The January 12, 2010 Haiti earthquake was a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 Mw earthquake, with an epicenter near the town of Léogâne, approximately 25 km (16 miles) west of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital. By February 12, an estimated 3,000,000 people were affected by the quake; the Haitian Government reports that between 217,000 and 230,000 people had died, an estimated 300,000 injured, and an estimated 1,000,000 homeless. They estimated that 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings had collapsed or were severely damaged.
Annie Loyd and Jodi Powers, founders of One Planet magazine, interviewed Krista Kinnard, project manager for World Care, a humanitarian relief organization located in Tucson, Arizona.
We’ve been to World Care and know how big and busy it is on a normal day! Describe World Care after the earthquake.
As soon as the earthquake hit, World Care went into emergency relief mode. Our doors were open for four straight weeks and we never had a dull moment. Volunteers were coming into help. People started bringing in donations of money, hygiene products, first aid, food, blankets — anything and everything that can be used in Haiti.
We didn’t even ask people to start donating. I walked in the day after the earthquake to do my internship here and the hallways in World Care’s 40,000-SF building were flooded with donations.
World Care Founder Lisa Hopper has great contacts with the media and the media were here and Lisa started making public service announcements, identifying how people could help and what the best items were to donate. World Care had several different events. One was that we stuffed four Sun Tran buses with donations.
The Tucson community’s response to help was just incredible.
How was World Care’s material distributed?
World Care is not a distribution organization, we’re a supplier. We connect with other organizations like ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency) and IRD (International Relief & Development), who have warehouses there and who have the capacity to go out in the community and distribute the food. World Care ensures that all the supplies we send are packaged properly and are labeled properly and are able to get to those organizations to be distributed in the most efficient manner possible.
A month after the earthquake, World Care representatives traveled to Haiti: Lisa Hopper, Krista Kinnard, videographer Holly Romero and Elise Harper. How did you get to Haiti?
We did not need special visas to go down there for a week. We had to go through the Dominican Republic because when we went, the airport wasn’t open to commercial flights. So we flew into the Dominican Republic in Santa Domingo, where we took a chartered helicopter into Port-au-Prince, which took 1 hour and 15 minutes.
The helicopter was the best way to get in and out of the country. I believe the airport is now open to a few small American Airlines flights. When we landed at the Port-au-Prince airport, we were greeted by an IRD representative whom we’d been talking to. We went down the street to the United Nations on-site coordination base, which is where the UN sets up their camp with all their people as well as other organizations that were there like small volunteers groups, medical teams, UNICEF and Habitat for Humanity. The UN camp kept track of everybody.
Lisa had to contact the UN camp before we arrived and let them know our names and job descriptions. Security is very tight as to who can get on the base and who can’t.
IRD had to buy warehouse space the day we arrived because they were getting so many supplies from organizations like World Care and they outgrew the space they were sharing with ADRA. Lisa and Holly went with IRD to check out the warehouse and figure how they’d be able to house all the supplies that their company was bringing into Haiti to distribute. Elise and I stayed and set up our tent right next to other organizations that had come to stay at the UN base.
How do you find warehouse space in Haiti?
Well, not every building is destroyed. There are some areas that were hit harder than others. There are some sections of town where every buildings has fallen down or is about to fall down. There are other sections of the town where the buildings are still stable. It’s a city of 3,000,000 people. It’s huge!
Had you ever experienced anything like this before?
No, I’ve traveled internationally to developing countries on my own. I went to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. I’ve done my own kind of projects, but I’ve never been part of a disaster relief effort.
What was it like to be part of the disaster relief effort in Haiti?
The part that was the hardest to see was definitely downtown. It’s a big city. It’s a poor city. Tall buildings like hotels, stores, and pharmacies were reduced to rubble. You could see the stories of buildings just stacked on top of each other. Or you’d drive by a building and you could see cracks all through it; and if you even touched the building wrong, it was going to fall. So many people have been displaced from their homes and were just walking around. When we were walking downtown, we found a crowd of people on this pile of rubble and they were pulling out bodies and no one asked them to do that. There were no public officials there. There are sites where public officials are trying to remove the rubble and pull out the bodies, but there are just so many sites. The people in Haiti know that every fallen building has people in it and they need to be taken out and buried. So we just came upon one of these groups of people who were pulling out bodies. We watched them take out two bodies. We found the ID card for one of the women with her picture and signature on it. It was just incredible to see what she looked like. She was a young woman, probably in her late 20s and she probably had just gone into the store to buy milk or something and she never came out. Her body was decaying and was completely severed.
