• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Haiti, family face pain, hardship after hurricane

ROLGARD CASIMIR, who has family in Haiti, says, "The next couple of years are going to be really, really difficult for everybody" in his native country in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. Rolgard is pictured with his 3-year-old son, Micah, and his wife, Erin, a music teacher at Northside Elementary School. (Photo by Bob Vlach)

Hurricane Matthew devastated the lives of thousands in Haiti on Oct. 4. Rolgard Casimir understands why so many families in his native country will continue to struggle for years in the wake of the Category 4 storm. His family still lives in Haiti, and he knows "the next couple of years are going to be really, really difficult for everybody there. But they have no choice. They have to get through it." When Rolgard heard about Hurricane Matthew and its path through southern Haiti, he knew his family - particularly his mom and a brother - was going to be directly affected by the massive storm. "I knew they were going to be hit," says Rolgard, who came to the United States in 2008. ".You start to worry because you don't know what can happen." His worries were magnified knowing the storm's strength and still having family in southern Haiti. Fortunately, Rolgard says he was able to contact his family shortly after Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti. He and his wife, Erin, used a computer app to communicate with family: his mom, a sister and two brothers. Another brother, who lives near his mom in southern Haiti, was not able to talk directly with Rolgard. So he relied on family members to share what his brother told them during a telephone conversation. "They lost a lot of livestock and crops," says Rolgard of his family. Because crops are their main source of income, his brother told him, "They lost pretty much everything." So even though his mom and brother still have their homes, they can no longer rely on their fruit trees - toppled by the storm - and other crops to provide them with an income source anytime soon. "It's going to take years," says Rolgard, "for those (trees) to grow back." Years before his family can again harvest fruit to sell at market. Talking to his mom, brothers and sister with a computer app "brings a sense of home," says Rolgard. Yet, he still finds himself missing his family and Haiti. If Rolgard and his wife, Erin, a music teacher at Northside Elementary School, are able to travel to Mayette, Haiti, with a mission group from Journey Church next summer, the drive to see Rolgard's mom in southern Haiti means traveling two days on rough roads. Going back to Haiti Asked about his childhood in Haiti, Rolgard says he and his siblings were fortunate. Their parents made personal sacrifices so their kids could get an education - even if that meant a 10-year-old Rolgard and an older brother moving away to live with an aunt. "As moms," says Rolgard, "they want you to be successful wherever you are, whatever you do . It doesn't matter if you're with me, but if you're doing good: I'm very happy about that." With his family's support, Rolgard was able to finish high school. He had aspirations to become a doctor, but the stiff competition for a limited number of slots in medical school made that unattainable. So instead, he earned a degree in public health. Today, Rolgard works at UK Healthcare, but a degree in public health opens up many opportunities for him in the future. Returning to Haiti so he can help less-fortunate people in his native country could happen someday. It's a reality that Rolgard and his wife of six years, Erin, have talked about in the past. "It's still in the back of our minds that eventually we would like to get back there at some point," says Erin, "but we're not . setting timelines for it." She and Rolgard are already serving the people of Haiti while on mission trips organized by Journey Church in Versailles, and by sharing the message of what drives them to do missions work. They are also making others aware of their church's work and encouraging them to get involved. When he returns to Haiti, Rolgard appreciates being able to change lives - even for a day - with a simple gesture of kindness. "You miss that," he says. Erin has made countless mission trips to Haiti, beginning as a junior at Woodford County High School in 2001. During a mission trip six years later, she met and later fell in love with Rolgard. Their work at an orphanage for children with special needs created a lasting bond. The couple's 3-year-old son, Micah, has been to Haiti on three occasions. Rolgard's mom has seen her grandson twice. "I really want him to know about (Haiti). Live there. And spend a lot of time there," says Rolgard. "I want him to know that this life, this culture is not the only one. The world is different. America is not the world . I want him to know and understand that." Send help to Haiti Journey Church (formerly Woodford Community Christian Church) is accepting financial donations for relief work in Haiti. All donations can be dropped off at Journey Church, located off Lexington Road at 320 Hope Lane. Donations will be sent to Northwest Haiti Christian Mission and Mission of Hope - organizations with Versailles connections.

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