In the days after an earthquake shook through Haiti on Jan. 12, Pittsburghers sprang into action to help their neighbors, 90 minutes off the coast of Florida. Several of these relief groups had already been working over the years to help the impoverished of Haiti while others created organizations almost overnight.
|LENDING A HAND—From left: R.J. Hines of Brother’s Brother Foundation helps Rochelle Oaks sign up to volunteer with Judy Rosemaa, another volunteer.
“It was about 3 a.m. when I woke up with a really heavy heart,” said Leon Pamphile, executive director of the Functional Literacy Ministry of Haiti. “I became so overwhelmed with the incredible loss of lives and the graphic physical and emotional suffering of the people of Haiti.”
As a Port-au-Prince native, Pamphile has been hit especially hard by this catastrophe. His organization has been working to help the people of Haiti since 1983 by building literacy centers and taking yearly trips to address the country’s medical needs.
“We have all been waiting anxiously to hear how our clinic and school, and their staffs have fared. Some of our children live in the heart of the worst damage,” Pamphile said. “We are worrying, we are crying, we are praying. Yet we know that God is able to use us to reach out to those who are suffering.”
FLM was only one of the many organizations accepting donations and packaging shipments for Haiti throughout the week. Their volunteers spent Jan. 16 packaging medical supplies and accepting monetary donations and will be taking a trip to visit their clinics as soon as they can.
“Haiti is our neighbor and our organization is there to take care of our neighbor,” said Russell Bynum, who serves on the FLM board of directors. “They have always been neglected and this event just made things worse.”
The Homewood YMCA was also busy with Haiti relief efforts Jan. 16, as people came from around the city to make donations. Homewood residents Kwellin Allen and Yolanda Hill, who organized the event, spent their day collecting clothes, non-perishable food, medical supplies and toiletries as Pittsburghers opened their hearts for the less fortunate.
“My heart really goes out to those individuals and I look at them as my family,” said Wilkinsburg resident Nedra Williams. “That’s why I helped.”
“They need it and they need help and if I could go with the clothes I would go,” said Debbra Howard of Swissvale.
Medical supplies and toiletries collected at the YMCA were sent to the Brother’s Brother Foundation, another local organization taking the lead in providing aid to Haiti. BBF has been working for more than 50 years to help Haiti and more than 100 countries around the globe.
“(The donations have) been very steady and we’re very appreciative to the people of Pittsburgh for how much they’ve contributed,” said BBF Vice President Karen Dempsey.
BBF has already sent two shipments of medical supplies collected from various organizations. As of Jan. 19, they have collected more than $200,000 in response to the earthquake.
Haiti donations can be made to:
•To donate to the American Red Cross Haiti Relief and Development Fund, call 1-800-Red-Cross; visit www.redcross.org; mail checks to 225 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, Pa 15222; or text “Haiti” to 90999 to send a donation of $10, the charge will appear on your next cell phone bill.
•To donate to the Brother’s Brother Foundation, call 412-321-3160; visit www.brothersbrother .org; or mail checks to 1200 Galveston Ave., Pittsburgh, Pa 15233.
•To donate to the Functional Literacy Ministry of Haiti Educational & Medical Missions, call 412-784-0342; visit www.fmlhaiti.org; or mail checks to 1064 Premier St., Pittsburgh, Pa 15201.
•To donate to the Yéle Haiti Earthquake Fund, visit www. yele.org; or text “Yele” to 501501 to donate $5, the charge will appear on your next cell phone bill.
•Donations can also be made at various department and grocery stores.