Diamonds of Haiti: The Aftermath of Hurricane Matthew

[The following videos and blog post are detailed updates we've received from Joseph Bataille, World Relief's Country Director in Haiti, about the relief efforts taking place in Haiti in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.]

Every year, my wife and I choose a new part of Haiti to explore for our anniversary. Our country is a gem, full of hidden treasures. And every year, we celebrate by uncovering one of these treasures together.

This past July, we explored Grand’Anse. We began with one of the furthest reaches of the region, Anse d’Hainault. The two and a half hour drive from the entrance of the city of Jérémie was scenic, but to tell the truth, it was a bit exhausting. We had already driven 6 or 7 hours that morning to get to Jérémie. We could only hope that this additional 2.5 hour, slow-paced, rocky trek, would be worth it in the end. After all, we would still have to drive back in a couple of days. 

We came up on the main stretch of the town of Dame Marie. It was almost evening and the sun was preparing to set. The colors of the sky dancing and glistening as they reflected off of the sea made us forget all about our uncomfortable drive. The people of the town—not accustomed to receiving many outsiders—each watched from the front porch of their homes as we passed by. Life seemed beautiful and simple. Children played in their yards and in the streets. Men tended to boats and nets after a day of fishing. Women conversed and laughed as they finished various late-afternoon tasks or as they braided each other’s hair, while they relaxed on the front porch. All the while, the sun, the sea, and the sky danced in the background. Beautiful and simple indeed. We took in similar scenes for the last half hour of the drive to Anse d’Hainault. 

The rest of our visit in Grand’Anse was equally beautiful. From Anse d’Hainault, we traveled to the city of Jérémie. The family of Alexandre Dumas (author of “The Three Musketeers” and “The Count of Monte Cristo”) hails from Jérémie, as do other notable Haitian writers. This historic city is rightfully known as “The City of Poets.” Traveling further to a hidden cove called “Anse du Clerc.” We sat mesmerized by the crashing of waves into the bay as we drank in beauty that few have the pleasure of seeing. All this while enjoying freshly caught fish served over boiled plantains, and of course, fresh coconuts to drink.  

Even more beautiful than the scenery, as usual, were the people that we encountered. We met with our friend and my colleague, Esther, when we traveled back to Jeremie. She showed us around over the next couple of days. Each day, Esther’s aunts fought over the “privilege” of getting to feed us. Every home that we visited had a table prepared; they would hear nothing of the meal that we had just eaten two hours earlier. They showed us around proudly, wanting us to love their town and region at least half as much as they do. They would give us everything, if we would ask, but would receive nothing but good company in return. Each evening we stayed with Esther’s godparents, in their home, set proudly in a Garden of Eden by the sea.

Last Saturday, I visited that place again. The house was still there, and so was the sea, but the garden was gone. So was everything else. 

Haiti Relief Update

The town of Jérémie was full of piles of debris stacked high. All along the ride through other parts of Grand’Anse, I saw homes that I don’t remember seeing before. Each had lost the trees that had once shielded them from view. Nearly all had also lost their rooftops and many had lost walls as well. With Grand’Anse accounting for a major portion of the nation’s remaining forest coverage, it was devastating to see the hills and mountains, literally stripped bare by Matthew’s winds. At the time, with images coming slowly and rarely, I could only imagine what Anse d’Hainault at the tip of the island might look like in the aftermath. I couldn’t bear to imagine what happened to the people of Dame Marie and their simple and beautiful life.

Nothing was the same in the region. That is, nothing except for the people. Esther’s aunt was excited to see us, yet slightly upset that we surprised her, because she didn’t have a chance to prepare a meal for us. She gently scolded her niece for not calling her in advance (although telephone lines were mostly cut off). Esther’s godparents were still the king and queen of hospitality and, despite the devastation, her godfather still wore his usual smile that you can be sure he’s had on his face since childhood. His wife insisted on preparing a goat for us, despite having lost several goats and their garden in the storm and despite the fact that we had brought our own provisions. 

When visiting pastors in Pichon last week, the pastors, who had advance notice of our coming, would already have fresh coconuts ready for us to drink or something else for us to “taste” as we walked along the road. We would look to the few trees that were left standing to see if we could figure out where these gifts were coming from, but we found no sign that there was more to come. We were being offered their best. Their last. Their all. And they refused to be denied the opportunity to be hospitable. Wherever we went, there was a sadness in the air, but over and over we were awestruck by the palpable goodness that remained in the hearts of a people who still wanted to hope. 

That same charity and goodness has all but become a national phenomenon. Many miles away, on the first Sunday morning after the storm, churches in the capital were gathered as their usual custom. Surely, the faithful came with the usual personal desires that they wanted to ask God to fulfill, but that day, they also shared a common heaviness. Together, they lifted the burden of those suffering after the hurricane in prayer. Many also began collecting funds and items to send to the victims in distress. 

In Les Cayes, that same afternoon, our staff met with a group of pastors, all of whom have churches that have sustained damages. As we discussed with them the importance of preaching the gospel by loving acts, together they resolved to see to that the homes of their more vulnerable neighbors are rebuilt, even if it meant that their church buildings were the last to be repaired. We recently met with a group of pastors in Duchity (Pestel, Grand’Anse) who have agreed to do the same. 

