First Responders

Hurricane season is a threat that Marcia Boxhill-Haywood, regional coordinator for Caritas Antilles, confronts with meager tools: a $40,000 emergency fund, a small staff at a warehouse in St. Lucia and a handful of volunteers. Responding to hurricanes “goes right to the heart of what the church does because storms don’t just destroy buildings, they really destroy families and communities,” Boxhill-Haywood said. Catholic dioceses across the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico are on the front line during the storm season, from June through October. They shelter residents during storms and serve as first responders after they have passed, handing out food, water and medicine and helping residents rebuild their lives. But preparing for the potential damage to church buildings and the financial strain of feeding mouths and housing displaced residents remains a challenge. With funds low, Catholic leaders said they coordinate more closely with governments and other institutions and rely on volunteers and neighboring dioceses to fill gaps.

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