PLUM COULEE, Man.—A shipping container of relief kits, comforters and other supplies to assist people in Haiti left Mennonite Central Committee Canada’s warehouse in this small Southern Manitoba town in early March.
The tightly-packed load contained 1,092 relief kits, 104 bales of comforters, three bales of flat sheets, close to 2,000 water bottles, a generator, 20 walkers and 208 pairs of crutches.
Jason Neufeld, one of the volunteers, said he had prayed silently for recipients of the supplies while loading the container.
“What pulled my strings was seeing the small crutches going into the container,” said Neufeld, a father of four birth children and three foster children. “It was a reminder that children are affected by this tragedy.”
Betty Kasdorf, MCC’s Food, Disaster and Material Resource program manager was part of a six-member assessment team that visited Haiti in early March to assess how MCC can assist Haitians with rebuilding their country.
During this visit she met some of the people who had lost their homes and livelihoods and are now living in communities for internally displaced people.
“Housing is a critical need,” she said. “The rain has started and people are still living in tents and temporary shelter.”
The container loaded in Plum Coulee is part of MCC’s emergency assistance of 25,000 heavy comforters and blankets, 10,000 flat sheets and 20,000 relief kits—plastic pails filled with towels, soap, shampoo and other hygienic supplies.
A number of MCC containers have already been shipped from warehouses in Pennsylvania and Ontario. Donated material resources from across the country typically flow to central MCC warehouses where containers are packed and sent overseas. The facility in Plum Coulee is MCC’s central warehouse in Canada.
MCC’s material resources are being distributed by MCC partner organizations in nine internally displaced communities that are already receiving food aid and other emergency assistance and to the most vulnerable people in other communities.
“These supplies are definitely needed,” said Kasdorf, explaining people have lost all their possessions and without jobs they don’t have money to buy basic household goods.
The comforters, she said, can be used as blankets or mattresses, the flat sheets as mattress covers or blankets and the plastic pails as water containers in “bucket bath” showers—showers that have woven bamboo privacy panels provided through MCC.
“I can’t imagine what it would be like if your house was totally destroyed—it would be very hard,” said John Martens, owner of John Martens Construction and Concrete based in the nearby town of Grunthal, as he helped load the shipping container in Plum Coulee.
He and his crew of three employees were pouring a concrete floor in Plum Coulee and took time off from this project to help load the shipping container.
Martens said he had loaded containers before and is familiar with the work of MCC through his involvement as chair of MCC’s meat canning committee in Manitoba.
“This time I’m brought my crew as well,” he said, explaining he wanted to give his employees the opportunity to help people in Haiti through the work of MCC.
“When the Lord presents an opportunity for us to help other people, we should step up to the plate and do our part,” he said. “The small things that we do here can have a big impact in the lives of others.”
Shipments of material resources will be ongoing as MCC plans the next steps in its multi-year response.