Pamela Mohr 0000-00-00 00:00:00
On a relief mission in Port-au-Prince 10 days after the earthquake, Lion Carole Burke-Hallberg awoke from an aftershock and heard cries of terror from the streets. “Pray for Haiti,” she thought she heard. Or was it “pity Haiti”? It didn’t really matter. “My heart sank as I realized the survivors were still living the nightmare,” Burke-Hallberg said. The nightmare will continue for some time and people worldwide will not only pray for Haiti and pity it but also provide relief and recovery. Lions have been collecting and delivering supplies since the disaster occurred. Burke-Hallberg of the Chicago area was part of a relief team of 40 Lions led by LCIF Chairperson Al Brandel. “In 35 years of law enforcement, I’ve seen a lot, including 9/11, the China earthquake, forest fires in Australia … but I tell you, I’ve never seen anything like what we saw in Haiti,” Brandel said. “The border area between Haiti and the Dominican Republic was like the waiting room between heaven and hell. People were trying to flee Haiti with nothing. All they had was hope.” The contingent, only some of whom were able to cross the border, consisted of Lions from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico including Past International Director Dr. Carlos Justiniano. The devastation was heartbreaking. “Burned in my mind is a woman who was gesturing for food and water. The truckloads of water, food and medicine provided by Lions made a difference to her but so much more is needed,” said Burke-Hallberg, president of the Chicago Windy City Lions Club and a video producer who was in Haiti both to assist victims and to record events for Lions Clubs International. As of press time in late January, more than one-fifth of Haiti’s population was homeless, 250,000 injured and 200,000 believed dead including at least 38 Americans and 13 Canadians. Three Lions were killed in Port-au-Prince and many others lost loved ones as well as their homes and possessions. Haiti has three Lions clubs with 80 members. The 7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12 left a devastated nation, already one of the poorest in the world, suffering. By late January, more than US$1.5 million had already been donated to Lions Hope for Haiti, the joint relief effort of Lions and LCIF, which provided a US$50,000 Major Catastrophe Grant quickly after the earthquake. Lions Alert Teams wearing bright lime green vests struggled to deliver aid in what Brandel describes as a “chaotic” environment, giving bottles of water to survivors in Port-au-Prince and enduring scorching high 90s temperatures with no shelter. “Our concerns for the people of Haiti were immediate,” he emphasizes. Desperately needed provisions were also distributed by Haitian Lions and Leos in a relief camp they established for survivors. “The Lions and the people in Haiti were just so grateful that people cared about them and were there to help,” Burke-Hallberg said. “The Lions there were very emotional about it.” Within hours of the quake, LCIF staff members at headquarters were handling calls and e-mails from people worldwide who wanted to help. Requests were received from Lion and non-Lion medical professionals who wanted to know how they could be of assistance. The response to the crisis was so overwhelming that LCIF established a special section on the Lions Web site devoted to news of Haiti And provided encouragement as well as the means to donate online. Swedish Lions sent 200 tents (the same ones used by citizens and relief workers after the 2008 China earthquake) to shelter Haitians and Swedish relief workers. Vancouver Diamond Lions in Canada collected more than $6,000 just two days after the quake struck. “We’re trying our best to help, but I know that Lions everywhere are working hard on this,” said club president Simon Tang. His club plans to donate thousands more for relief efforts. District A-9, Ontario, Canada Lions were, in fact, already in the area volunteering to bring a clean drinking water system to a local orphanage. They established a Lions command post to render aid around the clock, tending to 600 earthquake victims. Lions appealed to their countrymen and women for funds to keep relief efforts viable. On the Isle of Wight, the Lions Club of Newport sent a donation of more than US$1,600. Lions in Tennessee’s MD-12 donated half of the proceeds of a gift basket auction they sponsored just before the quake struck. In Whittier, California, Lions immediately collected $500 among themselves and then took to the streets in their gold vests to ask citizens to donate to Haiti relief. They collected more than $5,000 to send to LCIF. Lions in China, who endured the Sichuan province earthquake that killed an estimated 68,000 people, quickly contributed US$61,000 to LCIF and Norwegian Lions immediately pledged US$86,000. Neighboring District 63 Lions pledged US$100,000 in addition to sending supplies. Members of the Cedar Creek Lions Club in Indiana arrived in Haiti to work with a local ministry located just outside Port-au-Prince that supports an orphanage, school and helps the homeless. There were nearly 400,000 orphans in Haiti before the quake struck; international aid organizations say they now fear that number could more than double. Sharing news of Lions Hope for Haiti efforts with fellow Virginia Lions, Past International Director Wayne Davis (2007-09) says that he stresses how critical support is to the people of Haiti. “Lions will be there for a long time, long after the camera crews go home,” he vowed. “We’ll still be in Haiti making things happen, helping out.”
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
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