A Toronto Haitian grocery store owner has launched an online fundraiser in a bid to help residents of Haiti dealing with the effects of a powerful earthquake and subsequent tropical storm.
Kensley Saint Jean, owner of Union Food Market, located in the area of Kingston and Markham roads in Scarborough, is originally from the impoverished Caribbean nation.
After a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck the country on Saturday, Saint Jean decided he needed to help and set up a GoFundMe.
“Haiti hasn’t been a stable country — if it’s not political turmoil, it’s a natural disaster,” he told Global News from inside his shop.
“We are from the northwest part of the country. Even though right now the earthquake hit the south part of the country, it hit Haiti so bad that we have people who died in my hometown, from the northwest part of the country.”
Saint Jean said he still has some family members in Haiti and while they are all accounted for, some have suffered property damage.
“But I do know a lot of other families from our church who are unfortunate and they’ve lost a lot of family members from the south part,” he said.
He said his wife’s family, who is also from the southern end of the country, have been accounted for but all don’t have shelter.
Haitian officials raised the death toll from Saturday’s earthquake to 1,941 on Tuesday and the number of injured to 9,900.
After the earthquake struck, Tropical Storm Grace moved into the area two days later with drenching rains, adding to the misery of thousands who lost loved ones, suffered injuries or found themselves homeless.
Saint Jean said he has heard that some people, who were using tarps to cover their damaged homes, have struggled to keep them on due to intense rain and wind.
He said since the disasters have struck Haiti, he has received numerous calls from people looking to find out ways that they can help.
“The phone calls don’t stop because I do get calls from people asking me what are we doing, what can be done, and how can we help and so on,” he said.
“I started a GoFundMe two days ago just so that I could help to collect as much resource as possible to try and get to these people.”
Saint Jean said Haitians are “resilient people” and will work hard to build back.
“I do hope that everyone — all the friends of Haiti — they are able to come together just to help us raise enough so that we can touch some lives,” he said.
“It is a very tough time that they are dealing with.”
— with files from The Associated Press