I suspect all of you heard about Hurricane Earl hitting Belize Wednesday evening, August 3rd. My youngest daughter Kayla and I were in Belize when Earl slammed into this wonderful country - a country full of so many friends and the home of the ministry we love and call PathLight. With us were the President and Treasurer of PathLight's new University of Kentucky student chapter, leading a conversational English adventure camp for our newest PathLight students.
As news of Earl's potential grew more dire, the decision was made to evacuate Jaguar Creek (JC), and relocate in the homes of several of our staff in Belmopan. The JC staff did an outstanding job securing the resort for the impending storm. Our team also made contact with a number of our most vulnerable Sponsorship+ families living in South Belize City, bringing them to safer accommodations with us in Belmopan. We gassed up all the vehicles. We bought extra food and supplies, and braced ourselves for Earl to hit the country.
Wednesday night was long, frightening, anxious, sleepless and loud. Earl slowed down as it hit Belize with 85 mph winds at about 11:30 pm, lingering for almost six hours. While rain totals were lower than forecast, wind and storm surge damage was extensive. By sun-up, the winds finally began to diminish, and we made plans to go visit as many of our students as possible.
One crew deployed northwest towards Cotton Tree and St. Matthew's. My crew traveled deeper into the Belizean rainforest towards Jaguar Creek and the villages of Armenia and St. Margaret's. We drove around countless fallen trees, and work teams already working to clear the roads. Hills once lush with thick jungle foliage only yesterday were now far more barren with tangled knots of branches and limbs. Jaguar Creek could only be reached by literally swimming through the extensive flooding of the Cave's Branch river. One cabana was lost. Another suffered significant damage, as did several elevated walkways. The most heartbreaking loss was the giant 100 year-old fig tree with the beautiful roots that had long been the centerpiece of JC - now laying fallen. However, the damage could have been far worse and most thankfully no one was injured.
As we continued visiting students home to home, we encountered incredible resiliency even amidst devastating loss. All of our kids and their families were safe. Every family was busy cleaning up mud, limbs and debris, trying in vain to dry clothing and bedding in the thick humid air. Several lost roofs. Four families lost almost everything. I found myself so moved by the harsh reality faced by these students whom I have grown so fond of. They cannot call their Allstate agent. There is no FEMA to step in and help them clean up. No one will compensate them for the sudden loss of livelihood (some who sold fruit lost their trees; one disabled dad now must replace the room he rented out for income; everything several owned was now thoroughly soaked, including all beds, covers & mattresses, and they have no means to go purchase a new mattress to sleep on. These children, who look so put-together in their clean school uniforms, live day to day in a form of poverty that I cannot imagine living with. Add the ravages of a category one hurricane and they face challenges I cannot fathom.
Friday we traveled to Belize City in order to visit the homes of a number of our South Belize City students. There, the flooding had been significant. Most of the damage was largely due to the storm surge, leaving many residents under four feet of water. Once again, roofs were missing, personal belongings and bedding were soaked and already molding. There was open sewage flowing in drainage culverts. Mosquitos and infestation are close behind. It is hard to fully grasp what it would be like to adequately recover and put your life back together in these conditions, much less to live day to day.
The PathLight team is doing a wonderful job caring for each student and family. They are giving hope to people trapped by the ravages of poverty. The team developed a list of needs for each family, and already they have begun to respond to the most critical needs first. We do so by faith, reliant upon you our donors to help provide the resources necessary to help repair broken buildings and assist our Belizean friends in their extensive recovery efforts. While PathLight's mission is to give hope to every child through the power of a dynamic faith and a vibrant learning environment, we are also called upon to care for those whom we serve amidst tragedy, loss and need.
Would you please consider an extra gift to PathLight? Your gift of $50, $100, $250 or more can make a huge difference to a family with nothing. Our PathLight team is on the ground in Belize, and right now 100% of your gift will be used for relief efforts.