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‘They needed help before the quake’

His trip to Haiti wasn’t Jon Kilgore’s first mission trip – nor does he intend for it to he his last – but he acknowledges the conditions he saw in Haiti were far worse than anything he has ever seen.
“To see the people starving for food is unreal. It’s heartbreaking,” he said of the residents of Cite Soleil, a highly impoverished community in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. “This was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
“The whole time we were there, people were coming up to us asking for money and food … Even before the earthquake they were starving. The Haitian people needed help before the earthquake and now the help they need is catastrophic. It’s so overwhelming,” he said.
But what may have made the situation even harder to bear was not being able to help the people regardless how much they asked.
Kilgore said the mission leader advised them when they arrived not to give money to the local people “regardless how bad we wanted to.” He explained that giving money or food to one person usually causes a large crowd to form. If there isn’t enough food or money to go around, problems can develop.
The missionaries may not have been able to give the Haitians food or money, but they were able to help the community by making repairs to eight of the homes. In most cases they replaced roofs and flooring, but in at least once instance they constructed an addition onto a home to give the family of eight living in the tiny residence a little more room.
But the houses in Port-au-Prince and Cite Soleil are not what most of us would picture when we hear the word “house.”
Many of the homes depicted in Kilgore’s photos look more like cinderblock structures that have seen their day and are falling down.
The houses are built with cinderblocks and cement, and are protected from the elements by “very thin tin” roofs. Kilgore said it is evident by looking at them that they aren’t very stable. He expects many of the homes the group worked on are piles of rubble following the 7-magnitude earthquake that hit the country Jan. 12.
Since the people don’t have the kinds of tools needed for construction, he pointed out that they use hammers to chip away pieces of the cinderblocks in order to form the slant needed to give the roof enough pitch for the rain to drain off. Two-by-four pieces of lumber are then attached to the tops of the cinderblock walls and the tin is attached to the lumber.
Although the gap between the roof and walls is left open to the elements, it’s of little consequence because, in most cases, the windows and doors are simply empty holes anyway.
The residents of Cite Soleil, cannot afford to plug the holes with windows and doors, much less afford better accommodations because they have no jobs. Kilgore said their only source of income is to sell items such as water or candy in front of their houses or on the streets.
Asked how he thinks the trip impacted his life, he said, “This trip has made me realize the little things in life.” He said he went to a movie Sunday night, but he had a hard time enjoying it because he kept thinking about the Haitian people.
“I thought of the fact that thousands of the Haitians have never even seen a movie, much less been to a movie theater,” he said.
He said he thinks the trip has made him a better person and will teach him to “notice the little things in life more. … It has changed me, I will devote more time in missions because of this, and I want to help make a change in our world.”
But despite the fact much of the trip pulled at his heart- strings, there were some other lighter parts of the trip he recalled:
Soccer
Kilgore said “one of the greatest things” they had the opportunity to do while in Cite Soleil was play soccer (known as football in Haiti) with a group of Haitian teenagers and young adults.
“That was a blast,” he said. “The first game was Americans and Haitians equally dispersed on each team. The second game was Haitians versus Americans and they “blew us away. They were very good.”
Haiti has a national soccer team and a rather nice stadium that seems somewhat out of place, tucked in among the mass of dilapidated buildings in Port-au-Prince.
Transportation
Kilgore said “the roads are terrible” in Haiti. During their approximately three-hour 30-mile trip from Port-au-Prince to Cange, “I don’t think we ever got over 10 miles per hour the whole trip.” He explained that it appears the roads were paved at one time, but they now consist of bits of pavement and dirt.
While they were in Port-au-Prince and Cite Soleil, he said they rode in vehicles called “tap taps,” that consist of a truck with a camper top and benches on each side of the truck bed.
“Twelve people could fit in the back of it, well, not really,” he said with a laugh. “Twelve Haitians could fit in the back of it if they crammed themselves in.”
He noted that a section of each bench actually extended beyond the back of the truck. That, unfortunately, became his seat because he was so tall his head would hit the camper top if he sat inside the bed area.
“It’s kind of crazy. You have to hold on because it’s so bumpy you can fall out.”
Even when they left from Cange for the Dominican Republic to catch a flight home, there were 12 people packed in a Land Rover for about three hours. Even though it was one of the most miserable rides he has ever taken, he said he wouldn’t trade the transportation experiences he had in Haiti because it gave him a true sense of how the Haitian people travel on a daily basis.
Dominican Republic
Once you get across the border from Haiti to Dominican Republic, “it’s like a whole new world. There are trees again and there’s grass.” The roads are so nicely paved, he added, that “I thought they were better than the roads here in Virginia.”
He said he hopes the earthquake will serve to improve the relationship between Haitians and Dominicans. He said it was obvious Dominicans have a disdain for Haitians. After they crossed the border, the Dominicans were stopping their vehicles repeatedly for the first hour to check passports. However, they were only checking the passports of the Haitians.
“You could tell the way they were acting that they really don’t like the Haitians. That was three days after the earthquake and they still acted that way towards them.”

