Archive for January 2010 | Monthly archive page
I returned about 24 hours ago from Haiti. I’m trying to sum up my trip…but so many thoughts race through my head. Haiti looks like a war zone, yet the people are trying to be resilient and hopeful. More aid is in dire need and I struggle with the fact that it takes a large disaster to draw attention to the poverty that no person should ever have to live in.
Nothing about the trip went easy. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. The logistics on the ground are confusing – for everyone. Communication is almost non-existent and it was much easier for me to contact the USA than to contact someone else in Haiti. Transportation was difficult and gas has reached $45 USD per gallon.
My team of six landed into Haiti on Thursday. Unfortunately the plane was delayed about 6 hours from the Opa Laka airport and it was dark when we arrived. We were headed to the Carfour area which, while only 10 miles away, was about 2 hours away. The narrow roads fill with people sleeping in them in the night so we were unable to leave the Port-Au-Prince airport. This meant sleeping on the tarmac with non-stop jets. We decided not to spend much time in the building as it was in bad shape, parts filled with water, and smelled bad. A good shake could have knocked it down. Our favorite part of inhaling jet fuel all night was when the Cuban plane turned around and revved its engines covering us with dirt. And while disaster relief is a challenging industry – we must do whatever is necessary to get our goods to the communities that need them.
The next morning we arrived at Grace International. This community holds a boys home, a girls home, a church, a school, and a hospital under construction. It’s about 10 acres that had outer walls and inner walls. The outer walls collapsed in the quake leaving the only open space in the area and the directors of the program quickly began to run a 17,000 person refugee camp.
My experiences in the camp are some I will probably never forgot. When you walk around and see such a large population that lost everything…its hard to bear. Particularly difficult are seeing the babies in this situation as well as the elderly. Most of these families simply have the same pair of clothes on their back and a sheet over their head. Dignity is stripped and desperation is setting in.
Not everything about the trip was heart-wrenching. Certainly the young girls of the orphanage who were behind the inner walls with us were a real joy. I saw little kids in the camp who had empty water bottles on a string as a toy. The resilience of kids to make the best of a bad situation is amazing.
There were certainly heroic moments of the trip. Our paramedic Jason bagged a little baby for 3 ½ hours refusing to give up until he found a hospital that would take this little one. It took him 5 cars (many which broke down) before he finally got to the Comfort, the hospital ship off-shore. Jason did everything to get this baby help and we still hope to hear if he survived.
Some of the more chilling and difficult moments of the trip included hearing gun shots one night from just over the walls and then people screaming. There were moments I thought maybe the people were going to revolt and jump the inner walls into where we were staying. When I inquired in the daylight about what happened I learned about the people going around stealing babies from the camps at night. They are either stealing them for trafficking, to eat and I even heard reports of stealing babies for human sacrifice. The kids in these camps are so very vulnerable.
That same night a man was beating on the gate yelling for a doctor. I was staying in a tent with Dr. Lyons-Jones who quickly got out of the tent to see what was needed. A man carried in a young woman and said she hadn’t moved in some time. Unfortunately, this woman had already died. She was seen in the clinic just two days earlier and it is still unknown why exactly she passed. Since the quake this small community has lost 420 people.
I came to find out this man was her husband and they were married just one month. His wailing is still haunting me and several of us took turns just sitting next to him with our arms around him. There are simply no words. I cried realizing that this man, who lost everything, now lost his wife and now could only go back to the comfort of a dirt floor and sheet around him. I felt sick at how inhumane it seemed that any people should endure such suffering.
I had the opportunity to do some wonderful other things like deliver medical supplies to small communities and partake in a food distribution. We distributed the food at night so as to not create any riots with individuals walking back into their communities with food. It is dire that more food reaches the camp soon in order to avoid major problems.
We had a God moment when we bumped into Medical Teams International who was working at Ford Hospital. They had supplies there that weren’t needed for their community, but were desperately needed in ours. They also had doctors not working as they didn’t have enough patients. When I left it looked as if they were going to come and set up camp at Grace. They looked through our supplies and saw crutches and burst into shouts of joy. They had been amputating legs and people were unable to leave the hospital without crutches. They took several with them so they could get people ambulatory again.
There are so many things I could probably write about. But I was struck by a conversation I had with one young man named Matthew. Matthew was just 22 years old and knew it was my first time to Haiti. He asked what I thought of his country. I told him how nice the people were but how sad I was for the devastation I saw around me. As I talked about the images I saw I began to tear up. Matthew looked at me with a smile and said, “don’t be sad, just pray for us. That’s what you can do, you can pray for us.” Such faith and hope from such a young man.
So I leave you with this thought – pray for Haiti. And as you pray listen to what God might be telling you to do to respond. It’s not about what GCHope can do in Haiti – remember, we can’t do this without YOU. YOU are the ones that must choose to do something or to believe it is someone else’s responsibility to do something. What part is God calling you to play in providing hope to Haiti?
Pacifica High School in Garden Grove put together a fundraiser for Haiti relief with the goal to raise $2000 in two minutes. If the goal was reached, the ASB girls could dress up their assistant principal Mr. Ma for a week. Each classroom had an envelope where students could put in their donations. When “Go!” was announced through the intercom, a representative from each class had to run out to drop the envelope off at the courtyard. The school was able to raise over $6000! The money will be able to provide pharmaceuticals and 40,000 lbs of rice and 40,000 lbs of beans for an orphanage in Haiti. Thanks to Pacifica High School for joining Giving Children Hope in bringing relief to Haiti!
