given several programs at area churches about her experiences.

Laurie Mast, whose sister, Emily, works at the mission school, accompanied Troyer on the trip. They were able to return to Ohio on February 1 by way of the airport in the Dominican Republic.

This vacation trip turned volunteer nurses’ aid was an experience Troyer will never forget. Furthermore, Troyer indicated that it has greatly enhanced her vision of becoming a nurse. With her confidence, courage and assertive approach to life, that aspiration is pretty certain to happen.

For information about Troyer sharing her experiences in Haiti, contact her at abigailnicoletroyer@yahoo.com.

This article first appeared in the Holmes Bargain Hunter, August 9, 2010.

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