Salvation Army Food Distribution in Haiti – A First-Hand Account

by John McAlister
Categories: Feature
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salvationarmy_haiti_food“Hunger and fatigue were evident on the faces of those going through the feeding distribution line,” says Major Kelly Pontsler, The Salvation Army’s public information officer on the ground in Haiti.

“On February 1, at 2 p.m. local time, a convoy of trucks arrived, escorted by four vehicles carrying approximately 40 members of the US 82nd Airborne Division. The Salvation Army quickly took command of the access road that bisects its properties in the Delmas 2 district in Port-Au-Prince and within minutes of their arrival, the doors of the container trucks opened and food began to move.

“Dozens of Salvation Army staff, military personnel and volunteers were on site for this 4th food distribution. For them, it was about service. For the thousands of displaced people gathered on that dusty road, it was about survival.

“As smoke billowed from smoldering rubbish in the ravine that runs along the narrow road, family members presented their food ration card for a stamp. As the line inched forward, each bearer of a card received food. The packages (containing rice, beans, and vegetables) provided a family of five with a week’s worth of nutrition. An estimated 552,000 meals were distributed that afternoon in less than four hours.

“Life in the camp surrounding The Salvation Army property is not easy. Sanitation remains an ongoing concern and the emergency response continues to unfold day by day.

“It would be easy to think that there are no signs of hope amidst the rubble of the neighborhood. And yet that day there were small gestures that made a difference. A group of three young volunteers, doing their best to keep the distribution line moving quickly, spotted an elderly woman who appeared to be a bit unsure of the process. They paused long enough to help her close the box and lift her food to her head to carry it to the camp. It took only 10 seconds, but it mattered. In the midst of chaos and despair, there is still a place for respect.”