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Local Haitian natives ask Boro to help victims
Dr. Rose Larolisiere Caesar
   An earthquake destroyed the city of Port-au-Prince in Haiti Tuesday, but the ripple effects of the natural disaster reach all the way to Statesboro, as native Haitians living here wait in worry to learn whether their loved ones survived the quake.
    And, they hope local citizens will find it in their hearts to help the victims in their homeland.
    Bulloch County residents Claudia and Hans Batichon and Dr. Rose Larolisiere Caesar were stunned to learn of the devastating earthquake that toppled schools and shacks, hospitals and homes, the U.N. peacekeeping headquarters and even the Presidential Palace.
    Among the rubble are thousands of victims — and possibly, relatives of the Batichons and Caesar.
    Claudia Batichon, who works as assistant director of compliance for the Georgia Southern University Athletics Department, has aunts and uncles, cousins and a grandmother in the Port-au-Prince area.
    "We haven't heard from anybody," she said Wednesday as she met with others at the Abundant Life Worship Center on East Main Extension. She and Hans are members there.
    The church is launching an effort to help, said Pastor Travis Ivey.
    "People think, 'Oh, this is a tragedy that is a thousand miles away,' but we have a family in our church that is directly affected by this tragedy,” he said. “We want to spread awareness and ask that anyone who will support this cause to help."
    The quake registered 7.0 on the Richter scale, and Claudia Batichon worries about her loved ones being "buried underneath rocks."
    No one has heard from her husband's family, either. Hans, a Savannah State University football coach, is also from Haiti — the couple met each other in Miami, where they both moved to from Haiti at a young age. A call came Wednesday from one relative's phone number, but the communication fell through and they could not hear anyone on the other end.
    They believe the call, in spite of not being able to talk to anyone, is good news, said Hans Batichon.
    He was at a convention in Orlando Tuesday when his wife texted him about the quake. But it was not until she called him that he understood the magnitude of the disaster, and all he wanted to do was go home and be with his family.
    "I started thinking about what is important to me," he said. "I can't even call Haiti to talk to my uncle to see if he's still alive."
    Caesar, a doctor at East Georgia Regional Medical Center, was recruited to Statesboro from Boston when the new hospital opened, is also worried about her family in Haiti. She met Claudia at Wal-Mart Christmas Eve when Claudia overheard her speaking Creole on a cell phone, and asked if she was Haitian. Caesar joined the Batichons Wednesday to discuss the organization of a local relief effort.
    "I have lots of family there," she said. "I heard from an uncle. He is OK, but he hasn't heard from his two children who are doctors in Port-au-Prince."
    Like the Batichons, she was shocked at the news.
    “I thought I was dreaming," she said. "This is the most devastating thing to happen in Haiti. There is no way they can sustain that kind of catastrophe."
    She worries about the rescue efforts there, especially since the hospitals are leveled.
    "There will be lots of infection,” she said. “There is no clean water. There will be tents for medical supplies and care - it's just terrible."
    Thousands of miles away, in the relative safety and luxury of America, the three still are affected by the grave situation in Haiti. And, knowing how caring and compassionate a community Statesboro and Bulloch County are, they hope citizens will open their hearts to help.
    "I believe people in Statesboro will help," Claudia said. "This isn't just Haiti - this impacts everybody. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere."
    Monetary donations will help most right now, as the American dollar is worth much more in Haiti. Later, donations of nonperishable foods and clothing will be needed, but money will go further to help immediate needs, she said.
    Ivey said anyone interested in donating can send checks to the church. Online donations can be made via Paypal by accessing the Web site, he said.  Mailed donations may be sent to Abundant Life Worship Center, Haiti Relief, 411 East Main Street, Statesboro, Ga. 30458.
    Citizens can also help those in Haiti by donating to the American Red Cross International Response Fund at, or by calling 1-800 REDCROSS (733-2767). Also, texting “Haiti” to 90999 will send a $10 donation to the Red Cross, through an effort backed by the U.S. State Department. Funds will go to support American Red Cross relief efforts in Haiti.   
    "The American Red Cross commitment to the Haitian earthquake relief has just been raised from $200,000 to $1,000,000," said K. Lynn Bowen, executive director of the Bulloch County Chapter of the American Red Cross.
    She added that many have questioned the legitimacy of texting regarding donations, but stressed that the text of "Haiti" to 90999 is valid.
    And as relief efforts arrive in Haiti, the Batichons and Caesar will hope for word their loved ones back home are safe and their native land can recover, once again, from an unimaginable disaster.

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