Remaining Brevard church volunteers stranded in Haiti are back in Florida

By John A. Torres, Florida Today

16-year-old Victoria Ruiz of Indialantic returned home July 10, 2018, from Haiti with her mother and two sisters. The group's return was delayed by unrest and violence in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. (Courtesy Ruiz family/Florida Today)

Families and friends of the 11 Haiti volunteers, stranded this week due to violence in Port-au-Prince, can breathe easy.

The remaining five — one adult and four teens — landed safely in Fort Lauderdale shortly after noon, reports News 6 partner Florida Today. On Tuesday, the first six made it home.

The group was doing work for the Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church’s Hearts out to Haiti mission when violence broke out in Port-au-Prince delaying their return home.

They were all originally scheduled to fly back last Sunday but rioting, violence, fires and roadblocks sprang up throughout Haiti's capital due to a sudden and drastic hike in fuel prices.

"Words cannot express the relief I feel," said Indialantic resident Margie Ruiz, 45, who flew back from Haiti on Tuesday with her three daughters. "I feel like I left behind my own kids."

The group tried desperately to return together but flights were packed and seats were few with Americans leaving the country. 

"We are completely overjoyed that the entire team is back," said Jessica Trio of Indian Harbour Beach after learning her 17-year-old daughter, Natalie, made it back. "She just texted me that they are driving home!! Our prayers are answered, we are grateful to the Haitian people for taking such good care our team, making them feel safe, relaxed and loved. All of the families have communicated with each other and are thankful and relieved."

The Hearts out to Haiti mission is much more than Vacation Bible School. The organization pays the salary for 140 Haitian teachers, purchases three books for every student — about 15,000 books total — and provides annual teacher training. Volunteers have built several structures, including a bridge and a cistern. With the proper funding, the mission is looking to support more teachers and purchase more books.

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