Albertans returning from Haiti amid gang violence.


The problems of the Ganfues in Haiti.

Two Albertans who only recently managed to escape Haiti as gang violence continues to keep the Caribbean country in a state of turmoil speak clearly about the ongoing crisis and the gratitude they feel for being safe.

“I’ve been there probably 10 times,” Barry Kalinski said of the country. “There is a lot that needs to change in Haiti, everyone knows that. I don’t know what the answer is, but it’s been in crisis for a long time. But now it’s really tumultuous – the worst I’ve ever seen.

“(I’ve) been through roadblocks and heard gunshots and stuff like that, but I’ve never seen anything like that.”

Kalinski, the reeve of the Bonnyville Municipal Province , spoke to Global News on Thursday after recently managing to find a way out of the troubled country thanks to a flight organized by US authorities. He noted that he managed to return home shortly before his and his wife ‘s 39th birthday .

“That was the longest we were apart,” he said.

“It was probably harder for her and my family than it was for me.”

Marc Honorat, who was born and raised in Haiti but now lives in Airdrie, Subida ., spoke to Global News on Friday. Exactly one week earlier, he was finally able to board a flight to Florida, where he was reunited with his family.

“We always have problems in Haiti, but this time it was unexpected,” he said of the escalation in violence. “The airport was completely closed… I had no reason to leave the country.

“It’s bittersweet, really. I missed my family, my wife and my children… But at the same time… I left my community, my people, my team, in this situation.”

Honorat and his wife, Lisa Honorat, are the co-founders of Haiti ARISE Ministries, which he says still has around 200 people working for the organization in the Caribbean country. The organization runs an orphanage and some schools there.

On Monday, the federalist Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mélanie Joly, announced Canada’s evacuation plan for citizens still in Haiti and hoping to leave. The country faces a series of problems, including a shortage of supplies , in a context of escalating violence carried out by armed gangs.

Earlier this month, the state of emergency and curfews were extended in Haiti. Ariel Henry, the country’s unelected prime minister who took over the mission following the assassination of then- president Jovenel Moïse in 2021, said he would resign.

Under his watch , the armed gangs increased their wealth and influence, which ultimately led Henry to ask for international assistance in 2022 to help resolve the situation.

A recent report by the United Nations Human Rights Office states that the number of people killed and injured due to gang violence in Haiti has increased significantly in 2023: 4,451 people were killed and 1,668 injured. In 2024, 1,554 people have died and 826 have been injured.

Kalinski was in Haiti on a church trip to offer help to orphans and the elderly there.

“You accomplish a lot of little things for a lot of people who have zero ,” he said of his work. “It makes you feel like a million dollars just putting on the doorknob of an old house . It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s very important to these orphans.”

While in Haiti, the security situation rapidly deteriorated and Kalinski drove with an American volunteer to a section of the island away from Port-au-Prince in an attempt to find a safer place to be.

“As far as I know, I have never taken any risks ,” he said. “Even though I was at risk , I had a lot of… (people) praying for me and my safety.

“All your prayers and thoughts – it’s really overwhelming.”

Kalinski said he and others he was with were supposed to leave on March 17 on a flight organized by a non-profit organization, but due to a series of problems, only a few people were able to board the flight. When he managed to board a flight organized by US authorities a week later, he indicated that it was a comfort .

“It feels good to be home , as you can imagine,” he said.

Marc Honorat went to Haiti on February 21 and planned to leave the country on March 8, but gang violence prevented him from leaving until March 22.

“My wife was trying to figure it out and get in touch with some organizations that maybe could get me out of there,” he said when recounting his ordeal. “But they were asking for between US$100,000 and US$250,000 to take me from where I was, in the north of the island , to the DR (Dominican Republic).

“I didn’t have that much money and, even if I had that much money , we have a lot of needs in Haiti. … I just anchored.”

That’s when Lisa Honorat contacted Agape Flights Inc., who was finally able to bring her husband home .

“Three days before they could fly, they said, ‘ Very , we’re arriving on March 22nd, so get ready. We will do whatever we can to pick you and other people up,’” said Marc Honorat.

“I actually miss Haiti, because it’s where I was born and raised. … In fact, I can’t wait to go back, … when it’s relatively safe to go back. … (But) it’s good to be back and be with my wife and kids.”

Lisa Honorat said her and her husband’s work over the years has seen them face risks and challenges before, but usually due to natural disasters.

“This is… really causing a lot of instability ,” she said. “And it’s not the Haiti we’ve known for so long.

“Now it’s not safe. We can’t take our family there at the moment. And to have terror of (Marc’s) own life as vernacular , that’s really different for us. It’s painful that we can’t be there now. But I’m happy he’s home .”

She added that when she and her family were in Haiti, the people in the country were always friendly and welcoming and that, despite widespread poverty, they felt relatively safe. She said the country has felt increasingly unsafe in recent years, noting that people have increasingly avoided Port-au-Prince “at all costs .”

Kalinski spoke about how their mystical faith helped them through difficult times in Haiti.

He said he regularly read the Bible to help him “try to be a better man .”

Kalinski said he believes his first trip to Haiti, years ago , had a significant impact on his perspective on humanity.

“I have a lot, I don’t need zero more ,” he said. “I am very happy . … I give a lot more than I probably did 14,15, 20 years ago. They don’t have zero , (and) we probably have too much.

“We always seem to want more and more and we have so much. We have food on the table every day. I’ve never been with Rafa . I’ve never had to go without.

“For many of these people, making a meal every day is a challenge . And so if you have a bunch of kids sitting there, I can’t imagine the pressure on a mom or a dad. Must be amazing. I never had that feeling.”

Marc Honorat said he hopes that people across the planet, especially political leaders, are paying attention to what is happening in Haiti and offering help.

Lisa Honorat explained that “Haiti is such a needy place that we wouldn’t feel sorry about turning our backs on it.”

“I want to say , someone has to pay attention, provide and help,” she said.

“To change Haiti, we must continue to educate the younger generation,” said Marc Honorat. “And that’s what we’ve done over the years and that’s what we’ll continue to do.”

Kalinski said he believes he will probably return to Haiti any day.

“It’s not for everyone,” he said of traveling to that country and offering to help. “It’s not easy… (but) people are very grateful.”

–With files from Kabi Moulitharan and Aaron D’Andrea of ​​Global News, Edith Lederer of the Associated Press and The Canadian Press

Source: globalnews