Late last week, I participated in a meeting with more than 200 Haitian church leaders in the capital. The purpose was to join together collectively to reach out to the affected areas with short, mid, and long term relief efforts. We had similar conversations with our partners in the capital. All of them excitedly agreed that the primary responsibility for relief must go to the local church. In Belle Anse, church leaders are assessing the damages together, while reflecting on ways to help those who were hit the hardest. Immediately after the storm, some even worked overtime to finish a home that they had begun to build months earlier for a single mother of three. After many months of being stalled by various obstacles, they finished the project in only a few days.

Haiti Relief Update | Hurricane Matthew in Haiti

I could fill pages and pages with the difficulties and hardships that are still yet to come. But I would rather put a final exclamation point on what I have attempted say so far...

Haiti has a lot of good things. The best of all these things are its people. Haiti is gold. The Haitian people themselves are diamonds—hard-pressed but not hardened, and refined by many years of adversity. When they pull together, nothing is impossible to them. 

The local church is full of such gems, and across the country, near to and far from the disaster, they are pulling together. They are helping one another and looking out for the weakest among them. World Relief is privileged to know some of the best of them. They are a light to their communities. World Relief is working closely with these leaders as they help their communities to recover shelters, gardens, livelihoods, and autonomy. But we refuse to let our work to be the basket that covers and hides the goodness and the light of God’s love that is already present. Rather, we are working in such a way to put that light on the lamp-stand, where it belongs, that the world will see their good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:15-16).

The nation is full of people with hearts of servants who are more than ready and more than willing to carry the weight of their vulnerable neighbors. Our job in this time is to help them to find the resources that match the largeness of their hearts and to equip them with skills and knowledge to build back better. Our mission is to help them to accomplish their mission.

That has always been our mission, and it will never change. We empower the church. They seek out the least, the last, and the lost among them, and together we make a world of a difference.

If you have already donated, please consider a second donation to Haiti’s hurricane relief efforts, or a general donation to World Relief’s other work around the world. Also, we invite you to share a link to this page with your friends and family.

UPDATE: Relief for Haiti

Since Monday, when Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti, we've been getting reports from our staff and local partners in the country. The situation grows worse by the day. Please consider taking action and donating today.

Haitian officials are reporting that at least 400 people have died, and the death toll is likely to continue rising. The UN Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs is also reporting that 350,000 residents are in need of immediate aid.

Because of our longstanding relationship with churches throughout Haiti, World Relief has a built-in system to deliver that aid, one that empowers local leaders in Haiti to lead their own relief efforts.

As the death toll continues to climb and reports of widespread damage and destruction pour in, now is the time to act.

For the sake of the men, women, and children of Haiti, please donate today.

How To Actually Welcome Refugees

World Relief Atlanta Office Director Joshua Sieweke welcomes Malik, a 9-year old Syrian refugee, at Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

World Relief Atlanta Office Director Joshua Sieweke welcomes Malik, a 9-year old Syrian refugee, at Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

For almost 40 years, World Relief has been proud to resettle over 270,000 refugees from across the world here to the United States. On average, our offices resettle 650 refugees each month.

Next month we are projecting that World Relief’s local offices will resettle 1,350 refugees.

That means that in October, we’ll be resettling over TWICE as many refugees as normal. The challenge ahead for our local office staff and volunteers in the next month is nothing short of monumental. Which means we’re doing all we can in the next week to make sure local offices have everything they need.


We know that when we welcome refugees to the United States, the lives and futures of refugees are—quite literally—changed forever.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your help.

Donate to World Relief by September 30 to help support the work of resettling refugees in the month of October.


This week, I was invited to attend President Obama’s Leaders’ Summit on Refugees. It was an invitation I felt humbled and grateful to accept, knowing that my attendance represented the tireless work of thousands of World Relief staff and volunteers for almost 40 years. And as I sat at the UN, surrounded by dozens of leaders from over 30 different countries, I was struck by a simple thought...

Without the dedicated efforts of the thousands of staff and volunteers from World Relief and other resettlement agencies, the commitment of these world leaders to refugees would go unfulfilled.

Without our local staff and volunteers, refugees would arrive at airports—often scared and confused—with no one to greet or guide them. But instead, small groups of smiling faces welcome them onto U.S. soil.

Just last month, staff and volunteers welcomed Hashim, Mariam and their two children to Atlanta’s international airport. Having fled their home in war-torn Syria, Hashim and Mariam arrived to the United States longing for safety, stability, and the promise of brighter future for their two children, Malik (9 years old) and Muna (18 months old). As Malik reached up to shake hands with World Relief Atlanta’s Office Director Joshua Sieweke, Josh leaned down and said, “Welcome to America. We’re so glad you’re here.” (pictured above)

We believe that compassion and security are not mutually exclusive. We can honor both. We know that after being displaced from their homes, refugees are vetted by multiple agencies, including the UN and U.S. Department of State, for up to two years. So when refugee families arrive, it is our great privilege to welcome them here.

