Hurricane devastation in Haiti hits close to home for many in Hampton Roads

NORFOLK, Va. - While many across Hampton Roads are bracing themselves for Hurricane Matthew, those with family and friends in Haiti are already feeling the affects.

News 3 was there as Racquel Mayner, development director at Basilica of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Norfolk called her cousin in Haiti.

Basilica of St. Mary serves many Haitian and Jamaican families. Mayner has family on both islands that were slammed by Matthew on Tuesday.

"It's tears of joy, you know, but how many other families are devastated is what I'm thinking, how many other people can't make that call?"

While Mayner's cousin is safe, the country is devastated. As reports of deaths and people missing continue to grow, the powerful winds and heavy rain left serious flooding and destruction.

Dr. Geoffroy de Laforcade, professor of Latin American and Caribbean history at Norfolk State University, says it could not have come at a worse time.

In this year alone, he says the country has dealt with a political crisis, a Zika epidemic, and is currently experiencing its worst food crisis in 15 years.

"The Haitians I've met are optimistic about their everyday lives, but they don't have a choice, every day is a survival," he says. "We have a federal agency that deals with natural disasters, Haiti does not."

As Hampton Roads gears up for Hurricane Matthew, Dr. de Laforcade is reminding everyone to keep the needs of the Caribbean in mind.

Mayner says her church is already brainstorming what they do, and in the meantime, keeping the areas affected in their thoughts.

"We're praying, that's what we can do, pray they make it through."

Anyone interested in helping Basilica of St. Mary in their efforts can contact the church office at 757-351-6332 and