World Central Kitchen – One week after the earthquake: #ChefsForHaiti update

Original article appeared in World Central Kitchen on Friday August 20th 2021

One week ago today, Haiti was tragically struck by a 7.2-magnitude earthquake. The epicenter of the earthquake was in the south of Haiti where thousands of homes and structures were destroyed. Several thousand people have lost their lives while rescue teams and local communities continue to dig through rubble in search of loved ones. Since Sunday, the WCK Relief Team has been on the ground cooking and serving fresh meals to families affected in Les Cayes and Jeremie, two prominent cities that were devastatingly impacted.

With the help of WCK’s Chef Mi-Sol and the culinary students at École des Chefs in Port-au-Prince, we got our first Relief Kitchen up and running within 24 hours of the earthquake. For a week now, both current culinary students and recent graduates have been preparing thousands of sandwiches and cooking local dishes for first responders and neighbors in need.

WCK’s long time partner Acceso, generously provided our culinary team with jars of local Haitian peanut butter. With it, students put together a delicious spicy peanut butter braised chicken stew over Haitian rice, garnished with fresh onion and peppers.

To set ourselves up to be able to expand WCK’s cooking capacity quickly, we set up a second kitchen – also located in Port-au-Prince – with local Chef David Destinoble. Chef David and his team are preparing several thousand hot meals like Haitian chicken, legumes, and rice, each day.

IMG_6073.jpgFor the first few days, the WCK Relief Team was utilizing the U.S. Coast Guard, air ambulances, and emergency helicopters to transport food from our two kitchens in Port-au-Prince to hospitals and impacted communities in Les Cayes and Jeremie multiple times a day; now, WCK has brought on pilots who are helping us expand our capabilities to reach more affected areas and continue our efforts to support medical teams transporting patients back to larger hospitals in the capital. 

In Les Cayes, WCK’s Sam and Dr. Titus brought meals to several hospitals in the area, including OFTMA. There, we met Christine who had just undergone surgery due to fallen concrete damaging her liver. Her mom, Valeria, was at the market when the earthquake hit. Valeria returned home and found people huddled around her home, trying to pull Christine from under the concrete. Thankfully, Christine is doing better each day. Lens was also at home when the earthquake hit—he is recovering well after a piece of concrete fell on his arm.

At the Port-au-Prince airfield, WCK’s Anna is helping to coordinating the movement of supplies, including food and water, and medical evacuations. In addition to getting our hot meals and fresh sandwiches on flights to impacted communities, our teams are providing lunch and dinner to first responders on site and working around the clock.
On Wednesday, after securing our third kitchen in Les Cayes, the WCK Relief Team began cooking hot meals under the direction of Chef Gus. With a kitchen in the impact zone, our team is now able to increase our capacity and bring food to people in need even faster. Dishes in all three WCK kitchens are prepared using as many fresh, local ingredients from the market as we can purchase.

One of the biggest challenges has been accessing neighboring rural areas in Les Cayes and Jeremie where there are urgent needs for medical and food assistance—mudslides and rockslides have left communities completely isolated. Working with local community members in Les Cayes, our team was directed toward a small hospital in need in Camp Perrin. WCK’s Relief Team headed that way with plates of chicken served over rice and beans. There, a doctor took us to École Nationale de Laporte, a nearby school shelter where many children and families are staying.

The WCK Relief Team is currently working on setting up a fourth kitchen in Jeremie which should be up and running by early next week. Until then, we will continue to fly meals from Port-au-Prince and will be working with our pilots to get to the hard-access areas in Jeremie and Les Cayes.

A nourishing meal is a powerful tool to heal communities in times of crisis—it is hope and it means that you are not alone. WCK will keep feeding the Haitian community as long as we are needed. To stay up to date on our work, follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. To support our continued efforts in Haiti, donate here.