Newfoundlander staying in Haiti amid 'ugly situation', hoping to help

Karen Huxter, who has run a children's home and school in Haiti for decades, says the country is in a desperate situation.

Karen Huxter staying on to help run children's home and school

Karen Huxter and her son Luc both remain at the children's home and school she founded in Deschapelles, Haiti. (Hands Across The Sea/Facebook)

A Newfoundlander who has spent decades helping the poorest of the poor in Haiti says she has no plans to leave the country, despite a period of unrest on a scale she says parallels the worst in recent history.

"I was here when they ousted Aristide and we were calling it a war. It was bad. It was bad then, it is bad now," said Karen Huxter, referencing the country's former president, who was forced out of office in a military coup in 2004.

"I've been through several things here, but this is one ugly situation we're in."

Huxter, originally from Springdale, founded and is one of the directors of Hands Across the Sea, a non-profit organization that runs a children's home and school in Deschapelles, a town about 50 kilometres north of the capital Port-au-Prince.

Since anti-government riots began wracking the country on Feb. 7, that school has been closed and supplies for the children's home have been scarce, said Huxter, with some employees scouring neighbourhood back streets in search of basic staples and everyone trying to make what's left stretch through the uncertainty.

"The kids are getting fed. It's not a good situation at all, but we are OK at the present," said Huxter, adding their propane and diesel supplies will probably last through to the end of Tuesday.

Some of the students at the school, which has been closed since protests across Haiti began on Feb. 7. (Hands Across the Sea/Facebook)

"I am not scared'

Huxter is one of four Canadians at the Hands Across the Sea compound, along with her son and two others from Montreal.

That couple were supposed to leave Wednesday, but flight disruptions to the country cancelled their plans. The Canadian federal government has issued a travel warning for all Canadians in the country, asking people still in Haiti to consider leaving as soon as possible.

While Huxter hopes the couple, as well as her son, can make it back to Canada, she herself has no plans to leave.

"My emotions, to be honest, are all over the place. But I am not scared, I don't fear anything," she told CBC Radio's Newfoundland Morning Show.

"I'm OK on my own, I've been on my own a lot for the past 24 years. But if something should happen health-wise, then there is absolutely no way to get any help whatsoever."

A man holds a weapon during anti-government protests in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, February 17, 2019. (Ivan Alvarado/Reuters)

Help for Haitians

As the unrest and economic crisis continues, Huxter's primary concern continues to be for the people of Haiti.

"The people out here with me and the people all over the country are in a desperate, desperate situation," she said.

With that in mind, she made an appeal for donations to Hands Across the Sea.

"If the money came in for me to purchase food, as has been done in the past, I would buy it," she said.

"I'm OK with staying. What I would really like to do is see this end ... and be able to get some food into the mouths of the Haitian people. That's my desire." 

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The Newfoundland Morning Show