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Help-a-thon in the name of Haiti

Help-a-thon in the name of Haiti

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ALL throughout the United States, Vincentians, like so many other people, have been pooling their resources to help the people of Haiti recover from the massive and deadly earthquake which rocked Port-au-Prince and surrounding cities on January 12th.{{more}} According to the Ambassador of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to the United States of America, H.E. La Celia Prince, all the major Vincentian Associations in the United States have already or are in the process of planning fund-raisers or other donation drives to benefit Haiti.

In Brooklyn, New York, the popular Promoter and radio personality Junior “Soca” Jones teamed up with Vincentian-owned Standard Shippers Inc. and community activist Kenley “Shortmus” John to rally the Vincentian community in a massive “Help-a-thon” in the name of Haiti. The “help-a-thon” which was initially scheduled for 6th February had to be postponed due to the blizzards which hit the New York area, but was successfully held on the weekend of February 20th. Vincentians turned out in their numbers to support the in-kind donation drive and contributed a whopping 30 jumbo barrels of food, clothing and medical supplies. On behalf of the Vincentian community, the items will be sent to Haiti through arrangements made by the Vincentian Embassy with the international organizations administering the relief efforts in Haiti. Similar relief efforts are being conducted by the Vincentian communities in Florida, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, California, and elsewhere.

The Ambassador herself has been working closely with the Haitian Embassy to promote their efforts for the relief effort. One of these collaborative exercises involved working with wife of the Haitian Ambassador Lola Poisson-Joseph to identify two Haitian doctors to travel to Haiti on less than 24 hours notice.

“Late on Thursday night, I received an email from Mr. Willie Davis, an American married to a Vincentian,” said Ambassador Prince. “His business partners were looking for two doctors fluent in French or Creole who were willing to travel to Haiti the following afternoon with the Actor Sean Penn, a man who is very dedicated to the Haiti relief effort.” After a phone call to the Haitian diplomats and a series of calls and email exchanges, two Haitian-American doctors came forward and were Haiti-bound the very next day. “ I was very heartened to see the selfless response of people who were willing to drop everything at a moment’s notice and head to Haiti for a week,” said the Ambassador. The Ambassador, Mr. Davis and Mrs. Poisson-Joseph were at the airport to meet the doctors and Sean Penn and see them off to Haiti.

At the same time, there are Vincentians who have been making their own individual contributions. One such person is Dr. Carl Ollivierre who hails from Villa and is an Orthopaedic Surgeon and sports medicine Specialist at the Florida Musculoskeletal Institute. He is the brother of Vincentian calypsonian Mike “Lord Have Mercy” Ollivierre. Since 1994, Dr. Ollivierre has been a registered volunteer of Project Medishare, a health care team committed to social justice and the improvement of the medical conditions of the people of Haiti.

“I got the SOS call from them with 2 days notice,” said Dr. Ollivierre in an exchange with Ambassador Prince. “This was my first experience as a disaster relief surgeon. As an orthopaedic surgeon, the majority of injuries I saw were crush injuries, and initially the focus was on wound care and amputations for life- threatening extremity injuries and infections,” he said. “I worked on both adults and children, but was assigned to the children’s unit while there. There were adequate orthopaedic supplies and equipment, but the conditions under which we worked were sub-optimal, due to inadequate sterilization and unsanitary conditions.”

Elaborating on what the healthcare team accomplished while in Haiti, Dr. Ollivierre told that Project Medishare was able to construct a 200-bed hospital on the area surrounding the airport in Haiti, just outside Port- au-Prince. It is constructed under tents with all medical services provided, including operating rooms. It is staffed by volunteers who rotate 1 to 2 weeks at a time, depending on need and availability. Volunteers live under a large tent at the hospital and sleep on cots. He described how the volunteers brought their own food and drink, enough to sustain them for the time they spent there.

When asked whether he had any intentions of returning to help the relief and recovery efforts, Dr. Ollivierre’s response was unequivocal and emphatic: “I definitely plan to return to Haiti in the near future,” he said. “I have a sense of unfinished business there and have a compelling need to do more.

I never could have imagined fellow human beings in such horrific and debilitating conditions. The kids in particular moved me to tears every day, missing legs and arms……their future’s bleak, with an overwhelming sense of hopelessness and despair. I have to go back!”