What kind of impression did that leave with you? It was very, very humbling. Working for World Care has shown me that we are so lucky in the United States. Everything is destroyed in Haiti. It was a mess before the earthquake, but after the earthquake, what do you do? I kept asking myself, “What do you do when the wall next to you falls down and the ceiling starts to fall down around you? What do you?” “After something like that, how do you walk by a pile of rubble knowing your neighbor is under there? How do you do that? How do you keep living your life?” “How do you keep living after everything you have known your entire life is reduced to rubble?” That’s’ what the Haitian people keep on doing. It’s not easy for them. Many are walking around shell shocked. Did you experience stories of the Haitians’ resiliency and joy? I don’t speak French or Creole, but when we happened upon someone who spoke English, they showed us their house if it was nearby and the store they went to buy ice cream. They told us their story: where they were when the earthquake hit and what happened to their family. When they found out we were an aid organization, they said “Tank you so much for being here. What can we do to help out?” Their spirit is so strong!
Tell us about the orphanage.
We visited the orphanage that World Care has been supporting in Haiti for about six years. Fortunately this particular orphanage was not damaged. It is located in an area that was not affected as much by the earthquake. So, none of the orphans were injured. The building was still there and the kids still had a place to live. The people who run it talked about the hard time they were having getting food and how they were expecting to have more children, who lost their families in the quake, coming to the orphanage. The orphanage had two new children who lost their families in the earthquake.
The woman who runs the orphanage said, “You know, we’re doing the best we can with what we have and that’s what everyone’s doing here.”
A lot of the orphans were young children and I don’t think they could wrap their minds around what was happening. The kids were incredible. I walked in and within two seconds I had kids climbing all over me! They had come up with a very unique dance routine and they were showing us their dance. Some kids were playing music. They wanted to take pictures with us. It was very moving.
Does the orphanage adopt children out?
They do adopt children out. There are about 70 children there, mostly six to seven years old and a few others between 13-15.
The way the orphanage works is any child can go to the orphanage if they don’t have a family. The orphanage makes sure that all the children there complete their educations. They were explaining the education system in Haiti and you actually have to pay for it a lot of times and many families can’t afford that, but the orphanage makes sure that the children — whether they’re adopted out or stay there — get an education. When they enter the ‘real world’ they are prepared and have skills and an education to go with that.
We know that World Care got its start by focusing on medical supplies. What are the primary areas on which World Care focuses?
You’re right, Lisa did start World Care based on the medical mission she had done in Guatemala, but not only did she notice there was a huge lack of medical and health supplies, she also noticed there was a lack of school supplies, so she started Tools for Schools, which provides school packs for kids.
Tools for Schools deals entirely with education. Under that, we have our computer program where we have computer labs for schools locally and internationally. We provide thousands and thousands of school packs with backpacks, notebooks, pencils — supplies like that. If we receive requests for those items internationally, we will send them out.
We also have Tools for Health, which are medical supplies. World Care has built clinics all over the place, like in Syria and Iraq and we’ve even helped with clinics in Tucson. We’ve given to El Rio and La Fronterra, all of which deal with giving health care to people in need.
World Care also has a Freeloaner Program, which is a program where people borrow home medical equipment like wheelchairs, walkers, shower chairs, grabbers, and things like that: items that aren’t necessary covered by insurance and aren’t really needed for that long, so someone can come in and borrow a wheelchair for as long as they need it – for two months, two years or 10 years. And then, when they’re done with it, they bring it back.
Our Tools for Emergency Relief is our disaster relief component. Any time a natural disaster hits, World Care is there. World Care was there following the September 11 attacks. Where ever there are masses of people who are suddenly displaced from their homes or who are in need of any kind of emergency supply, World Care is there.
Tools for the Environment is part of our recycling program. All the donations that come into World Care’s doors are either re-used or recycled. Nothing is thrown away. If an item comes into World Care and it can’t be re-used, we will take it apart and recycle it. Anything that can be recycled or re-used, is recycled and re-used.
What can people do to support World Care?
Continue to donate, continue to support us. World Care is going to be in Haiti a long time. The rebuilding process is going to take so long, so we just need people to continue to donate supplies and money. It’s not fun to ask for money but it is so fundamental to be able to rebuild the community and buy the necessary resources.
Don’t put off to tomorrow when you can help so many today.
Check and credit cards are welcome.
Make checks payable to: World Care 3538 East Ellington Place Tucson, AZ 85713 (520) 514-1588 FAX (520) 514-1589
Golf Tournament is March 19
The Second Annual World Care Charity Golf Tournament is Friday, March 19 at the Omni Tucson National Golf Resort & Spa, starting at 8:30 a.m. A BBQ and silent auction/ raffle will follow the bestball tournament. Entry fees are $165 per person and $660 for foursomes. Contact Krista Kinnard at World Care for more information.