Local heart for Haitians

Her phone keeps ringing off the hook. Donations pour into her restaurant daily. She had to rent an empty store beside her just to make room for the donations. Her name is Sheyla Cadet-Walker. She is Haitian and this is Scarborough’s response to the Haiti quake disaster.

The room is now filled with small mountains of canned foods, water bottles, clothing, diapers, shoes and mattresses.

“It shows that in a time of need, people do rise to the occasion,” said Cadet-Walker, owner of Lakay Caribbean Restaurant in Scarborough.

Lakay, the only Haitian restaurant in the Greater Toronto Area, has become the gathering spot for Haiti relief.

Since the 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti last month, aid has been pouring into the impoverished nation from around the world and Scarborough is no exception. The majority of donations the restaurant has received, have come from neighbours in Scarborough, Cadet-Walker said,

“It’s been great to see how people in the neighbourhood come out and respond to such a disaster,” she said. “It’s heartwarming and shows humanity at its best.”

But the generosity from Scarborough has not stopped there.

The Malvern Christian Assembly has raised $15,000 for Haiti aid groups, while a group of high school students is raising thousands at Sir Oliver Mowat Collegiate with bake sales and movie screenings. The University of Toronto Scarborough did their part, hosting a candlelight vigil and is working to fundraise $20,000 this month.

“A lot of students have contacted me saying they want to get involved,” said Murali Thambiaiah, vice president of students and equity for the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union.

These are glimmers of hope for Haiti, and many say the response by the international community has been unprecedented.

World leaders gathered late last month in Montreal to discuss support for up to 10 years, while both Canada and the United States held Haiti benefit concerts. The concerts raised nearly $70 million.

“A lot of people before didn’t know where Haiti is,” said Abner Agenor, a Haitian student at U of T Scarborough. “But now with this earthquake, everybody knows the Haitian people and where Haiti is.”

Agenor, who has lost family to the quake, says he sees this as an opportunity to build a new Haiti.

“I know it will be hard, it could take 10, even 25 years to rebuild Haiti. But if we work together, Haiti will rebuild.”

Cadet-Walker, on the other hand, has her doubts whether Haiti will ever be the same.

“It’s mind-boggling to envision your entire country has been so damaged that you cannot even recognize it and you would no longer know where home is,” she said, adding that she hopes the world will not forget about Haiti in the years to come.

Lakay Caribbean Restaurant is still accepting donations, and will be sending its first shipment to Haiti this month.