Check out how a girls’ soccer team in Torrance hosted a food drive and collected many boxes of food for Giving Children Hope’s “We’ve Got Your Back” program. All the food will feed homeless children in Orange County!
Girl Scouts Troupe 783 is hosting food drives in various schools to help support the We’ve Got Your Back program at GCHope. The food will be sorted and stuffed in backpacks and delivered to help many homeless children in Orange County!
Giving Children Hope has been conducting disaster relief for 16+ years now – but this is my first time traveling to a disaster area.
I’ve been asked so many questions and honestly, I’m not sure of all of my thoughts. I can say that the logistics fell into place and a team will be going along with one of the shipments we have been sending. I feel pretty peaceful about the trip.
Any news I can report from the field will be posted at www.aidtohaiti.org. We need people to post this on their blogs and spread it to their friends. We need to raise the finances to cover the expenses of the relief taking place.
As much as we can we show you photos of the actual communities we serve. With international aid having such a bad reputation, the more we can show you (and I’m sure I’ll have a lot to show soon) the more trust people have in us.
Currently we are working with trusted field partners to equip them with the supplies, medicines and food that is needed. We have confirmation that prior shipments are already in the field.
More than anything I covet your prayers on this trip. And please pray for the people of Haiti. The situation is still desperate and providing aid gives hope. We pray that Jesus would be glorified through all of these efforts.
The Mobile Multi Service Center is a one-stop point where homeless individuals and families can receive housing, employment, education, medical and various other services from nearly 60 agencies. It is now offering more services through the funding made by the Orange County Board of Supervisors and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
With the recent earthquake and the press stating that aid isn’t getting in, I wanted to take a moment and tell you a little bit about how disasters work and how aid gets in.
Very rarely can you begin administering aid in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. It takes a few days to know the infrastructure. And because I don’t like to criticize other efforts, I will not comment on government efforts or the Red Cross as I am often asked to do. Rather, I will tell you what we do and why this works.
While I did not live in the country during Katrina, I do know that relief efforts were largely criticized. What worked was getting aid to large churches who made it available to small churches who got it to the people. Why? All of these people were connected to the community already and wanted to help those in their neighborhood. Neighbors helping neighbors, the Church being the Church as Jesus calls it to be.
The first thing Giving Children Hope is able to do is to send in hand-carried aid with small teams traveling to do rescue. We know that this aid reaches the people as it is being hand-carried.
As in any disaster the key is to already have relationships on the ground with a network that understands the situation and can really get out to the people. So when NGOs and churches get together and discuss who we have worked with in the past in Haiti and then ask those organizations on the ground how we can best help, well, it works. We listen to them – the experts on the area. We offer our experience from past disasters, but we always listen to their first hand knowledge and we respond in that manner.
Of course, first we pray. We pray for the right partners. We pray for the volunteers. We pray for the supplies. We pray for the money. We pray for the transport. We pray and pray and pray because even the most planned and equipped responses fail in disasters and we know that only through divine intervention will a relief effort be successful.
I was on a conference call late last night with several of us involved in today’s air shipment of aid which will go to the small orphanages in Haiti. I am convinced that as it states in scripture, we all have our role and not one of us organizations had all of the pieces. This is so that we do not become proud. But as the physical body is to work together, the legs, the feet, the eyes, the ears, so it is with the Body of the Church. When we come together and put everything aside to help the people, each of us doing our part, aid gets to the people who need it most. Aid gets to the networks of orphanages and churches that already exists and they get it to the people – the Church is doing what is it supposed to do, caring for the people. All of these things honor God.
So in the end we take the steps in front of us, but it really comes down to Jesus making it happen. And I am so glad because I wouldn’t have it any other way!
This is the ABC News coverage of Giving Children Hope’s response to the earthquake in Haiti. Giving Children Hope is a grassroots organization. Relief efforts happen when individuals get involved to serve others.
When you work for Giving Children Hope you understand that disaster relief just comes with the job. It’s what we do. But some disasters are more difficult than others. The earthquake in Haiti is one of the more difficult ones.
Reports are ranging anywhere from 100,000 to 500,000 people have been killed. The photos are horrific. My heart aches and I can’t fight the tears. Why? There are never answers to why. I feel fortunate that I work in an environment that is poised to help however we can.
I was thankful to hear this morning that our friends from Mission Viejo Christian Church who just left to go work in the orphanages are safe. They are thrown into relief mode as they work to care for those trapped and in pain.
GCHope began our efforts to put together medicines and supplies to immediately get to disaster areas. We are shipping everything from penicillin to water purification tablets.
If you’d like to help Haiti you can. The most important thing you can do is to pray for those on the ground. The needs are great. If you’d like to make a financial contribution to relief efforts you can do so “here”:http://www.gchope.org/earthquake-rocks-haiti.html You can also come to our offices and volunteer.
In times like these it’s important to focus on what we can do to serve those in need.
At Giving Children Hope we rely on a large volunteer pool to keep the doors open. Literally, without our volunteer pool we could not operate and serve all of the communities that are helped. We are grassroots not just in name, but in deed.
We are thrilled to be an organization approved by Disney for their “Give a Day, Get a Day”:http://www.gchope.org/give-a-day-get-a-disney-day.html campaign. For all individuals who sign-up on-line through the Disney website and then complete a volunteer project they will be given a free day’s pass to Disneyland or Disney World. The response has been overwhelming to the point that we actually put up an FAQ’s just about the Disney promotion.
So if you’ve been thinking about volunteering, now is a good time. Give a Day, Get a Day – plus you’ll be helping those in need. Thanks Disney for recognizing the hard work of volunteers!