MANDEVILLE, La. - It has been said that no city in America has stronger ties to Haiti than New Orleans.
And on the third anniversary of their devastating earthquake, people across the metro area are remembering those who were lost, and looking ahead at how much work is left to be done.
“Some lost limbs, some lost their lives. Some lost all their possessions,” John Desrosiers remembered.
The native Haitian, who now lives on the Northshore, helped with relief efforts in the weeks after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake.
Three years later, the deadly aftermath remains fresh in his mind.
“I lost an uncle. I lost many friends. Many, many friends,” said Dosrosiers.
In the midst of the ruins lies a church, 50 miles from Port-au-Prince, where a group of locals is making a big difference.
“This is the school kitchen,” said Sister Marina Aranzabal of Mary, Queen of Peace, pointing to a photo of two large pots on a dirt road outside. “When it rains they can't cook, so there is no lunch program and there is no school.”
But Mary, Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Mandeville is working to change that. It partnered with St. Benoit Parish in Haiti in 2011. Since then, the Mandeville church has helped rebuild a school, a church, and a health clinic. Next, parishioners will help build a new school kitchen.
Saturday night, the church held a fundraiser, with music, Haitian food and art to pray for the lives lost and fund future relief efforts.
“I am very happy, I am moved. I am touched. I think we're making a big difference,” said Aranzabal, her eyes filling with tears.
Without Mary, Queen of Peace, St. Benoit Parish wouldn't be able to pay its teachers to hold classes school, said Aranzabal.
The Mandeville church has so far donated over $80,000.
“This is just like a gift for the parish because it was destroyed,” said Fennel.
But there is still a lot of work to be done throughout Haiti.
“Three years down the line to be honest with you, the progress has been painfully slow. there’s been progress but the lack of coordination, and integrated effort and effective use of the resources really has limited the recovery,” said Dr. Yvens LaBorde, a native Haitian and medical director at Oschner Medical Center West Bank.
Oschner Medical Center is also helping with long-term recovery efforts in Haiti.
And Mary, Queen of Peace plans to continue to build not just structures, but hope, for it's sister parish in Haiti.
The congregation’s next trip to Haiti will be in February.