East Tennessee man helping Haiti recover after Hurricane Matthew

(source: Jeff Ledford)
(source: Jeff Ledford)

MARYVILLE (WATE) – A Blount County man is just back from Haiti after spending the last week helping to clean up the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.

Earlier this month, the Category 4 storm killed hundreds of people, leaving villages without power and struggling to find necessities like clean water. Volunteers have been traveling in convoys with food and medical supplies.

Jeff Ledford has been on many mission trips to Haiti with his church, the first in 2012. He says he keeps returning because there’s hope in all the devastation. “Feels like I’ve come back to a different planet,” said Ledford.

For days Ledford was in Port-a-Piment and Coteaux, Haiti.

“They’re drinking from mud puddles and of course they’re getting cholera real bad,” he said.

More coverage: Hurricane Matthew

In the pictures he snapped during his mission trip, there are roads, homes, churches and schools that have collapsed. Families in the villages were scrambling to find what Hurricane Matthew didn’t sweep away.

“The preacher in that village told us there are probably 300 people missing in his village alone,” added Ledford.

Jeff Ledford
Jeff Ledford

Both villages are so rural, his group brought in fresh water and 18,000 to 20,000 pounds of food.

“It’s enough to feed everybody a few meals or feed a family for a week. And we were actually able to take some cholera medicine to a clinic up there that is being run by Doctors Without Borders,” he said.

Ledford says it’s the stories from Haitians that add to the heartache.

“To hear them describe the storm is just unimaginable, terrifying. They said it was black dark and you couldn’t see anything. The water was coming up, they tried climbing up a mountain to get out of the storm, but the mountain started sliding down on them. A lot of them just held on to what palm trees were left.”

While being home is hard, Ledford is already planning to go back in a few months knowing that it’ll take time for this country to recover, “They’re starving, there’s no water, there’s no food, nobody is coming. But their faith does not falter in any way. And that just keeps inspiring me to keep driving on and trying to help.”

Ledford’s daughter Christella is from Haiti. His family adopted her in 2014 and she’s been in touch with her family out there, thankfully everyone is okay, and Christella is hoping to go back and help.

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