An Immaculate Conception Church deacon can only hope and pray as rescue workers search for five missionaries who are believed to be under the rubble of a hotel in Haiti that collapsed during the devastating earthquake last week.

An Immaculate Conception Church deacon can only hope and pray as rescue workers search for five missionaries who are believed to be under the rubble of a hotel in Haiti that collapsed during the devastating earthquake last week.


“On Thursday (Jan. 14), they reported that five of our missionaries were missing,” said the Deacon Rev. Mr. Stephen Buttrick about the missing ministry workers from Food For The Poor, a Florida-based Christian interdenominational organization.


A Rutland native, Britney Gengel, is reported to be among the missing after the collapse of the Hotel Montana in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti’s capital.


Buttrick said that he stayed at the Montana last month while assisting Food For The Poor relief efforts.


“The hotel was completely destroyed,” he said. “We heard they did find people alive there, but there were other people missing.”


In an e-mail to the agency, Food For The Poor staffer Tom Corpolongo said that people who survived the quake are scared of aftershocks.


“People in neighborhoods are blocking the streets from traffic with tents,” he wrote in a Jan. 15 message from Haiti. “There’s about 30 to 50 people in each neighborhood sleeping on the street with tarps, blankets, and whatever they can find to cover them. Nobody wants to go back into their houses right now.”


Buttrick said that communication from Haiti was difficult before the quake because the nation has poor infrastructure and half of the cellphone towers in the country were destroyed when the earth shook.


“Land-line phone service is pretty much nonexistent,” he said.


Buttrick said that the poverty in Haiti was overwhelming for him to see when he visited the country.


“You can’t even begin to imagine how bad it is without seeing it,” he said. “Nothing can prepare you for what you see there. We witnessed children without clothes walk on animal and human feces to find food while picking through garbage dumps. You can go to some Caribbean islands and see nice areas and some poverty, but there is poverty everywhere in Haiti.”


Haiti has approximately 10 million people who live in a country that is about the size of Maryland.


A Central Intelligence Agency report states that the average Haitian man lives to 59 and a Haitian woman generally lives 62 years.


Haiti is often called “the poorest of the poor” by relief groups.


“It is not just the poverty you see, but the sheer volume of poverty and the lack of running water or sanitary facilities,” Buttrick said. “Food is difficult to find, and when kids can’t find food they buy dirt cookies which are made of dirt, olive oil, and salt. The kids shape them and let them dry in the sun. That is what they eat.”


He said that it is not uncommon to see children carrying jugs that weigh 40 to 50 pounds to obtain water.


“We were in a spot and saw a young girl carrying a jug on her head that held five gallons of water,” Buttrick said. “She had to walk three hours to get that water.”


He said there is no middle class in Haiti.


“There are some extremely rich people who live way up in the mountains, but people say they do nothing to help the populace,” Buttrick said. “We did go past the presidential palace while we were there. It was beautifully maintained with nice landscaping and a playground. When you go a quarter-mile away, it is completely the opposite. You see incredible poverty. There is trash on the streets. You see people squatting and doing their business because there is nowhere else they can do it.”


Electrical service in Haiti is scarce, and power outages are common.


“When we were at the hotel, we lost electricity every day,” Buttrick said. “At night we would look down in the valley at all the houses, and you could not see any lights on at all.” 


He said that many of the Haitian people exhibit a lot of faith in God and compassion despite being poor.


“It was so neat to go into some of these orphanages and see how they care for one another,” Buttrick said. “In one orphanage, we were giving out food and cakes. While we were giving out the cakes, we saw kids not hesitate to pass a cake to another kid. They really look out for each other. They know that they are in their struggles together, and they would rather help each other out than look out for themselves.”


He said that the poverty in Haiti helps him realize how fortunate he is to live in a nation of plenty.


“When I came back, my wife, Eileen, picked me up at Logan Airport and our biggest decision when we drove away was where we would go and get something to eat,” Buttrick said. “We drove through the North End and tried to decide what restaurant to eat in. All I could think of was how opposite things are in Haiti. The people there have a hard time trying to find food. We were having a hard time deciding what restaurant to eat in. That really drove home to me how we hit the lottery the day we were born in the United States.”


He said that Food For The Poor has been feeding Haitian people for 27 years.


“Ninety-seven percent of the money they receive goes to the people who need it,” Buttrick said. “They know what the needs are and they work with local pastors, churches, community groups, and mayors to address those needs.”


Food For The Poor was founded in 1982 to serve people in need in the United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean island nations.


The agency reports that it has distributed 48,000 tractor-trailer loads of aid, built more than 55,000 housing units for people in need, improved sanitation in impoverished villages, and provided medical care during its nearly three decades in existence.