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Haitian pastor preparing for second relief trip to homeland

PALMETTO — The Rev. Guy Francois is headed back to Haiti for a second relief effort in the aftermath of the earthquake that devastated his native country.

He hopes Manatee County still cares about the plight of his countrymen.

Francois, the pastor of First Biblical Baptist Church of Palmetto, has begun collecting donations of money and medical supplies for a two-week trip to a clinic the church supports in La Tremblay, northeast of the capital, Port-au-Prince.

He is worried the passage of time and the emergence of other important news stories, primarily the BP oil spill, have made people forget about the needs of Haitians.

Francois appealed to local doctors and nurses in the hopes of recruiting medical help for his trip, which begins July 16.

But he found no takers.

“I don’t know the reason why,” Francois said.

“At the beginning, everybody was alert, but now things seem to be shifting in a different direction. The problem is still there, and I feel it is my responsibility to go back.”

The Haitian government has estimated more than 300,000 people died in the 7.0-magnitude earthquake Jan. 12.

An estimated 1.5 million people were displaced.

Francois, the pastor of the county’s oldest Haitian church, moved to Manatee County from Haiti in 1990.

He said his wife’s cousin died in the earthquake and several of his parishioners lost loved ones.

He is seeking $5,000 to pay for the trip for five people and hopes that any extra money can go to hire Haitian nurses to work at the clinic.

The group also is collecting medical supplies such as bandages, Tylenol, vitamin C, antibiotics, alcohol and Benadryl and will send a shipment to Haiti through Agape Flights of Venice.

Francois said pediatricians and child therapists were in demand during his first visit to Haiti in January.

He said children were having difficulties coping with the disaster. Many of them had nightmares.

“They were seeing their house fall on them,” he said. “They were exposed to dead people. They were traumatized.”

Haiti is in the middle of its rainy season, which makes living conditions much worse for those who lost their homes in the earthquake, Francois said. The high water levels also help spread disease more readily, he said.

How to help

Rev. Guy Francois, of First Biblical Baptist Church of Palmetto, is collecting donations of money and medical supplies for his relief trip to Haiti. Checks may be made out to First Biblical Baptist Church with the phrase “Haiti relief” on the note line. The church’s address is 802 23rd St. E., Palmetto 34221. All donations must be received by July 12.