Yukon charity worker in 'lockdown' amid violence in Haiti

'We've just had to sit at home because it puts ourselves at risk trying to go out and do anything,' Morgan Wienberg said Friday from Les Cayes, Haiti.

Morgan Wienberg founded the charity Little Footprints, Big Steps in 2010 in Les Cayes, Haiti

Morgan Wienberg, seen here in in Haiti in 2015, with two of the street children she has worked with. Wienberg is currently in Les Cayes, Haiti, as violent demonstrations continue in the country. (submitted by Morgan Wienberg)

Yukoner Morgan Wienberg says she's effectively been in "lockdown" with her charitable organization in Haiti since last week, when violent protests broke out in Port-au-Prince, the country's capital.

Wienberg lives about 200 kilometres west of Port-au-Prince in Les Cayes, where she founded the charity Little Footprints, Big Steps (LFBS) in 2010. It has worked to house and provide education to vulnerable children.

Wienberg said Friday morning that she and her staff were "doing fine," though the protests had kept most people in her area indoors for the last week.

"We've just had to sit at home because it puts ourselves at risk trying to go out and do anything," she said.  

"It's a pretty heart-wrenching situation, to see what's happening in the community and in the country ... Everyone is really shocked at how long it has lasted this time."

Over the past eight days, several people have died as Haitians protest against high unemployment rates and skyrocketing inflation. They are demanding President Jovenel Moïse step down, which he has refused to do.

Protesters take cover as national police officers fire in their direction, during a demonstration demanding the resignation of Haitian President Jovenel Moise near the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince on Wednesday. (Dieu Nalio Chery/Associated Press)

Protesters continued to block roads across Haiti on Friday as food, water and gas have become scarce. Schools, businesses and government offices remain closed.

'We have no way of getting to them'

Wienberg says the children and staff she works with in the Les Cayes area are currently OK in "safe houses," but things are different elsewhere.

"There were a couple of my staff who were in very vulnerable communities, very close to some of the violence, and for example, one staff member's children got gassed," she said. 

"I've been most worried about the youth that we have in Port-au-Prince, because we have no way of getting to them at this point — and it's very, very severe in Port-au-Prince," she said.

Wienberg says the children and staff she works with in the Les Cayes area are currently OK. (Submitted by Morgan Wienberg)

Wienberg says Moïse has offered people no hope despite a televised speech on Thursday night in which he promised new economic measures.  

"In the last year or so prices have, like most food staples, have actually tripled. And since the time that I've been here, like when I first came to Haiti, it was 50 gourdes to one U.S. dollar and now it's over 80 gourdes to one U.S. dollar," Wienberg said.

"So the value of the local currency has really plummeted."

Wienberg said she's worried that even once the violence subsides in Haiti, many of the vulnerable people she works with will be in worse shape than before.

"Now that they've been just sitting at home for over a week, I'm sure that not only all the food that families had has been depleted, but all of their savings as well," she said.

"So even once everything is calm and safe, it's going to be really difficult for people to pick themselves back up." 

With files from Sandi Coleman


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