Vermonters Look To Help Victims In Haiti

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(Host) Vermont relief organizations say there’s been a tremendous response from people across the state who want to help victims of the earthquake in Haiti.

For now, the groups all stress that financial assistance is the best way to provide critical, short term help.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel has more.

(Kinzel) As the scenes of destruction emerge from Haiti, many Vermonters are responding with offers of help.  Rob Levine is the head of the Vermont chapter of the American Red Cross:

(Levine) "We’ve received so many calls over the past day and a half – calls from family members who obviously are worried, can’t get in touch with their loved ones, calls from Vermonters who want to do something… But until the damage assessment is completed, aid organizations are not going to fully know what is going to be fully required in that relief effort."      

(Kinzel) Levine says a number of individuals have offered to collect food, clothing and various supplies for the relief effort. While he appreciates these offers, he stresses that it’s not what is needed right now:

(Levine) "Even though these unsolicited offers are a show of the generosity and the passion that Vermonters have, it presents real problems in terms of logistics. There are hidden costs and challenges in terms of getting those supplies – and remember the airport is just opening, ground transportation is challenged – so we really are urging everyone to make a financial donation. That is the best and fastest way."

(Kinzel) Carolyn Meub of Rutland is the executive director of Pure Water for the World. Over the past two years the organization has worked to install clean water systems in hundreds of schools in Haiti.  Her group has a factory there that makes concrete and ceramic water filters.       

(Meub) "Half of our inventory of the concrete filters have been destroyed and all of our ceramic filters have been destroyed. But of those fillers that are working, the crew has tried to find a way to try to get them set up in neighborhoods where they’re working. And so they’re trying to provide medical services – supplies are down, they’re running low on water, they’re running low on food and they are out of medical supplies."

(Kinzel) Meub says she wants to be part of the relief effort on the ground in Haiti but she realizes that she can be of greater assistance if she stays here:

(Meub) "At the same time we want to keep planning. You know, how do I get concrete in? Do I try to go to an organization in Michigan to get plastic filters for the interim? Is there other technology we can get?"

(Kinzel) Jennifer Henry is the president of the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals.  She’s organizing efforts to send health care workers to Haiti:

(Henry) "Relief workers can only go to Haiti if they are part of an organized group, so we’re in the process of collecting names of nurses and EMTS and paramedics – any other health care workers that want to go to Haiti – so that when the time comes and the time will probably be over an extended period of time not just immediately but that we’ll have those names ready to go so people can be part of the relief effort."

(Kinzel) Governor Jim Douglas says it’s unlikely that any Vermont National Guard troops will be sent to Haiti as part of a relief mission because the Vermont Guard doesn’t have the transport services that are available in some other states.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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