Kay Self spread the photos from her trip to Haiti on the table in front of her along with envelopes and scraps of paper with e-mail addresses written in hurried hand. These are her memories from her trip to Haiti in September where Self, a nurse from Newton, spent time working as a Christian educator and nurse. Even before the earthquake, she had been so touched by the plight of the poor in the country, she organized a flip-flop drive for the people of Haiti.

Local donors gave more than 500 pairs of flip-flops during the drive.

She passed her fingers over the glossy prints, smiled and picked up one of a young man laughing — her 25-your-old Haitian interpreter, Mike.

He is one of many people she has lost contact with since the earthquake.

Mike’s backpack was found in the rubble near the university in Port-au-Prince.

Self eyes turned glassy. The young man is presumed dead.

As Americans have watched the devastation in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti, many have been moved to send aid to the hurt and homeless.

But some in Newton have made the Haiti relief movement personal.

Self is one of those people.

“I feel such a personal connection to this land and these people,” she said again, her eyes turning to glass.

They’re alive

E-mail after e-mail went answered, and Self feared the others she met in Haiti had suffered the same fate as Mike.

But out of the confusion and devastation came an electronic plea for prayer.

During her trip to Haiti, Self taught at a church in Gonaivies, a coastal town about four miles from the epicenter of the quake.

She had befriended the pastor there, Herard Esaie, and now she is receiving brief e-mails from him and the assistant pastor of the church.

“They’re alive!” she said of a piece of paper — an e-mail —trembling in her hands.

In his e-mail, Herard explained how he narrowly missed being in Port-au-Prince at the time of the earthquake and sent pleas for aid from America.

“I would like to see you by me now. Your presence is extremely important to Haiti to assist those who are suffering at the hospital around the country,” he wrote. “I have some family members, friends, Christian brothers and sisters who are dead in this powerful earthquake. Let me know what kind of things you would like to provide, and we will plan how to receive them.”

And the assistant pastor Mosie Deshommes wrote, “We are very well by the grace of God, but our country is broke with the earthquake. ... You are a good friend. Pray for us forever.”

Gonaivies is in a rural area of Haiti. People left the community in droves after the Tsunami hit the coastal community.

Now, The Associated Press reports tens of thousands of refugees are returning to the area to escape the death and devastation in the capital of Port-au-Prince from the earthquake.

When she was in Haiti, Self asked the pastor what he would do if he had $5,000 to do anything he wanted with. He said he would add a cement floor and a toilet to his primitive church.

“I knew when I thought of that he would do the right thing with the money,” she said. “I know there must be people coming to Gonaivies to escape the earthquake damage. I know he will use this money to help those people.”

Hearts for Haiti

Self has set up a non-profit relief account with First Bank called Hearts for Haiti. Money from the account will go directly to Esaie and his congregation to help survivors of the earthquake.

In face of disaster and severe poverty, the people of Haiti are resilient, Self said.

“The happiest couple of weeks of my life were spent in Haiti,” she said. “They have little or no possessions, but they rise above it. They care for the needs of that day. They are friendly and the most hospitable people.”

Right now, they need food, water and wounds bandages, she said, but eventually they will need help in rebuilding.

“I wanted to give people here the opportunity to help people,” she said. “I think people will open their hearts and help. I know these people will be so grateful for their help. There is nothing better than being able to help another human being.

“I have been honored to be able to represent the spirit of everyone here. I have been a spokeswoman,” she said of the flip-flop drive. “We have been able to raise a hand and extend it and pour out everything in our hearts, and now we have an opportunity to do this again.”