Vermont Groups Mobilize Support For Haiti

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(Host) The scenes of earthquake devastation in Haiti this week have mobilized the world to action.

Several Vermont organizations that have operations in the impoverished nation are trying to organize support. And Vermonters from many walks of life are also looking for ways to help.

VPR’s Ross Sneyd has more.

(Sneyd) Danila Dinan grew up in Jacmel, a city in Haiti about the size of Burlington, that’s south of the capital, Port au Prince.

She’s lived in Vermont for the past 22 years and now works at Fletcher Allen hospital. But her attention has been focused on her homeland because many family members remain there.

And the news has not been good.

(Dinan) "The latest news I’ve got this morning is that the morgue went out of electricity. So that’s very bad. That’s very bad news. A lot of people did get out. But they’re living in the street and they’re still having tremors. And that’s the email from 9:30 this morning that I got from my brother, who was going to the morgue to fetch his son."

(Sneyd) Dinan’s family tells her that there have been many aftershocks. She’s waiting for guidance from home about what kind of assistance would be the most welcome.

(Dinan) "I don’t know what they would need. I don’t know what people would buy with money at this point. So I’m just waiting like everybody to hear more and see what would make most sense for them."

(Sneyd) A number of Vermont groups have relationships with Haiti and have also been monitoring events from afar.

Peg Clement is a senior associate at ARD, a consulting firm in Burlington that provides foreign aid and assistance around the world.

ARD has three projects going on in Haiti and at least one staffer there died. Others are missing.

ARD gets funding through the State Department’s Agency for International Development. And Clement says some of that money will probably be redirected now.

(Clement) "We’re on standby with USAID, who is our funder of the project, to figure out how we can be nimble and perhaps reprogram our moneys, our funds to other types of endeavors."

(Sneyd) Groups like the Vermont Haiti Project and Pure Water for the World in Rutland are planning to travel to Haiti to help staff and assist with relief when they’re permitted.

Burlington Fire Chief Mike O’Neill left for Haiti earlier this week with a federal relief team. Mayor Bob Kiss had a brief conversation with him as O’Neill was waiting for a military flight to Port au Prince.

(Kiss) "He also said that it was unlikely that he would be able to communicate with me once he got there. I think that’s something that people are generally experiencing, difficulty talking to people in Haiti."

(Sneyd) Kiss says Vermonters who want to help should donate money.

Already, Vermont groups are organizing fund-raisers. City Market, the food co-op in Burlington, plans to dedicate a portion of its sales later this month to Haitian relief. And a Vermont filmmaker is planning a concert whose proceeds would go to earthquake recovery.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.


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