We don’t just say refugees are welcome, we make sure they actually are welcomed, and feel welcomed.

In the next seven days, you have the opportunity to help us welcome refugees during one of our busiest months to date. If for any reason you’ve been waiting to become a part of the solution, now is your moment.

Since my time at the UN, I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of attention refugees have been receiving in the news. At times I’ve felt discouraged, as voices of fear have tried to convince us that refugees should be seen only as a threat. But other times I’ve been profoundly encouraged, as voices of compassion and hope have risen up. These voices have reminded us that not only is it a moral and Scriptural imperative that we welcome refugees, but also that refugees have the potential to contribute to and enrich our country in countless ways. It’s simply unthinkable that we wouldn't welcome refugees.

Through all of the events of the past week, I’ve sensed that God is clearly at work, moving people in new ways to care for refugees.

I invite you—even as you read this email—to stop for a moment and prayerfully consider if God might be moving in you too.

If so, there’s never been a better, more effective time for you to give than there is between now and September 30.

Give today to ensure that we do all that we can to rise to the challenge of wholeheartedly welcoming refugees.  

For the sake of the refugees and the displaced,

Scott Arbeiter
President, World Relief


How Do We Help Our Kids Stand with the Vulnerable?

At World Relief, it’s in our DNA to stand with the vulnerable. With school back in session and all of the dynamics that come along with this season, how do we teach our kids to stand with the vulnerable?

This week, as many children in America start a new school year, I can’t help but think of the thousands of immigrant and refugee children starting the academic year at a new school, in a new country, learning a new language and adjusting to a new culture with the hopes of making new friends.

These kids may be scared, excited, happy, sad or—at times—all of the above. But, like all kids, they mostly want to feel included and welcomed in their new environment.

As a parent myself, the start of the school year always proves to be chaotic as we go from a free-for-all summer, to trying to assemble some sort of routine that will carry us through the day—from the morning mayhem to the afternoon witching hours of homework, hungry bellies, and dinner—before doing it all over again in Groundhog Day-like fashion.

As caregivers, we want the kids in our lives to do their best in school. We also want to raise children who help the world be a better place. And as engaged parents, even during this chaotic season, we can do this. We can envision our children to help those around them who may be vulnerable, so that their school is an environment where they and their peers can experience hope, confidence, possibility, growth and opportunity.

At World Relief, we talk a lot about standing with the vulnerable. In kid language, I would define a vulnerable person at school as someone that is being picked on or left out.

Amidst the chaos of a new school year, how do we help our kids think bigger than themselves as we try to raise global citizens? We pause the whirlwind—if only for a brief moment—to circle the wagons over dinner or pre-bedtime routines, to engage in intentional conversations with our kids. We help them understand how to identify a peer that may be vulnerable, and ask them if they’ve noticed anyone in their classroom or school who seemed vulnerable today. We ask how they can help make their classroom or school an environment where they and their peers can experience hope, confidence, possibility, growth and opportunity.

We know life is busy. So to help, we’ve created a free, downloadable, ready-to-print coloring page that we hope serves as a conversation starter for you and your kids. Together, we can help our kids not only be more aware and welcoming to the thousands of kids new to school in America, but also have the courage to stand with anyone who is vulnerable by simply being kind to them.

Who knows? Maybe plopping a few coloring pages and crayons on the table before dinner will help turn the after-school chaos into a meaningful evening, if only for a few moments.

I’m going to try this at our dinner table tonight.*

*Provided there isn’t too much homework.

In Remembrance of Alan Kurdi

[WARNING: The blog post below contains images that some readers may find disturbing.]

Alan Kurdi died one year ago today.

On September 2, 2015, three year old Alan’s lifeless body washed up on a beach in Turkey. The photo of Alan appeared on the homepage of just about every media outlet in the Western world. And perhaps for many, that day marked the first time we collectively mourned the senseless loss of a Syrian refugee’s life.

But, is the option any better for those who choose not to flee, who make the difficult decision to stay in their homes?

Just two weeks ago, the world was stunned as the photo of young Omran Daqneesh showed up on our computer and phone screens. We were forced to confront again that the Syrian civil war— and the refugee crisis in the Middle East—is far from over.

Photos courtesy European Pressphoto Agency

Photos courtesy European Pressphoto Agency


For Syrian families, it seems there are no good options. If you flee, your child’s life is at risk. If you stay, the bombs continuously move closer until one day they drop on your family.

Above all else, we continue to mourn Alan Kurdi on the anniversary of his death. We mourn for Omran,his family, and for the loss of Omran’s older brother, Ali.  

As we mourn, we also double down on our commitment to stand with the vulnerable, in Syria and throughout the Middle East. Since there is often no good choice for these vulnerable families, World Relief has chosen to stand with those who stay, and those who flee. We’re providing immediate aid, resettlement assistance, long-term economic development, and advocacy on behalf of those affected by war and violence.

We’re tired of seeing pictures that break our hearts. We know you are too. But we must continue to let our hearts be broken and be moved to act, until the day that pictures like Alan’s and Omran’s no longer appear on our screens.