Tag Archives: Haiti

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/.

Leave a comment

Filed under article, family, news, Ohio, writing

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.”

Leave a comment

Filed under article

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under article

Benefit auctions abound in Ohio’s Amish Country

Handcrafted table by Bruce Stambaugh

A sample of the kind of furniture offered at benefit auctions in Ohio's Amish country.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Benefit auctions abound in Ohio’s Amish country. Every year thousands of people from near and far attend these worthwhile functions.

Dave Kaufman of Kaufman Realty, Sugarcreek, serves as auctioneer at many of the benefit auctions. He’s not surprised at the popularity of the events at all. He said the formula for their success is pretty simple.

“It’s a very giving, caring community,” Kaufman said. “If it’s a good cause, the auction will get good support.”

Kaufman estimated that there are at least 35 such benefit auctions in Amish country. Some are small, local auctions, like the ones for private Amish schools. Others draw big crowds and usually raise major money for their causes.

“If there is a need,” Kaufman said, “people come to the rescue.”

One of the largest benefit auctions is the Rainbow of Hope Auction in Mt. Hope. Henry Hershberger is its president and founder. This year’s sale is July 23 and 24 at the Mt. Hope Auction barn.

The sale has been a local mainstay since 1987 when Hershberger’s young daughter was hospitalized for two months. Hershberger is Amish and along with other members contributes to the church’s medical fund. But in this case, the fund was depleted before the bills were paid.

Hershberger turned to the community for help, which responded by raising the $20,000 balance of his medical bills. Touched by the generosity, Hershberger started the auction as a way to help others who might be in a similar situation.

“Our best auction was in 2008 when we totaled $403,735,” Hershberger said. He rattled off that figure from memory.

“We try to focus on the community to make it work,” Hershberger said. “It’s something the entire community can participate in.”

Like most other benefit auctions, Rainbow of Hope Auction depends on volunteer labor and donations of items for a successful sale. With furniture the biggest moneymaker, Hershberger said that the work of the furniture committee is key.

“We have about 25 people who canvas the community, hitting every furniture manufacturer and retail store for donations,” he said. “All the items are new.”

John Deere quilt by Bruce Stambaugh

Quilts like this one are often found at the benefit auctions held each summer in Ohio's Amish country.

Hershberger said they also auction quilts, gift certificates and other home and garden items. Hershberger stressed that the Rainbow of Hope fund is not just for Amish.

“Any resident in Coshocton, Holmes, Tuscarawas and Wayne counties can apply to the committee for financial help,” he said. “We may not be able to pay all of their bills, but we can help in some way.”

Hershberger said the Rainbow of Hope fund has never run out of money either. He said the committee uses two percent for overhead.

“The other 98 percent is used for those who need it,” Hershberger said. He has served as chair of the auction for 20 years.

Another popular benefit auction is the Ohio Mennonite Relief Sale, which will be held August 6 and 7 this year in Kidron. Last year, the sale raised $338,653 for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).

MCC is the relief, service and development agency of North American Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches. Several such sales are held throughout North America annually. The Ohio Mennonite Relief Sale is typical of those auctions.

Baby quilt by Bruce Stambaugh

A baby quilt typical of the kind auctioned off. My wife, Neva, made this one for our granddaughter.

Once again, the Ohio Mennonite Relief Sale will feature a varied schedule of events. Everything from food to children’s activities to the auction items themselves will be included. Even a USA Track and Field certified Run for Relief will be held to help raise money for MCC projects worldwide.

Another big benefit auction in the area is the Ohio Haiti Sale, also held at the Mt. Hope Auction in Mt. Hope. This year’s sale, which will have special meaning given the catastrophic January earthquake in Haiti, will be held on Labor Day weekend, September 3 and 4.

A small quilt by Bruce Stambaugh

This is another example of the kinds of quilts available at charity benefit auctions.

This sale is also one of several held around the country for the benefit of those in need in Haiti. The Ohio Haiti sale was also begun in 1987. It, too, takes a coordinated effort of many volunteers and donated items to raise funds.

Food, fun and fellowship enhance the actual auctioning of items at the Haiti sale, just like all the other benefit auctions that predominate the summer months annually in Ohio’s Amish country.

