CEDAR RAPIDS — Far from the deadly winds and heavy rains of Hurricane Matthew, several area residents were beginning to hear from friends in Haiti after the storm rolled through there earlier this week.
A Mount Vernon woman said she and her husband were relieved to hear promising news about friends in Haiti, including about the biological family members of their adopted sons.
Amanda Rhomberg and her husband, John, had adopted Nelson and Jackson from Arcahaie, a coastal town northwest of Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince. The couple, who own an online fundraising platform called One Mission and have four biological children, brought their new sons into their home about two months ago.
Rhomberg said they’ve recently heard that the biological family of her sons, including parents and siblings, are safe.
She also was able to connect with friend Charles Seraphine, who runs a chicken farm in Haiti the couple help fund, and learn he’s safe.
But Rhomberg said she hasn’t shown Nelson and Jackson — now seventh and sixth-graders respectively at Mount Vernon Middle School — photos of the devastation in their home country.
“You’re just so heartsick about it. These people are still recovering from the earthquake and still feeling the effects of that. This is certainly going to cause a lot of problems,” said Rhomberg, who has been to the country 10 times.
Haitian government officials were reporting that the death toll rose to at least 300, although a tally by Reuters put it at closer to at least 800. According to the United Nations, the hurricane strike there Tuesday has caused the worst humanitarian crisis since an earthquake in 2010.
Parishioners and church officials from the All Saints Catholic Church in Cedar Rapids were relieved to start hearing from their friends in Haiti.
The Notre Dame de Lourdes parish in Haiti, the sister parish of All Saints Catholic Church, is located in the Belle Fontaine region southeast of Port-au-Prince. It has had a connection with the Cedar Rapids church since 2000, said Stephen Schmitz, chair of the Haiti Committee of All Saints.
Communication is limited, Schmitz said. It has been best with several of their friends in Ducrabon, a village southeast of Port-au-Prince. because of a satellite link in the village. Much of the communication takes place over Facebook Messenger, Schmitz said.
So far, Schmitz said no deaths or significant injuries were reported from the parish, but there are reports of damage to buildings and homes, especially roofs.
“The biggest issue for that area is the fact that their gardens got wiped out,” he said, noting it was their main source of income as well as food.
To help those in the Haitian sister parish recover, Schmitz said the church is going to up its fall fundraiser this year.
“We’re going to raise the bar, create awareness and really ask people to donate money that we can send down there,” he said. “If we can raise enough money to help subside food purchase, that’s more helpful.”