Mark Stuart of the Christian
rock band Audio Adrenaline was in Haiti when the magnitude 7 earthquake
devastated the Caribbean island nation Jan. 12.
“The whole earth
shook, and it felt like the end of the world,” Stuart told a packed house at
Ventura Missionary Church last week. “Haiti was the world’s worst place to live
before this happened. Now I cannot even describe the hurt, the needs, the
Stuart was in Haiti at
the Hands and Feet Project orphanage in Cyvadier when the quake struck-about 15
miles southwest of the epicenter in Leogane and the same distance from the
epicenter as Port-au-Prince. Stuart’s parents, Drex and Jo Stuart, run Hands
and Feet, and Audio Adrenaline has actively supported and physically assisted
the work, which began six years ago. They care for 44 children in Cyvadier and
32 at a second facility in Leogane.
“We all were very scared,” Mark
Stuart recounted, “but everyone is OK.”
All but two of the
buildings in Leogane were lost. In Cyvadier, no Hands and Feet buildings
collapsed, but the church was damaged and people, including the Stuarts, slept
outside as aftershocks rocked Haiti. “So many of the homes that did not fall
were damaged and people are afraid the go back or just cannot go back because
it is not safe,” Stuart said. (Watch interview with Mark Stuart below.)
After the earthquake,
the worst in the region in 200 years according to National Geographic, Stuart
coordinated immediate relief and aid efforts. The airport at the nearby port
city of Jacmel was closed, and people were sleeping on the runway because it
was away from buildings that might fall.
Working closely with
the mayor of Jacmel, Stuart arranged a series of aid flights, the first being a
private plane dispatched from Santa Barbara, Calif.
Since the quake,
donations have flooded in, and Stuart is moved. Green to Grow has donated
$30,000 worth of baby bottles, which Stuart said were a perfect match for the
formula and powdered milk Hands and Feet already had.
Church in Ventura, Calif., and Calvary Chapel in Las Vegas have hosted
fundraising concerts, and individuals have donated through the Hands and Feet
Project Web site. In addition, a group of schoolchildren in Ventura raised
$1,417 through a cookie sale, and Kids Against Hunger has donated 10,000
Haitian Prime Minister
Jean-Max Bellerive last week announced that at least 200,000 people died in the
earthquake, 4,000 people are now amputees, and 300,000 were injured. There also
has been a growing concern about child trafficking escalating with so many
children losing their parents in the quake.
According to the U.S.
State Department’s 2009 trafficking in persons report, Haiti has no laws
against trafficking. In fact, as reported by Deborah Tedford on National Public
Radio, Haiti has a long-established system of unpaid, forced child labor called
restavek, which is a Creole word meaning “stay with.”
Children in the restavek
system, often orphans, work as household servants for a family with no pay,
often little food and no access to their birth families. Sometimes they are as
young as 5 and usually work until they are 15.
Stuart underscored the
need to be a voice for all the children in Haiti. “Kids are sleeping on the
streets, not knowing if their moms and dads survived. They are injured not
knowing if they will be able to keep their arms and legs,” he said. “But there
It was the 44 children in Cyvadier that gathered
to sing and pray, even though their church building was cracked and not usable.
“It the midst of tragedy, it was the kids who were praising God,” Stuart said.
“Then they started to pray, and they prayed with hope of what God would do for
them and for Haiti. It was so emotional, but so hopeful.”