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‘They needed help before the quake’

His trip to Haiti wasn’t Jon Kilgore’s first mission trip – nor does he intend for it to he his last – but he acknowledges the conditions he saw in Haiti were far worse than anything he has ever seen.
“To see the people starving for food is unreal. It’s heartbreaking,” he said of the residents of Cite Soleil, a highly impoverished community in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. “This was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
“The whole time we were there, people were coming up to us asking for money and food … Even before the earthquake they were starving. The Haitian people needed help before the earthquake and now the help they need is catastrophic. It’s so overwhelming,” he said.
But what may have made the situation even harder to bear was not being able to help the people regardless how much they asked.
Kilgore said the mission leader advised them when they arrived not to give money to the local people “regardless how bad we wanted to.” He explained that giving money or food to one person usually causes a large crowd to form. If there isn’t enough food or money to go around, problems can develop.
The missionaries may not have been able to give the Haitians food or money, but they were able to help the community by making repairs to eight of the homes. In most cases they replaced roofs and flooring, but in at least once instance they constructed an addition onto a home to give the family of eight living in the tiny residence a little more room.
But the houses in Port-au-Prince and Cite Soleil are not what most of us would picture when we hear the word “house.”
Many of the homes depicted in Kilgore’s photos look more like cinderblock structures that have seen their day and are falling down.
The houses are built with cinderblocks and cement, and are protected from the elements by “very thin tin” roofs. Kilgore said it is evident by looking at them that they aren’t very stable. He expects many of the homes the group worked on are piles of rubble following the 7-magnitude earthquake that hit the country Jan. 12.
Since the people don’t have the kinds of tools needed for construction, he pointed out that they use hammers to chip away pieces of the cinderblocks in order to form the slant needed to give the roof enough pitch for the rain to drain off. Two-by-four pieces of lumber are then attached to the tops of the cinderblock walls and the tin is attached to the lumber.
Although the gap between the roof and walls is left open to the elements, it’s of little consequence because, in most cases, the windows and doors are simply empty holes anyway.
The residents of Cite Soleil, cannot afford to plug the holes with windows and doors, much less afford better accommodations because they have no jobs. Kilgore said their only source of income is to sell items such as water or candy in front of their houses or on the streets.
Asked how he thinks the trip impacted his life, he said, “This trip has made me realize the little things in life.” He said he went to a movie Sunday night, but he had a hard time enjoying it because he kept thinking about the Haitian people.
“I thought of the fact that thousands of the Haitians have never even seen a movie, much less been to a movie theater,” he said.
He said he thinks the trip has made him a better person and will teach him to “notice the little things in life more. … It has changed me, I will devote more time in missions because of this, and I want to help make a change in our world.”
But despite the fact much of the trip pulled at his heart- strings, there were some other lighter parts of the trip he recalled:
Soccer
Kilgore said “one of the greatest things” they had the opportunity to do while in Cite Soleil was play soccer (known as football in Haiti) with a group of Haitian teenagers and young adults.
“That was a blast,” he said. “The first game was Americans and Haitians equally dispersed on each team. The second game was Haitians versus Americans and they “blew us away. They were very good.”
Haiti has a national soccer team and a rather nice stadium that seems somewhat out of place, tucked in among the mass of dilapidated buildings in Port-au-Prince.
Transportation
Kilgore said “the roads are terrible” in Haiti. During their approximately three-hour 30-mile trip from Port-au-Prince to Cange, “I don’t think we ever got over 10 miles per hour the whole trip.” He explained that it appears the roads were paved at one time, but they now consist of bits of pavement and dirt.
While they were in Port-au-Prince and Cite Soleil, he said they rode in vehicles called “tap taps,” that consist of a truck with a camper top and benches on each side of the truck bed.
“Twelve people could fit in the back of it, well, not really,” he said with a laugh. “Twelve Haitians could fit in the back of it if they crammed themselves in.”
He noted that a section of each bench actually extended beyond the back of the truck. That, unfortunately, became his seat because he was so tall his head would hit the camper top if he sat inside the bed area.
“It’s kind of crazy. You have to hold on because it’s so bumpy you can fall out.”
Even when they left from Cange for the Dominican Republic to catch a flight home, there were 12 people packed in a Land Rover for about three hours. Even though it was one of the most miserable rides he has ever taken, he said he wouldn’t trade the transportation experiences he had in Haiti because it gave him a true sense of how the Haitian people travel on a daily basis.
Dominican Republic
Once you get across the border from Haiti to Dominican Republic, “it’s like a whole new world. There are trees again and there’s grass.” The roads are so nicely paved, he added, that “I thought they were better than the roads here in Virginia.”
He said he hopes the earthquake will serve to improve the relationship between Haitians and Dominicans. He said it was obvious Dominicans have a disdain for Haitians. After they crossed the border, the Dominicans were stopping their vehicles repeatedly for the first hour to check passports. However, they were only checking the passports of the Haitians.
“You could tell the way they were acting that they really don’t like the Haitians. That was three days after the earthquake and they still acted that way towards them.”

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