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U.S. missionary nuns fly home after quake to organize shipment to Haiti

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Kettney Francois poses outside the remains of St. Famille du Toirac Church in Toirac, Haiti, Aug. 16. Francois was trampled in a frantic stampede of people trying to escape after a magnitude 7.2 earthquake hit during a funeral Mass at the church. (CNS photo/Laura Gottesdiener, Reuters)

Getting emergency supplies and aid into the Haiti region most impacted by the Aug. 14 earthquake will prove a major logistical challenge, said two missionary nuns who work in Haiti.

“There were some scary situations before (the earthquake), however, nothing like the last two years and especially the last two months in Haiti,” Felician Sister Mary Inga Borko, who works in Jacmel, Haiti, told CNS by phone from Lodi, New Jersey.

Her congregation is organizing a container shipment of supplies to Haiti, both for her congregation’s mission projects near Jacmel, but to the earthquake-affected Les Cayes region.

In Jacmel, Haiti, Felician Sisters Mary Inga Borko and Sister Mary Julitta Kurek pack boxes of clothing and medical supplies to send to Les Cayes Aug. 14, following the earthquake in southern Haiti. The Felician Sisters of New Jersey, who have a community in Jacmel, are organizing further relief shipments to the Les Cayes region. (CNS photo/courtesy The Felician Sisters)

“Life has changed and people easily cannot go to Port-au-Prince – you have to pass through the gang neighborhoods; if people have to go, they go at night,” said Polish-born Sister Borko.

Members of the New Jersey community of Felician Sisters first arrived in Haiti shortly after the devastating 2010 earthquake.

Four Felician Sisters were at their mission home in Jacmel Aug. 14 when a magnitude 7.2 earthquake hit. The nuns ran quickly outside, and they continued to do so as aftershocks occurred throughout the day and into the night, said Sister Inga and Felician Sister Marilyn Marie Minter, who was also in New Jersey assisting with the shipment preparations.

Though the Felician mission was spared from severe damage, 80 miles away the city of Les Cayes was devastated.

Before leaving for the U.S., the sisters emptied their shelves of medications, surgical gloves, clothes, shoes, sheets and bandages and sent them to Les Cayes and to help the medical centers there meet the growing need for supplies. Roads have been destroyed, making it difficult to get help to those who need it.

Families are living in makeshift tents on dirt floors, dreading the mudslides and flooding that often accompany seasonal storms, said  Sister Marilyn. She said she is living in quarantine since recently arriving in the U.S. but that plans are underway to send supplies from the port at Newark, New Jersey, through Port-au-Prince, which is often a slow and arduous process but necessary.

“This is the fourth container we have sent down over the years: mattresses, clothing, school supplies, household items, plastic tarps for when we have these hurricanes, cleaning items, statues and religious items, stations of the cross and some foodstuffs,” Sister Marilyn told CNS by phone.

“The hospital in Les Cayes will need to get replenished, but there will be a time when the big aid agencies stop – for example, how much are you hearing about Haiti with the Afghanistan situation?”

By Aug. 23, the quake’s death toll was more than 2,200, with more than 6,000 reported injured. An estimated 53,000 homes were completely destroyed in the quake, with about 77,000 more damaged, according to the BBC.

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