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Greencastle man experienced Haitian devastation firsthand

December 14, 2010|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com
  • This is the view from the roof of the Cite Soleil cholera clinic in Haiti.
Photo courtesy of Matthew Goetz

GREENCASTLE, Pa. — Matthew Goetz’s trip to Haiti came toward the end of a turbulent year for the Caribbean island country, which suffered an earthquake, election violence, a hurricane and an outbreak of cholera.


Goetz, 27, returned to his parents’ home in Greencastle on Monday after six days of canceled and delayed flights. The Associated Press reported that protests, barricades and riots following the Nov. 28 election shut down airports and killed several people.


Goetz had been in the country since Oct. 20 and said the oppression of government surprised him.


“I’ve never been somewhere where it is so hard to live and just to exist,” he said.


Goetz graduated from Greencastle-Antrim High School in 2001 and attended Grace College in Indiana. He works over the summer months as a park ranger in Washington.


Goetz, the son of George and Cindy Goetz, traveled to Haiti to help Pastor Pierre Prinvil, who operates two homes for children about 20 miles north of Port-au-Prince. Goetz said he wanted to provide relief for pastors and missionaries.

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“These people are spending their life and energy serving others,” he said.


Goetz performed general maintenance duties at cholera clinics and two schoolhouses, building desks, beds and outdoor latrines. He assisted the Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse in constructing a clinic with 400 beds in Cite Soleil.


“You’re building something, and the whole time you kind of hate (it will be needed). You’re praying the whole time, ‘I hope this is not used,’” Goetz said.


Samaritan’s Purse posted on its website Friday that it had 80 patients, half of whom were children, in the clinic.


“There was no education initially, and people were terrified,” Goetz said of cholera’s spread.


Goetz said he feels driven to travel the world. He leaves Jan. 10 for a return trip to Africa, and he also has visited New Zealand, Australia, Jamaica and New Guinea.


“Haiti had always been in my mind because I had some very good friends at school in Greencastle whose parents were missionaries in Haiti,” Goetz said.


The residents of Haiti fight and struggle every day just to survive, Goetz said. He said he wouldn’t want to return there unless asked by Prinvil, whom he greatly respects.


Goetz said he was thankful the trip could be scheduled during Haiti’s recovery from January’s devastating earthquake. He described filthy tent cities and the crumbled presidential palace.


“A lot of rebuilding has happened. There’s still tons to do,” he said.


Goetz predicted worsening riots related to Haiti’s two-person runoff election on Jan. 16.


“It’s going to be very, very dangerous,” he said.


Goetz said anyone wanting to learn more about the trip or plan one of their own can contact him at gmgoetz@gmail.com or by calling 717-360-2909.

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