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Tearful farewell for Filipino pastor caught up in Haiti whirlwind

10-03-2004 Feature

Getting the sick and wounded safely to hospital, and ensuring care for them – these were the ICRC's main concerns in Haiti during the violence at the end of February. But as always in such chaotic situations, there are also special cases to be dealt with. Roland Sidler reports.


The Henadas are evacuated on a joint ICRC-Haitian Red Cross convoy.ICRC/ref: ht-e-00006 
As they climbed aboard the ICRC Landcruiser, pastor Juanito Henada and his family felt relieved but sad. Almost ten years ago Juanito had left his native Philippines to work with a Baptist church at Gonaïves in northern Haiti. His wife Rose, mother of three children aged between six and 13, looked after a group of young Haitians, giving them an elementary education.
In mid-February the ICRC was approached by the Portuguese embassy in Haiti – representing Philippine interests in the country – with a request to deliver a letter to the Henada family. The letter urged the Henada family to leave Gonaïves, where the situation had become dangerous because of the fighting that had flared in the region since the end of 2003.
After getting the necessary authorizations and security guarantees from all sides involved in the fighting, the Henadas were evacuated on a joint ICRC-Haitian Red Cross convoy that had just delivered 340 cartons of medicines, first aid kits and cooking utensils to local Red Cross branches. The vehicles had no problems passing through the front lines on their way back to the capital, Port-au-Prince, which, paradoxically, was now the theatre of rioting and other violence.
It was not an easy decision for Juanito and Rose to leave their adopted home. They left behind them a dozen young Haitians who, with nothing to do, had gone to seek shelter at the Catholic mission. Looking slightly lost, they had gathered to wave goodbye to the Henadas.
" I don't understand, " said one of them, " they shouldn't have to leave because of security problems. Their place is here, with us and the 300 other members of the church. I hope they'll be back soon, " he added, tears welling in his eyes – a feeling of loss and disillusion shared by many other Haitians during these turbulent times.  

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