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Central Texas pastor supporting Transform Haiti describes challenges migrants face at home

Haitian migrants have traveled thousands of miles to get to the U.S. A pastor doing mission work in the country explains why going home is so dangerous.

KILLEEN, Texas — Christian Life Church Pastor Ryan Wood has been working with Transform Haiti for four years. He's been to the country twice. The organization runs an orphanage in the country for homeless children. Wood said it currently houses around 40 children.

While the organization has existed for several decades, Wood told 6 News Haiti faces many challenges for migrants being forced to return today.

Haiti has been plagued by natural disasters and political upheaval. President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in July. Homes have been demolished by recent hurricanes. Wood said infrastructure is lacking and some areas remain lawless. 

Wood said the first issue migrants will have after being deported home is finding shelter. And it only gets worse from there.

"They are getting off the plane an... it's like being dropped off without any resources," Wood said. "If somebody is going to give you a ride you will need money to pay them and I don't know if they will have money to pay people. If they have a ride, I don't know where they would go."

Wood said gangs will put bricks across the roads or even light tire fires to divert traffic. They then divert vehicles down a different road were they can extort the travelers.

"There are gangs that are set up along there that, they see people who have resources, and they basically have a ransom, a tax, to travel. Our guys have had be be really creative to get the food and supplies to the people who need it and bypass those gangs," Wood said.

With a lack of clean water, cholera is also a problem. Wood told 6 News municipal water pipes will often get purposefully broken by locals desperate for something to drink. That, in turn, disrupts water services to other places that need it.

"Folks that are just thirsty and, I understand they need water... They'll cut the pipes anywhere it's exposed so that they can fill up containers until the city shuts off the water," Wood said.

The Biden administration has already sent several hundred migrants back to Haiti and more will follow. Wood said he had no idea what the best answer is for those people stuck beyond the border, but Haiti remains one of the worst options.

"There is such a history of unrest. That's got to get figured out," Wood said. "I don't know where I would put them... I understand them wanting to be here. I don't know what other country we could put them in that would support them. That we wouldn't just be going from the frying pan to the fire. Haiti is not a great option."

Wood told 6 News the children still living in Haiti continue to need food, shoes, vitamins and clean water. Perhaps more than anything, Wood said the orphanage needs a well so they have a consistent source of water.

Learn more about supporting Transform Haiti here

Learn more about Christian Life Church here.