Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia woman flees Haiti amid violent protests

Tonya Kucey, who runs an orphanage outside Port-au-Prince, caught a flight to Florida early Saturday.

'The actual trauma that caused me to leave Haiti in tears today is the leaving of the Haitian people'

Tonya Kucey runs Loving the Least of These Ministries in Haiti with her husband, Darin Kucey. (Submitted by Darin Kucey)

A man who runs an orphanage with his wife in Haiti says he's thankful she managed to make it to the airport in Port-au-Prince and catch a flight out of the protest-rocked country Saturday morning.

Darin Kucey and his wife, Tonya, run Loving the Least of These Ministries in Tabarre, about half an hour from the capital.

Tonya, along with two staff members at the orphanage, left home at about 5:30 a.m. and drove past the unstaffed barricades in the darkened streets to the airport.

Most of the barricades aren't staffed until about 8 a.m., so it's possible to slip by in the early-morning hours, Darin said.

"She said it's like a ghost town because it's dark and there's nobody around," he said. "Apparently there's no issues, which was quite a blessing because you just never know. It's so unpredictable."

Tonya caught a JetBlue flight to Florida this morning and is expected to fly to Nova Scotia sometime in the coming days.

Demonstrators run away from police who are shooting in their direction, as a car burns during a protest in Port-au-Prince on Feb. 12. (Dieu Nalio Chery/Associated Press)

Violent protests that have resulted in at least seven deaths are now in their ninth day, as protesters demand the resignation of president Jovenel Moïse amid soaring inflation, a falling currency, a stagnating economy and controversy over the alleged misuse of development funds.

Protesters have blocked roads across the country, making it difficult for people to flee. Some people have even rented helicopters to travel to the airport in Port-au-Prince to catch a flight out.

While Darin usually lives in Haiti with Tonya, he has been in Nova Scotia for the past several weeks as he prepares to undergo cancer treatment.

Kucey said he's relieved Tonya made it out of Haiti safely, but they plan to go back as soon as they can. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

He said it's been hard to know Tonya is living through the "trauma" of the escalating situation in Haiti without him at her side.

"Last night when I was texting her she actually heard gunshots and it was quite a horrible sound," he said. "Anytime you go out and there's riots, you just never know, for one, if you can even get back, or if you get robbed or your truck will get taken."

Reached in Florida, Tonya said the gunshots are one reason she left the country.

"The smell of burning tires and burning vehicles and hearing the chanting of very frustrated, angry Haitians, those are things that are very difficult and stressful to deal with, but the actual trauma that caused me to leave Haiti in tears today is the leaving of the Haitian people and the leaving of those that I love, particularly these children and our staff," she said.

Darin said the protesters have set fire to stores and gas stations, making food, gas and propane scarce. The power has been out for days and the couple's generator broke on Tuesday, so the food they had stored in their fridge spoiled.

He said he's concerned about how those who are left behind will get by, but the orphanage's staff will keep the facility running, and he and Tonya will send money for them to buy food.

'They want change'

"They're amazing people, resilient people, beautiful, creative, compassionate people, but they're very frustrated," said Tonya.

"They want change and they want to be able to have even just the basics of life, food, water, education, medical care and, because they feel that they are being denied that, they're responding out of that desperation."

The Kuceys plan to go back to Haiti as soon as it is safe to do so.

"That's where our life is, is taking care of those children and being with the Haitian people," said Darin.

Darin Kucey has been in Nova Scotia for several weeks as he awaits cancer treatment. (Submitted by Darin Kucey)

With files from Emma Davie