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Blogs from Haiti

People with area connections tell of nation’s plight

January 16, 2010
By Kevin Sweeney — Journal Editor

NEW ULM - More stories about the horrific damage in Haiti is coming from Americans there on missions.

Former Journal photographer Renee Dietrich has been working with Hearts With Haiti, which operates three orphanages near Port au Prince, including the St. Joseph's Home for Boys. This was the orphanage where Minnesota seminarian Ben Larson was a guest when the quake hit, and he died in the disaster.

The organization's web site is and features some photographs taken by Dietrich.

Article Photos

Rhyan Buettner and Patrick, an orphan with God’s Littlest Angels orphanage.

Submitted photo

Another missionary working nearby is Rhyan Buettner. The 24-year-old Bozeman, Mont., resident is the niece of Dan and Maggie Buettner of Gibbon.

Rhyan Buettner has worked in Haiti with the "God's Littlest Angels" orphanage in the Thomassin area of PetitionVille, about 10 miles from Port au Prince. She has been involved in several mission trips over the past three years, and had just returned to Haiti on Sunday, Jan. 10.

She has been posting about the situation in Haiti in in her blog, which can be found at Following are excerpts from an e-mail she sent, and from her blog:

"Before the quake hit we were planning to spend two weeks doing general volunteer work, now we are doing everything we can and have not received information on when we will return... WOW! Just as I was typing this ANOTHER big aftershock hit... we've been experiencing MANY of them.

"Our phone lines are unreliable right now.

"E-mail is our only constant source of contact (her e-mail address is

"I do work with an orphanage that is home to about 150 babies (, I only arrived back in Haiti on Sunday for a two-week trip after being gone seven months.

"When the quake hit I was on the second floor of the orphanage in a room with 40-50 babies, 2-years and younger. During the quake the entire room tipped from side to side. We are located on the side of the mountain and at first I thought it was a landslide and we were going down the hill. The house shook for about 40 seconds, by the time we realized what it was, the shaking had stopped but within seconds we were hit by the 5.9 aftershock. At that point it felt like it would never stop. Everyone was grabbing babies and trying to run out of the house. By the time we got outside it was over again.

"We have two buildings, one with 80 babies and the other housing 60 older children. Amazingly, no one was hurt and our houses withstood the quake. Many of our staff members were not so lucky. They have heard reports of their homes damaged or destroyed but nothing official yet.

"On the first night we had to keep all the babies outside, everyone slept in the concrete yard. It is winter here in Haiti and although it might seem warm to most of you, the nights get cold. We piled everyone up as much as we could and dug blankets and towels to wrap the little ones. All night, while we lay outside the aftershocks were swaying the ground. No one slept much. Every morning with the light we can see how much more devastated the country is. There are buildings collapsed everywhere you look... It's still kind of a state of shock. In some places blood runs like water down the sides of the streets.


"We were held in protection and that cannot be denied. God and only our mighty God saved us on Tuesday. Not a scratch on anyone in all three of our homes. God is rising us up not for a reason. People in the community are gathered at our gate because we, this building that God appointed, is the hope that people need!

"Many of our staff members are unable to get in touch with their family members but nearly everyone has already heard of someone they know lost. It's unimaginable. I don't even know if there are any words to describe what we are all feeling. Our hearts are broken.


"Everyone is still trying to sort themselves out. We know that the house of one of our staff members collapsed just as he arrived home but he was unhurt. Another of our staff members said his mother's house is completely gone but thankfully she is alive. Some of our staff has already been contacted with news of family members who have died. We are still feeling aftershocks up to 4.5... I'm not sure I have any words to truly describe what I see and hear around me. It is devastating and horrible beyond comprehensions but The Hand of Protection was on our house yesterday. We are so thankful!


Jan. 14

"Tonight they evacuated all Americans who wanted to leave... I write you this from Haiti. I will not go! I cannot go! The babies need us. To be perfectly honest I am scared to go...

"I am not brave. Just so you know. I am not strong. ... If I am telling the truth I am scared because I know I cannot go downtown right now. I cannot see, smell and hear what is there. To get to the airport I would have to do it. I am not strong enough for that.

"We have only a fraction of the staff members we need to care for all the children. Today we fed, changed diapers and cared for all the little ones alongside the nannies who are here. We worked beside them as they received long awaited calls about family members. They were safe. Praise Jesus. Tonight, we worked along side of them as one received the call everyone dreaded. Her brother. We cried with her. We held her, and then she wiped her eyes and went back to changing the diaper in front of her. What words do we have to comfort them? A language barrier is broken, in crying there is no barrier. We all cry the same.


Jan. 13

"URGENT!!!! Please spread this word. Put it in your Facebook status, send emails to anyone you can think of! Tell the person in line behind you at the grocery store! I know you are all at home feeling helpless, wondering what you can do. You CAN help right now! There are talks of humanitarian visas for all children in adoption process at this point!! We need EVERYONE to call whoever you can... senators, Red Cross, everyone. We need to pressure them to push this issue! Demand that the children be released! Please people, start calling! The space we have will be DESPERATELY needed for new orphans soon! Jesus please, let some good come out of this... let your children go!"



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