PORT ANGELES – While much of the world has watched the devastation of the Jan. 12 Haitian earthquake with a detached sense of compassion, for one Port Angeles woman, it’s very personal.
Dieula (pronounced Jayla) Marie Fromm is a Haitian native who came to Port Angeles in 1975. She still has relatives living in Haiti, especially quake-stricken Port-au-Prince.
A sister who lives in Florida was visiting their sister in Port-au-Prince when the quake struck.
Family members escaped harm, but Fromm said they slept out on the street next to dead bodies rather than return to the building.
Fromm could only watch it on TV as the extent of the disaster grew.
“I was really scared,” she said. “I kept saying, is this for real?”
Said Fromm’s daughter, Linda Hofer: “At first Mom said don’t worry about it — she’s been through hurricanes.
“But then it kind of unfolded, and you began seeing all the devastation. Waiting to find out about our family was agonizing.”
Fromm decided to help in a way she knows well — by cooking.
She runs Marie’s Catering, and decided she wanted to cook an authentic Haitian meal for the community to raise funds for the American Red Cross relief efforts in Haiti.
“I was low, but now I feel energized,” she said. “I feel like I’m working for God.”
Fromm, her daughter and a few Haitian friends from Seattle are preparing a large amount of traditional Haitian food, which they will offer in take out meals from her catering business on Eighth Street on Monday.
Hofer, who is a nursing student at Peninsula College, has been busy organizing the event, telling fellow students and spreading the word.
All the food has been purchased by Fromm, but all the proceeds will go to the Red Cross.
“We are doing it for the right reasons,” Hofer said. “We’re just two small people trying to do the right thing.”
Michelle Kelley, executive director of the Olympic Peninsula Chapter of the American Red Cross, will be with the women all day during the fundraiser.
“I will be there and have a couple of volunteers with me,” Kelley said. “We’ll be writing receipts, and letting people know that the money is going to the Red Cross.
“It’s also to support these wonderful women.”
While the world’s image of Haiti is one of poverty and hunger, Fromm said there is always food there, and people always share what they have.
She grew up in the country and said she only needed to go into the backyard to find food, including vegetables, coconuts and mangoes.
Menu for meal
The menu for Monday’s meal consists of spinach and collard greens in a meat sauce, red beans and rice, shrimp and vegetables with rice, crispy pork and fried plantain.
Fromm was already busy Friday cooking the pork.
First it is marinated with onions and garlic, then boiled until it falls off the bone. Then the chunks of meat are baked until they are “crispy.”
“This reminds me that I have a lot. It’s hard to complain when others have so little,” Hofer said.
Cooking a big meal is also a traditional Haitian response when someone dies; sort of a Haitian wake.
“I’m also doing this for the people who have died in Haiti,” Fromm said.
Hofer will graduate from the Peninsula College nursing program in June, and is considering taking her nursing skills to Haiti.
The last time she was there she was 5.
“I have these skills, I feel like I could actually do something,” she said.
________Features editor Marcie Miller can be reached at 360-417-3550 or [email protected]