HALES CORNERS, Wis. - Haiti is reeling after a deadly 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck Saturday, Aug. 14. The death toll has climbed to around 1,300 people. A Hales Corners church is working to help on the heels of tragedy.
"It was almost incomprehensible," said Pam Lownik.
"I actually started to cry because I have walked those streets. I’ve been with these families," said Lisa Ryan.
The devastating images coming out of Haiti have touched members of St. Mary’s Catholic Faith Community in Hales Corners. For two decades, the parish has helped a small village near the city of Jeremie.
"Everything that we have done in Haiti has always been a partnership with the people," said Ryan.
Their sister parish community was hit hard; the church and community center crumbling. Buildings like the medical clinic and rectory were reduced to rubble.
"My heart was really, really affected by it," said Ryan. "It is more than just the buildings going down."
"On the ground right now, we are evaluating what resources we do have and what has been destroyed," said Lownik.
Ryan, Lownik and others who have volunteered in Haiti are working to find ways to help those greatly impacted. The church has set up a relief fund.
"Medical, food and clean water is our first line of hopefully helping," they said.
To complicate this crisis, a tropical depression is forecast to soon hit Haiti.
"There is no protection from the elements," said Lownik.
"I know we can rebuild. I’m not concerned about that," said Ryan. "At this point, I’m more concerned about, we are going to help them with the devastation, the floods coming and the severe weather."
President Joe Biden has authorized a U.S. response team to support search and recovery efforts and damage assessment in Haiti.