Father and son to go to Haiti for hurricane relief
CHURCH CREEK — Tom Schuyler of Woolford and Steven Schuyler of Church Creek, Tom’s son, traveled to Haiti on Tuesday, Nov. 8, but it was not to avoid Election Day.
Once in Haiti, the duo will be performing humanitarian work, helping to provide relief for those affected by Hurricane Matthew. This will be Steven’s first time outside the United States and Tom’s 13th aid trip to Haiti.
“I mainly go for missionary and humanitarian reasons. This is more humanitarian. It just depends on if the need is there,” Tom said. “Many of their crops were destroyed, so there will be (a need for) food, clothing and whatever else we can do. If we have time, which we probably won’t, we will try to help them get some shelter beyond what they already have.”
Tom began his aid missions in 1998, and once even took his wife, Lisa, along on a trip. During the upcoming trip, he and his son will be traveling to Les Cayes, a town with a population of more than 86,500 people, they said.
Tom and his church congregation at the Greater Works Christian Assembly in Cambridge currently support two orphanages through the Life for Haiti Foundation, with a total of about 110
orphans in both facilities. Tom is one of two pastors at the church and has been ministering there for the past 20 years.
Once in Haiti, Tom and Steven hope to help repair a structure that once served as a church and community building for local residents, which was completely destroyed during Hurricane Matthew. Residents’ homes and the town’s water storage system also were damaged during the storm, Tom said.
The eye of Hurricane Matthew was about 35 miles away from Les Cayes, Tom said, and while the area had some flooding, structures mostly experienced severe wind damage. He said there also have been troubles with cholera outbreaks. According to a recent article by Nick Miroff of The
Washington Post, the storm-hit areas have reported at least 3,500 suspected cholera cases in recent weeks. To protect themselves from cholera, Tom and Steven said they will be bringing their own food and buying bottled water when they arrive.
Tom is the environmental services manager at Integrace Bayleigh Chase in Easton, and Steven is the maintenance director at Heartfields Assisted Living in Easton.
“A lot of the other times, I haven’t really had the availability to go, but Heartfields actually gave me the approval to have the time off,” Steven said.
Steven said his role will be to help his father speed the process of reconstruction along, since he has experience with construction work, as well as with electricity and HVAC systems.
Tom said his main focus is to help rebuild the community structure, which could serve as shelter for homeless families in the area. Since communication with those inside the country has been spotty to nonexistent, he said it is impossible to know the extent of the damage, including the extent of those displaced by the hurricane, until he and his son get there. Tom said if hotels are uninhabitable, he and Steven will be sleeping in a tent they are bringing along for the trip.
“Given the scope of this particular trip, not knowing, because the bridges and roads are out to Les Cayes, and not knowing what we can purchase and bring down there,” Tom said. “My sources on the ground say we can purchase supplies in Port Au Prince, which is about four hours away from Les Cayes.”
Tom said the four-hour trip is unlike a four-hour trip in the U.S., because of poor road conditions and storm damage throughout Haiti. He said the trip could take most of a day and supplies often are scattered in different locations.
“Things are a lot different in Haiti. Things are a lot slower. Its very specialized and you may have to go 10 miles one way to get the tin and 10 miles in another way to get the nails,” Schuyler said. “Everything is very slow there in the process of getting it pulled together.”
For their upcoming trip, Tom said he has raised mostly cash to carry in to purchase items in Port Au Prince, since airlines are restrictive about what they can take into the countr y. He said they will be taking in some basic medical supplies, such as Tylenol and bandages, but upon arrival in Port Au Prince, they plan on buying the food and shelter supplies they need, and taking them with them to Les Cayes.
So far, Tom and his son have raised $2,500 for the trip, with travel expenses paid from their own pockets, they said. To raise more money for supplies when they get to Haiti, Tom and Steven recently held a bake sale in Salisbury at Sam’s Club, and Steven’s wife, Crystal Schuyler’s company, Choptank Transport in Preston, recently held a 50/50 raffle. The Schuyler’s also have a GoFundMe page titled the “Haiti Hurricane Matthew Relief Fund,” and so far, they have received $50 out of their $5,000 goal.
“They have no government funding or anything to help them, so whatever we and the Red Cross can do is all they really have,” Tom said.
From reports Tom has, the Red Cross still is on the ground in Haiti for the hurricane relief effort, but he is unsure to what extent.
The Schuylers’ eventual goal, they said, is to construct an orphanage in the town, but to do so, they will need to have a water well constructed, which is costly at around $50,000 to $75,000, Tom said. Tom said anything left over from their upcoming trip,will go toward the construction of the well in Les Cayes, which will help support the future orphanage.
Tom said the church and the Life for Haiti Foundation do not have a timeline for when the well or the orphanage will begin construction, because immediate needs outweigh future goals. He, Steven and other Life for Haiti volunteers will work on rebuilding the community building, which also acts as a local school and church, as well.
“It’s a very poor country, and we’d like to help them all, but we have to focus the money into small areas,” Tom said. “That little bit helps a lot, or we can give a lot and help a few.”
For more information about the Life for Haiti Foundation, visit www.lifeforhaitifoundation.org. To donate, visit the GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/haitihurricane-matthew-reliefwww.gofundme.com/haitihurricane-matthew-relief-fund2uxa3fw.
From left are Steven Schuyler of Church Creek and Tom Schuyler of Woolford. The father-son duo traveled to Haiti on Nov. 8 to help with restoration efforts following Hurricane Matthew.
Tom Schuyler is pictured at a construction site in Fond Bleu in Haiti.
Lisa Schuyler of Woolford, left, is pictured holding an 18-month old orphan, surrounded by orphans playing with punching balls, which were sent into Haiti by donors. Lisa and her husband, Tom Schuyler traveled to Haiti two years ago to provide humanitarian work in the country.
Lisa Schuyler, left, is pictured with the founder of the Life for Haiti Foundation, Pastor Jean Claude Sylvain.
Tom Schuyler, center, is pictured with orphans in Fond Bleu in Haiti.
Tom Schuyler, right, is pictured giving out donated candy to orphan school children in Haiti.