The images and news coming out of Haiti following the Jan. 12 earthquake were shocking, but also served as an immediate call to action, one local residents have been quick to answer.
From the well-established aid response of the Mennonite Central Committee to the efforts of school kids, the community has rallied in support of those devastated by the natural disaster.
In Floradale, Steve Bauman and his brother-in-law Kevin Coates have organized a benefit concert. Coates is a pianist, and the two men have gathered up some of their musician friends and are planning a night of music at the Floradale Mennonite Church on Jan. 30, with all proceeds going to the MCC.
“When Yvonne Martin died, I think it hit a lot of people in the Elmira area,” explained Bauman. “It hit home a bit more than it might have if we didn’t have that personal connection to it.”
The group is happy that the event came together as quickly as it did, so that the donations they raise can be given to the group while the government of Canada is offering to match any donation made to Haiti relief. Ottawa will match dollar-for-dollar all donations to endorsed national charitable organizations from Jan.12 to Feb. 12.
“Any money we raise is for the people of Haiti,” said Bauman. “Ninety-nine per cent of us will probably not ever get to Haiti but if we can do something that can make their lives better, I think it is up to each of us to try and do that, whatever that means in our own world.”
As the Mennonite Central Committee ramps up its response to the devastation in Haiti, its aid workers in the country are already assisting as they are able.
“We didn’t sleep last night as we were pulling and digging people out of crumbled houses in our neighborhood,” wrote MCC worker Alexis Depp of Waxhaw, N.C., in an e-mail on Jan. 13. She and her husband, Benjamin Depp, then searched for missing friends and coworkers.
“We’re definitely in shock and can’t begin to describe what the last day and a half has been like here,” Depp wrote.
The MCC has been providing aid in Haiti since 1958. Resource development director Dan Driedger explained that they are not typically a ‘first responder,’ but rather a medium- to long-term responder which will provide aid and support for a number of years, rather than all the money being spent immediately.
The MCC disaster response team travelled to Haiti at the end of last week. They are currently assessing the situation and reporting back to the committee here in Canada as to what their response should be. Almost immediately, 1,000 water filters were purchased and are now awaiting shipment to Haiti. Driedger said that drinking water will be a significant issue given the collapse of water collection systems.
“They are known around the world for putting the pieces together in Third World countries,” said Bauman of MCC. “We are going to give the money to them and I know that they will find the best way to use the funds.”
At Elmira District Secondary School, students were able to donate a dollar (or more) Friday to wear a hat or a jersey to school. The proceeds of the fundraiser are headed to the Foundation for International Development Assistance, the charitable organization that owned the guesthouse where Yvonne Martin and a team of nurses were staying while in Haiti.
In the Life Skills class, instructor John Parsons has spent the week baking with his students, and selling the goods outside the school cafeteria in order to raise funds. The students have raised more than $160 to date, including the sales of several dozen donuts donated from the Elmira Donuts and Deli, all proceeds going to the Canadian Red Cross.
Linda Taylor, of Taylor’s Bridal Shop in Elmira, is planning to donate five per cent of all the proceeds of the store’s sales in January and February to support Haiti.
“I just felt as though it was something that I had to do,” said Taylor. “If we can help in this way, then we will.”
Becky Ribble of Elmira and her sons, Jackson, 6, and Ben, 8 are organizing a toy and bake sale at their 51 Stillwater St. home on Jan. 30, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“We have been talking to our kids about what has been going on in Haiti and both of them have pretty heavy hearts,” said Ribble. “They feel like we need to do something to help.”
Driedger said that the support from the community so far has been very encouraging, but that he does not know exact figures as to how much money has been raised for relief efforts in Woolwich so far.
“The response so far has been overwhelming. Instead of stopping to add up the funds, we are just trying to keep our heads above water at the moment.”
In addition to donations of money, the MCC is asking the public to supply 20,000 relief kits and 10,000 cotton sheets to be sent to earthquake survivors. Relief kits include personal hygiene supplies, laundry soap, towels and bandages. People who donate kits are asked to provide only the specific items on the list of relief kit supplies that can be found at www.mcc.org/kits.
Flat sheets, which also will be used as mosquito netting, can be double-, queen- or king- size. Sheets, with at least a 300-thread count, should be new, cotton and light-colored, which are not as attractive to mosquitoes.
Additional aid for Haiti in Woolwich:
On behalf of its local staff at the St. Jacob’s location and across the country, Home Hardware will donate $25,000 to the MCC.
Donations can be made to the MCC at Brian’s Photo in downtown Elmira.
Donations can be made
to the MCC directly:
• Mennonite Central Committee,
50 Kent Ave., Kitchener, ON N2G 3R1
• MCC Thrift Shop