Thursday, February 25, 2010

Locals traveling to help in Haiti

Locals traveling to help in Haiti
Agencies send people, goods
By Mark Curnutte

Five weeks after an earthquake leveled Port-au-Prince and killed an estimated 230,000 people, old wounds and broken bones are still bandaged with T-shirts and malnutrition and infections are ever-growing problems.

Three international relief agencies based in Greater Cincinnati, including one with a permanent presence in Haiti, will deal with those problems in the coming weeks.

Matthew 25 Ministries, based in Blue Ash, will send a 14-person medical mission team, including four doctors and four nurses, to the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince for nine days.

A Child's Hope International
, based in Liberty Township, will send six-people to unload 300,000 meals, infant formula and diapers for distribution.

One of that group's destinations will be the Restavek Foundation - a Kenwood-based organization that fights childhood slavery in Haiti - which has an office and schools throughout greater Port-au-Prince.

The groups will carry donations, support and the volunteer hours of tens of thousands of people in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

"We are just a small part - you're talking about a large sea of humanity that is behind all of this," said Larry Bergeron, founder of a Child's Hope International, an affiliate of Kids Against Hunger.

More than 2,000 volunteers have packed 660,000 high-protein meals in boil-safe bags since Jan. 12 in a former Blue Ash grocery store, known as "the factory." The group has already shipped hundreds of thousands of meals.

Bergeron and four volunteers from Urbancrest Baptist Church in Lebanon will be in St. Marc, a city about 40 miles up Haiti's western seaboard from Port-au-Prince, to unload the shipment and truck it to a secured warehouse closer to the capital.

The goal, Bergeron said, is to avoid tariffs indiscriminately applied by the Haitian government to shipments coming into Port-au-Prince.

Besides the personnel, Urbancrest has raised almost $100,000 for Haitian relief since the earthquake. It contributed $40,000 to A Child's Hope International to buy rice and other ingredients, and the church sent 300 water-purification units to the impoverished nation.

"We see this as a long-term thing," said the Rev. Tom Pendergrass, Urbancrest senior pastor.

U Pull & Pay, an auto parts salvage yard in Carthage, bought a pickup truck in Florida for Bergeron's group, paid to ship it to Haiti and threw in several sets of tires and spare engine parts for it and other vehicles. Roads and streets in Haiti are deeply rutted and washed out, even in the best conditions.

"We certainly wanted to find something to do to help," said Mark Schaefer, U Pull & Pay president.

The Matthew 25 Ministries group left late last week and planned to begin visiting tent cities and orphanages over the weekend. It will be based out of a hotel about 45 minutes north of Port-au-Prince and will make day trips to treat "old wounds, broken bones that had been bandaged with T-shirts, infections, cases of malnutrition," said Dr. Eric Niemeyer, of Hyde Park Family Medicine and Christ Hospital.

Niemeyer, who has done relief work in Nicaragua, simply wanted to do some good where possible, he said.

Christ Hospital paid all expenses, including $3,500 in travel, lodging and food, for Niemeyer and fellow Christ physician Dr. James O'Dea.

"So many of the children in the orphanages have not had any care," Niemeyer said.

The group took exactly one ton of supplies, including splints, pain relievers, first-aid kits and surgical instruments.

The Restavek Foundation, founded by a former Haitian child slave, Jean-Robert Cadet, operates a feeding program for 5,000 people a day and is building semi-permanent classrooms for its more than 400 students.

Security walls are being rebuilt around its two-dozen schools to provide safe havens for children. Its Haiti office is in Petionville, a hillside suburb southeast of Port-au-Prince.

"We're working with our school directors to hire teachers and begin the process of resuming school," said Joan Conn of Indian Hill, the Restavek director, "so we can bring some normalcy back to children's lives."

The article can be found here.

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