Haiti Appeals for Help
Last year we may recall having heard of the 400 Mawazo gang who abducted 17 missionaries from a tourist bus. Eventually, after about 4 months in captivity, the missionaries were all freed. Although this was a good outcome given the circumstances, it did shine a spot-light on the power of Haiti’s gangs. They affect every aspect of Haitian life. Just in May of this year, UNICEF warned that half a million children had lost access to education following the closure of 1,700 schools in the capital and surrounding areas due to gang shoot-outs. Even though this does not get much news coverage, the situation has only worsened.
Time and time again, these gangs have continued to terrorize residents by burning their homes, stealing their belongings, and even killing many innocent civilians. According to a report by the UN, Haitian gangs have even started using sexual violence including against young children and the elderly to instill fear, punish, subjugate, and inflict pain on local populations. Gunfire has turned to be a daily occurrence. Just this Saturday October 22, 2022, violent armed clashes took place in Croix-des-Bouquets, the village known for its Haitian steel drum art, the city where many of our artist friends live. Our artists, their families, and their communities are all being affected by this senseless fighting between the Torcel gang commanded by “Vitelom” and the 400 Mawazo gang commanded by Wilson Joseph. Formerly, these two gangs were allies, but now they are in a violent and bloody conflict over territory. They are responsible for having killed over a dozen people since Saturday and our artist friends have not been immune to this. Here are some of the heartbreaking messages I received from them this weekend:
“Bandits entered my house yesterday, they were beating my dad but when my mom asked to beat her instead because my dad is sick, then they stopped beating him. They were asking him for money, they entered and took my phone, my laptop and 650US under the laptop. They took my dad out and asked him to lead them to John Remy house, mom kept following them and was asking for mercy. When my dad was telling he doesn’t know John Remy house, they beated him in the street and God touched their heart and released him. When it comes to me, I sat down on the inside stairs, I opened the door and jumped down the roof. I fell on the ground and there was one who came and pointed at me and told if I ran he would shoot me, I made a grave mistake I still ran away but thanks to God, the guy did not really shoot me. He let me run. Your friend nearly lost his life yesterday and the whole family, Luckily God held back the hand of that guy when I jumped down my house roof.”
“While Mawozo and Vitelom were fighting together, Wilson lost a big brother named Isaac. He was on his bike on the way home from buying some bread, Mawozo guys wanted to stop him, he refused and ran but they shot him in the head.”
“Bandits with weapons killed 6 people in the artisan village, we have to leave our homes.”
“We have been facing some trouble in the area that will affect the job for certain days… many of us go to work out of the zone, some of the work are being done currently in Mirebalais.”
It truly is heartbreaking hearing from dear friends and business partners about the struggles they are facing and how it seems no one is coming to their help. How they have to flee their towns and homes. How many of them and their families are being abused and beaten. They have sent video (which you may see on our Instagram page) asking for help, asking, "Where are the authorities? The PNH (Police Nationale d'Haiti)? The Journalists? The UNESCO?". At the time when they need it the most, no one is responding to their pleas for help. So lets try to get the word out to people, the more people that care, the more changes can be made and aid can be sent their way.