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Worshipers ask Cambria Heights to remember Haiti Year after devastating earthquake, residents serve as reminder of unabated hunger, poverty

About two dozen residents prayed for Haiti inside a Cambria Heights church Saturday, urging their neighbors to continue to help the nation’s citizens a year after a 7.3-magnitude earthquake rocked the country.

Elsie Saint Louis Accilien, executive director of the Cambria Heights-based Haitian Americans United for Progress, said the aid received so far to help the Haitian people is inadequate.

“We still have over a million people living in tents — that is simply unacceptable,” she said as one of the speakers to address the audience in the Cambria Heights Community Church. “Haiti will indeed rise up to be the incredible nation it has been set up to be.”

The earthquake devastated the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, Accilien said, “but the rest of Haiti is not underground.”

She said Haiti’s schoolchildren are waking up at 3:30 a.m. to make it to school at around 6 a.m. to prepare for exams.

Accilien said the country’s leaders also share in the hardship.

“The president works out of a makeshift tent,” she said. “The prime minister works out of his car.”

Accilien urged the community reach out to Haitian families directly and to sponsor them for $10 a month. She said HAUP has lists of phone numbers of families who need help.

State. Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) also said there is little progress one year after the earthquake.

“A year ago, the internal organs of the earth had a rupture and the result was one of the worst earthquakes in the world,” he said. “A year has gone by and very little has occurred.”

Smith said he wanted to make sure the tragedy was not forgotten.

“Whether it is Sept. 11 or April 1, people always sight what happened on 9/11,” he said. “However, Haiti for me is equally devastating and something we should always remember every single day.”

City Councilman Mathieu Eugene (D-Brooklyn), a native of Haiti whose cousin died in the disaster, said on a recent visit to the country he saw “a devastated country, rubble [and] people living under tents.

“That was unacceptable,” he said. “One year after, the situation of Haiti should not be the same. Now is the time for us to continue to fund Haiti.”

Three men from the community were honored at the event for their work in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere: Jeffrey Raphael of Diaspora Community Services, Louis Elneus of Haiti Lumiere de Demain and David Duchatellier of Dutch Travel.

Raphael said his organization operates a clinic that sees 25 to 30 patients a day.

He noted how Diaspora Community Services relies on donations from local residents.

“The way the New York community has really helped out ... I am proud for that,” Raphael said.

Accilien accepted Elneus’ award on his behalf, saying his organization is helping people in tent cities in Haiti.

“He’s an incredible young man who has donated his time to Haiti,” she said of Elneus.

Duchatelier recalled his visit to Haiti in July.

“I saw a couple of workers on top of two buildings. How they were able to remove the rubble was a sight to see: with a hammer,” he said.

State Assemblywoman Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village) said the community must continue to help Haiti.

“Today continues to make us realize that we have to be diligent,” said Clark, who like Accilien said residents should directly fund Haitian families instead of giving to aid organizations.

Democratic District Leader and former Council Majority Leader Archie Spigner said he was hopeful Haiti will be rebuilt.

“Haiti will come back,” he said. “They will come back and come back sooner with our help.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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