CARIBBEAN SEA (NNS) — For most of the crew of amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), the humanitarian mission to Haiti means a chance to help a foreign country in need following a natural disaster. But for some, it means helping their homeland.
“I was born in Port au Prince, the capital of Haiti, in 1993,” said Seaman Dashiva Francois. “I left Haiti in 2004, leaving a large amount of family behind in Jeremie, which is off the west coastline of Haiti.”
Francois is one of six Iwo Jima Sailors born in Haiti. The coastal city of Jeremie, where his family is from, was one that felt the full effects of Hurricane Matthew with reports of more than 500 people killed in the storm and resulting floods.
“Haiti is in a very strange spot on the map; it’s right in the middle of the tropics, so almost anything that would happen like hurricanes and earthquakes will always hit Haiti,” said Francois. “Haitians are very strong, and the people there have persevered through a lot of tough times, making them stronger as a people.”
Jeremie has been a main destination for U.S. and international aid since the hurricane struck last week.
The Haitian-American Sailors stationed aboard Iwo Jima come from many parts of Haiti.
“This affects me tremendously because it is the country I was born in and grew up in,” said Chief Petty Officer Jean Oscar, who grew up in Saint Marc, 90 miles north of Port au Prince. “Not knowing what was happening during the disaster or how my family was doing, and not knowing if they were being affected by the hurricane was very difficult.”
Oscar has since been able to communicate with his family.
“I have been in contact with my cousin and talk with him on an almost daily basis to keep me informed on what’s going on out there,” said Oscar.
As a chief petty officer in Iwo Jima’s supply department, Oscar is playing a vital part in the humanitarian efforts for his home nation. Supplying the affected populations with clean drinking water helps prevent the spread of cholera and ultimately saves lives.
“I feel it is a great opportunity to be able to help provide relief to all the people out there, and I am very grateful to have this opportunity,” said Oscar. “I am very thankful to the Department of the Defense to actually go out there and to provide the relief and support which is much needed, like the support of clean water which is needed to survive. It means a lot to me.”
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is the lead U.S. government agency for foreign disaster assistance and is working with Joint Task Force-Matthew to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to the people of Haiti following Hurricane Matthew at the request of the Haitian government.