Franco-American and French-Canadian humanitarian groups are among those urgently responding to the needs of victims of Haiti’s Jan. 12 earthquake. More than 200,000 people were killed in Haiti’s capital Port au Prince as a result of the earthquake.

Haiti’s crisis is reported by the United Nations to be the worst humanitarian disaster to devastate one country. French speaking people feel particularly connected to Haiti because of their common understanding of the Creole language. Creole French is commonly spoken in former French colonies in the Caribbean.

Richelieu International is a French language humanitarian, cultural and service organization with a chapter in Biddeford.  Judy Cadorette, a past chapter president, says Richelieu International donated $46,000 Canadian to Haitian relief efforts.

“It’s a terrible tragedy,” says Cadorette.  “We don’t know what the future holds for the Haitian people.”

In a press release, Québec Premier Jean Charest said, “Our thoughts are with the Haitian people with whom Quebecers have deep ties of friendship.”

Ray and Laurette (nee Bolduc) Seabeck of Guilford, N.H, were doing humanitarian work in Haiti for 30 years before the earthquake. Laurette, who grew up in a large Franco-American family in Guilford, speaks French, which helps her communicate with the Haitians.

The Seabecks, who have been married 43 years, have been traveling to Haiti nearly every year since the 1980s to work in Port au Prince with the Missionaries of Charity, the order of nuns founded by Mother Theresa of Calcutta. They support the religious order’s work feeding, educating and providing medical care for the poor. Their work includes changing wound dressings, holding children who are dying and doing whatever they are asked.

“We follow the nuns in their work and do whatever needs to be done,” says Laurette.

Poverty and disease in Haiti worries the Seabecks. They had no idea how poor the Haitian people were until they witnessed it for themselves.

Laurette says she thought growing up in a large Franco-American family of 13 children would prepare her for the poverty in Haiti.
“I never knew such poverty could exist until Ray and I began working in Haiti,” she says.

Their 30 years of work in Haiti with the Missionaries of Charity were slowly producing positive results. They came home to Guilford in December feeling good about the progress being made in the nine Haitian missionary clinics and programs they visited.

“We came back in December rather puffed up about our progress. All of a sudden, the earthquake hit. We have to start our work all over again,” she says.

Each of the nine missionary sites were oases where the poor could find help. Before the earthquake, each location was clean and beautiful. One of the missions was hard hit by the hurricanes Haiti experienced last year. Then the earthquake hit and all nine were damaged.

No one was killed in the Sisters of Charity facilities. Nonetheless, many patients were moved to more secure locations to avoid harm from falling debris caused by weeks of aftershocks. Moreover, new patients arrive on the doorsteps of the missionaries’ facilities every day. The nuns are exhausted but they never stop working to care for as many people as they can, says Laurette
Despite serious setbacks caused by the earthquake, the Seabeck’s are not discouraged.  They will do all they can to return to Haiti when the sister’s call on them.

“We’re all doing God’s work,” says Laurette.

Juliana L’Heureux can be contacted at: [email protected]