Suzanne Swanson said she longs for the day that it is safe to go back to Haiti.
"It is just not the same," said Swanson, who helps lead the Haiti Partnership for the Southern New England Conference United Church of Christ. The group used to visit Haiti several times a year.
"Working in schools and orphanages and churches and providing food programs and a clinic and medical teams, but we have not been able to go," explained Swanson.
While the team remains in daily contact with their partners in Haiti, they have not physically been in the country since 2019. According to Swanson, the rise in kidnappings and gang violence has kept them away. They are fearful to travel, not just because of their own safety, but the safety of their partners in Haiti.
"We don't want people in the gangs to realize that they have had some visitors and partners from the US. That would put them at risk as well," said Swanson.
Right now, FBI members and state department officials are on the ground in Haiti. They are working to secure the release of 17 missionaries, including 16 Americans, who were kidnapped over the weekend by a street gang.
According to the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti, the number of kidnappings continues to rise this year. In 2021, so far, there have been 328 victims reported to police in Haiti compared to 234 total reports in 2020.
The increase in the number of kidnappings, coupled with the pandemic, has also kept Seeds of Hope for Haiti from visiting the country.
"Anybody who has tried to maintain a relationship long distance knows that can be challenging, but we are committed to keeping it up," said Bruce Palmatier, who works with Seeds of Hope for Haiti, a nonprofit based in Southbury.
Both groups continue their work from afar.
UCC's Haiti Partnership helps provide education, health care, orphan relief, spiritual support and community-based services.
Seeds of Hope for Haiti works to support the parish of Our Lady of Sorrows in Grand Boulage. They provide salary subsidies for school teachers to help with education. They also provide educational materials like books and classroom supplies.
In addition to education, they work to support healthcare and food needs. In 2019, the nonprofit opened a permanent clinic to help bring more consistent healthcare access to the region. They also have a program that helps to feed children.
"We would be heartbroken if we couldn't continue to help," said Palmatier.
Angelucci Manigat lives in Connecticut and publishes The Haitian Voice, a tri-lingual monthly newspaper. He used to have people deliver the newspaper for him in Haiti, but now he just sends electronic copies.
"Nobody wants to go out and I will not risk their lives for the sake of my newspaper," said Manigat.
Manigat said that kidnappings are not new to Haiti, but the problem has gotten worse in recent months.
"It's not new and it is very complicated," said Manigat, whose family still lives in Haiti.
The Haitian Health Foundation, headquartered in Norwich, has a team that is based in Haiti. They say they are carefully continuing their work, helping thousands.
Americares, based in Stamford, also has a team in Haiti. A spokesperson for Americares said they have been operating in Haiti with increased security and safety protocols since the August earthquake. They plan to continue their response as scheduled.