Locals rally to help Haiti

By Philip Anselmo, staff writer Daily Messenger
Posted Jan 16, 2010
Source: MPN Now.com

Canandaigua, N.Y. — As relief efforts escalate in Haiti, and organizations from around the world continue the gargantuan task of rescue and rebuilding in the country ravaged by an earthquake Tuesday, local individuals, churches and other organizations are joining the mix.

A high-ranking U.S. Army officer says more than 300 American military personnel have arrived in Haiti to help stabilize the country and “push out relief supplies” to earthquake survivors.

Lt. Gen. Ken Keen said over 300 uniformed troops from the 82nd Airborne Division arrived at the Port-au-Prince airport overnight and others have arrived on the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. Keen told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that Haitians “are in need of everything,” food, water, shelter, medicine.

Reaching out

The New York chapter of the humanitarian organization Friends of the Orphans is seeking funds to repair its hospitals in Haiti, one of which was battered in Tuesday’s earthquake and the other altogether destroyed.

Pittsford resident Bob McNamara is the fundraising coordinator for Friends of the Orphans in New York. The group’s division in Haiti, Nos Petits Frères et Soeurs (Our Little Brothers and Sisters), operates two hospitals and an orphanage in the vicinity of Port-au-Prince, which was at the epicenter of the 7.0-magnitude quake, said McNamara, and they’re in need of relief.

One of the hospitals, the Father Wasson Center in Pationville, just outside of Port-au-Prince, had been converted to a rehabilitation center and educational facility a few years ago. It was destroyed in the quake, said McNamara.

“The former hospital facility totally collapsed, and unfortunately, we had one injured, one missing in the rubble and one dead,” said McNamara.

The other hospital, St. Damien Chateaublond, is located in Tabarre, about 15 miles northeast of Port-au-Prince, said McNamara.

“St. Damien is still standing,” he said. “The walls are cracked, and the outer walls of the courtyard did collapse, but the hospital is still standing. Hopefully, it will still be able to function. It has serious damage, but it didn’t collapse.”

The orphanage, St. Hélène, in the hills of Kenscoff, is north of the quake area. It houses 450 kids.

“It seems to be unharmed,” said McNamara.

Father Richard Frechette, who oversees the orphanage and pediatric hospital, is back in Haiti after a recent return to the United States. Frechette spends “95 percent” of his time in Haiti, where he is highly revered for his work among the people, said McNamara.

“Donations would give us some funds that would help get the hospital in Tabarre back into shape where it could properly function,” said McNamara. “Right now, I’m sure it has some serious structural damage.”

Locals hope to return

Deacon Kevin Carges, of Canandaigua, is eager to get back to Haiti and help out. Carges, active in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester, volunteered with the humanitarian organization Food for the Poor and traveled to Port-au-Prince this past summer.

“It’s difficult to see on the news everything destroyed,” said Carges. “It’s very surreal looking at the whole thing. The poor people were suffering so badly, to have this on top of it … it’s incredible. It’s so sad.”

Both Carges and his wife, Jackie, a nurse at Thompson Hospital in Canandaigua, are on a list of volunteers who would like to help out in Haiti as soon as the situation has been deemed safe enough for them to go there. It’s just “too chaotic” right now, he said.

“Haiti has always been known as one of the worst spots in the world,” said Carges. “It’s one thing to see it on television or in pictures in the paper, but to walk amongst it is so different. To hold hands or hug someone who is suffering really adds tremendously to the experience.”

Carges helped teach Haitians how to run their own fish farms in his time there. It was his hope, he says, to help them become more self-sufficient.

“Unfortunately, when you have something like this … this is catastrophic,” he said. “Everything is ruined and destroyed. It was devastating to be there before this. To see this now …”

One man’s mission

Angel Guadalupe grew up in Brooklyn, where he went to high school with many Haitians, who have remained his friends throughout his life.

“My one friend in Brooklyn posted on Facebook that she finally got in touch with her family,” he said. “They lost everything. I can’t even imagine what they’re going through.”

Guadalupe, who now lives in Canandaigua, is organizing a clothing drive. He is asking anyone with warm-weather clothes to contact him by e-mail at [email protected]. He will take whatever he collects to his friends in Brooklyn to be brought to Haiti, as soon as people are cleared to go.

“Anything that no one is wearing,” said Guadalupe. “People down there are barefoot.”

Copyright 2010 MPNnow. Some rights reserved

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