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US Churches Collecting Aid for Haiti

The church in Burke, Virginia works with a charitable organization to provide food and build water wells, schools and homes in Haiti

Churches in the United States are collecting relief aid for Haiti. Many of them waited until the aid could be brought into the country. VOA visted one church outside of Washington that is taking donations of food, water and medical supplies.

For parishioners at the Catholic Church of the Nativity in Burke, Virginia, there's a special place in their hearts for the Haitian people.

Parishioner Gisela Harkin is donating food. She says it's hard for her to watch the devastation in Haiti on television. "I can't even watch it because I start crying. Even when I talk about it I get tears in my eyes, and so I just have to do something," she expressed.

For the past 12 years, parishioners have donated money to a church program called Operation Starfish. The church works with a charitable organization called Food for the Poor to build water wells, schools and homes in Haiti. Food for the Poor is the largest charitable organization in the United States that is active in Haiti.

The projects include 27 homes in Port-au-Prince. Jim McDaniel, coordinator for Operation Starfish, says the homes collapsed during the earthquake, killing everyone. "And so we are actually going through a mourning process, a grief process here at Nativity and there's an overwhelming sadness," he said.

More than 100 church parishioners, including Mary Donahue, have gone to Haiti on mission trips. "And having been there and worked with the people, it's especially heart wrenching," she said.

McDaniel says many devastated areas of Haiti haven't received any aid because roads are blocked by rubble. He says the church is collecting aid for distribution by Food for the Poor which can get into remote areas. "Toothpaste and toothbrushes and toiletries," he said. "We have medicine, we have antibiotics, which are very important right now."

Janice Booker is donating a variety of goods. She says her heart goes out to the children of Haiti. "I think of the children who are lost who don't have parents," Booker said. "It's very sad."

Some parishioners say they hope to go to Haiti soon to help people rebuild their lives. Meanwhile, they say, they hope their donations will help make some people's lives a little easier.