This article first appeared in the June 2010 edition of Ohio’s Amish Country.

9 Comments

Filed under article

From Haiti to Millersburg, Ohio, a harrowing journey

Fritz Jeanty family

Fritz Jeanty hold two and a half year old son, Samuel, while his wife, Mamie, cuddles five month old son, Benjamin.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Shortly before 5 p.m. on January 12, Fritz Jeanty of Port-au-Prince, Haiti was on his way home when his car lurched from the force of a 7.0 magnitude earthquake. He didn’t realize the seriousness of the situation until he saw people running and heard people praying and praising God for being saved.

Fritz headed for home via the main road, but quickly came upon even more devastating scenes. People carried injured victims. Debris and clouds of dust were everywhere.

People were screaming, crying and praying all at the same time. While attempting to get home, Fritz met his pastor, who had his car full of injured victims, on the way to a hospital. The pastor told Fritz that the church had been leveled.

In his tireless effort to reach his family, Fritz drove as fast as he could until the road was completely blocked with collapsed buildings and dead bodies. Fritz parked his car, and ran towards home, fearful of what he would find. Before he could arrive, however, a neighbor intercepted him with good news. Fritz’s family was safe.

“I started crying right away,” Fritz said. They were tears of joy and sadness. “I was happy my family was alive, but I was sad for all the dead and injured, too.”

When he arrived home, his wife, Mamie, and two young sons, Samuel, two-and-a half, and Benjamin, five months, were unhurt but scared. Their home was rendered uninhabitable. The grocery store Fritz owned and operated five miles away had been completely destroyed, too.

“You could hear crying everywhere,” Fritz said. “I was overwhelmed.”

With darkness arriving, Fritz had to wait until early the next morning to turn his attention to extended family members who lived nearby. At dawn, he went to look for his brother, who he discovered was all right. However, Mamie’s two sisters were both crushed in the rubble of their home. But her mother was alive.

The Jeanty family lived on the street outside their destroyed home for a week. Fritz said they could hardly sleep, with frequent aftershocks, mosquitoes, nothing but rubble to lie on and potential looters roaming. The only provisions they had were some rice and cooking oil Fritz had stored in an old car in his yard. They had some water in a drum container, and Fritz had to walk two miles to refill it.

With precious commodities running low, Fritz went into survival mode. He reentered their badly damaged home, and carefully retrieved important personal papers, including the boys’ passports.

Fritz went to the American embassy in Port-au-Prince and was disheartened to find a long, long line. But because both of his sons had been born in the United States, Fritz was told to go to the airport to be airlifted out of Haiti.

Early the next morning they found themselves on a transport plane, unsure of where they were going. When they landed, they were in Orlando, Florida, which was providential. Just the previous day, Fritz had obtained a key for his father-in-law’s home in Orlando in case they somehow ended up there.

But Fritz knew they could not stay there long without money. He had kept some phone numbers of persons with whom he had worked in Christian Aid Ministries, based in Berlin, with missions in Haiti. A friend of a former CAM worker helped the Jenaty family make contacts in Ohio.

Arrangements were made for Fritz and his family to ride the Pioneer Trails bus back to Holmes County. In addition, contacts with Save and Serve Thrift Store in Millersburg were established, an apartment found, and by the time Fritz and his family arrived in Berlin the next day, they had a place to stay amid the largest Amish population in the world.

Fritz and his family are permitted to stay for six months. He is filling in his time by volunteering at Save and Serve, which is taking donations to help buy food and living necessities for the family. Donations to assist Fritz and his family may be sent or delivered to Save and Serve, marked Haitian Relief, P.O. Box 128, Millersburg, OH  44654.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Knotting comforters for Haiti

comforters for Haiti

An Raber (L), Peggy Roth and Linda Yoder knot a comforter for people in Haiti. Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), Akron, PA had asked congregations to knot 10,000 comforters for people in Haiti to match the 10,000 donated by a Canadian business.

working on comforters

Caroll Roth (L), Paul Thomas and Sandy Miler ready a comforter to be knotted at Millersburg (OH) Mennonite Church.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized