Canadian nurses evacuated from Haiti by helicopter arrive back in Canada
Daniel Otis, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Monday, February 18, 2019 1:32PM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 19, 2019 6:24AM EST
A group of Canadian nurses who were volunteering in Haiti are safely back in Canada after spending days trapped in their compound by widespread protests.
The eight nurses had been volunteering in Grand Goave, just over 60 kilometres away from the capital, with Ontario-based charity Hope Grows.
Family and friends raised thousands of dollars to rent a helicopter to fly them to the international airport in Port-au-Prince after roads become too dangerous.
From there, they boarded an Air Canada flight to Montreal and on to Toronto.
Katherine Fitz O’Neil says she is “incredibly happy” to be on home soil. “It’s a great relief,” she said. “It’s been a long week.”
For more than a week, Haiti has been rocked by protests, with demonstrators decrying skyrocketing inflation and the government's failure to prosecute embezzlement from a multi-billion-dollar Venezuelan program that sent discounted oil to the country. Many protesters are also calling for the immediate resignations of the country’s president and prime minister. The demonstrations have at times turned violent. Several have also died from brutal police crackdowns.
The volunteers say Demonstrators’ roadblocks and barricades rendered road travel incredibly difficult and possibly dangerous.
Nursing student Lauren Davey said that despite the trouble, she intends to return one day.
“I just fell in love with this foundation and fell in love with it here and all the staff and the kids here and I just needed to come back and see them all again and help out with the community of Grand Goave,” Davey said. “It’s still sad to go.”
“I don’t know about the rest of the team, but I’m pretty sure we all feel this way; that this will not stop us from returning to Hope Grows,” she explained. “It is a wonderful experience.”
Registered nurse Tracey Hotta says she also plans to return to Haiti next year.
“The Haitian people need us down there," said Hotta. "They don’t have a lot of food, a lot of them are malnourished, they’re dehydrated -- a lot of [health issues] that could be prevented if someone was there to take care of them.”
Hotta was greeted at Toronto Pearson International Airport early Tuesday morning by her sister Stephanie Gibb.
While Gibb said she is thankful Hotta made it back safely, she said waiting for her return was a rollercoaster of emotions.
“It was hard to believe what that was going on there... We were sad, we were concerned and we were angry because she had to do everything herself to get out of there," said Gibb.
So far, more than 100 Quebec tourists and roughly two dozen Alberta missionaries have been successfully evacuated from the country.
Minister Chrystia Freeland has urged all remaining Canadians in Haiti to get commercial flights out while they still can. Global Affairs Canada has also issued an “avoid all travel” advisory for the Caribbean country.
Businesses and government offices in Port-au-Prince began reopening Monday, after days of being on lockdown, with people lining up to buy much-needed groceries, food, water and gas, The Associated Press reported.
With files from The Associated Press