Lee Rainboth went to Haiti in 2007 as a short-term volunteer to help teach Haitians how to raise food and to assist some women there to market their original crafts in the United States. It didn't take long for Rainboth to grow fond of the people and the country as a whole for their deep appreciation for the little things of life and their cheerful temperament.
Rainboth has shared his beliefs and motives for helping Haitians out with his hometown folks and several Marcus residents responded by traveling to Haiti and doing what they can in the few days they spent there. Now, since the massive earthquake there, there is an urgent need to do more. Hence, a "Waffle for Life" is being set up for Sunday, March 7 at the Marcus Pizza Ranch from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Rainboth resides in a small community called Mizak which covers a rural area of around 10,000 people. Just recently volunteers helped Rainboth build a small cement home for him and a couple of others Haitians to live in. Bear in mind that this is a very poor country where people live a bare existent form of life. The cement they make themselves is very powdery with very little re-bar to provide stability. Rainboth has helped build many homes.
On the day of the quake, at 5 p.m., Rainboth was sitting outside of a clinic visiting with a friend. They felt the ground shake, which was a new experience, and they were stunned not knowing what to do. They remained where they were looking questionly at each other and heard a crash which later turned out to be just a broken mirror. They were fortunate. It wasn't until they walked to where his house was being built to find it in a pile with nothing to salvage and saw other buildings down, they knew this was traumatic. They were grateful no one was hurt there.
Rainboth said, "As the crowd gathered, we began hearing reports of damage to other homes and affects in the area. Piece by piece, reality of the disaster was setting in. Comments were made that "God's an old man and He does what He likes" and "All we can do is praise God that we're still alive."
Then the news trickled in that not everybody survived as they were catching news on their radios of how far the devastation spread. "It wasn't until I heard a CNN report on the radio in english that I really started to understand the situation in Port-au-Prince. It didn't take long to understand the city was demolished," said Rainboth.
"Haitians were told not to enter their homes and not to sleep inside because of the aftershock tremors with the walls weakened in the original quake. We got what sheets and blankets we could find and went searching for a place to sleep. We ended up on some flat rocks under the stars near my ruined home. Someone shouted to me, 'You see how close of neighbors you have her, Lee?' It was nice to feel a connection of community in our little camp and it made me begin to realize that although this tragedy was horrible and heartbreaking, there was also something strangely wonderful in what was happening among the survivors. They were united in having the same tragedy and they shared in each others pain. It was clear that that was the only way we would be able to move on together. It was in those moments in the hours following the quake that the true depth of the Haitian spirit began to wake and expose itself."
Soon they learned how other camps were springing up - 30 people here, 100 there and so forth. Some slept while Rainboth kept noticing tremors. People slept very close to each other and some on top of others. When they felt tremors, people would call on Jesus. In the morning, folks would sing hymns and Pastor Gilbo led everyone in prayer. Caring for each other was most important to these folks.
Since then, Rainboth is sought out by Haitians is get his opinion on what to do, hoping he'd be able to get some help from him. Rainboth has been very busy accessing the damage and listing the homes with greatest need. He hasn't seen the Red Cross but others have come to their area and consults with him on who should get what. He takes in account the size of family and special needs. He spend much time every day on his feet getting around the area and providing some hope to these people doing what he can.
Plastic tarps have been handed out recently by the Red Cross to sleep on and to try to set up shanties for protection from the rain. Haitians are very afraid of sleeping inside a building now. The rain coupled with heat will produce much mold. Not a good situation. Every crude facility they use lacks privacy.
Rainboth is helping them to also grow some food in gardens that may be no bigger than square footage of a small room. They plant corn in rows and between them, black beans. What we would term as clean water doesn't exist for most Haitians. They go to a stream daily to wash in and for drinking, along with the animals. Rainboth receives water in Culligan jars which is a part of his room and board. He wouldn't dare drink from the stream. Over time, Haitians must build immunity to disease somewhat as most survive on it.
Schools are shut down but Rainboth still teaches English, holds Bible studies (most of their Bibles are printed in French for the Haitian Creoles), provides painting classes and singing group and has started a photography club with 35 digital cameras he has had donated. He still helps the women with craft cooperatives.
Although many of these people are Christian, they still can not let go of their culture of VooDoo beliefs. The people are hard workers. They make their own lye soap which they take to the stream and wash their clothes.
"They do like their clothes to be clean," explained Rainboth. "The women wear nice dresses to church and men have shirts for church. They want their best worn for the Lord. The main problem is depression as they feel the quake was punishment from God for their sins. When I walked through many areas of horrible destruction, the odor of dead bodies piled up is unforgettable. There is more death in the city of course compared to where I live. There is a medical team from Indiana here now but many who return to the U.S. after spending time here need a period of mental adjustment. Night time is black in Haiti where I am due to no electricity. We are up at sunrise and go to bed with the sun setting."
When many ask his mother Vicki when will he return to Iowa, Rainboth said, "I'm not coming home. This is where I need to be."
In addition to Grace United Methodist Church In Marcus, he has support in Ames and Texas where he has spoken about his experience. Thus there is this fundraiser planned on March 7 when waffles with various fruit toppings (apples, peach, strawberries & blueberries) plus maple syrup and whipped cream, ham, orange juice, milk and coffee. It will be a free-will donation with all proceeds going directly to Lee Rainboth. Much has been donated for this while the committee will pick up the tab for any other expenses,
Besides the two Marcus restaurants, one may also donate to Joan Wilberding, Lisa Mayer, Kay Ogren, Joanne Peterson, Lorna Leavitt, Gina Meyer, Carla Webber, Peg Hohbach, Renae Ogren, Kris Irwin, Gina Rassel, Rashel Nixon, Christine Casillas and Melinda Rosewall.