Mich. nonprofits gather donations, aid for Haiti
Published: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 5:42 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 5:42 p.m.
DETROIT — Michigan-based charities operating schools, clinics and food projects in Haiti gathered donations and volunteers Wednesday while struggling to track down their staff and those they aim to help in the impoverished earthquake-struck country.
President Rene Preval said he believes thousands were killed in Tuesday afternoon's magnitude-7.0 quake. Others have said the toll could exceed 100,000.
Mallery Thurlow, the founder of the Grand Rapids-based Haiti Foundation Against Poverty on Wednesday tried to secure U.S. government help in arranging to fly an emergency medical team to the Caribbean disaster zone.
The Christian-sponsored nonprofit runs a 140-student school and women's clinic in Port-au-Prince.
Thurlow's sister, Brooke Thurlow, who also works for the foundation, said they did not know if any students or teachers at the Les Bours School of Hope were hurt or how much damage the buildings sustained.
"We're certainly hoping that every single one of them is alive and well," Brooke Thurlow said. But she said she was very afraid because of the extent of the damage and the fragility of the homes in which the children and teachers live.
The quake destroyed a guest house where her sister and other volunteers stay when they work in Haiti, killing the 2-year-old daughter of a guest house employee and seriously injuring the woman's two other children.
"There isn't a building left standing on the street," Brooke Thurlow said, based on a phone conversation with the guest house's owner.
She said Mallery had lined up four doctors to volunteer at an emergency medical station she planned to set up in Haiti, and that they expected more to come on board.
The group is asking for money donations, saying the volunteers can buy supplies in Haiti to transport to the quake zone.
Another Christian-backed nonprofit, Rays of Hope for Haiti operates a food program for residents of the poor Citi Simone and Citi Pele neighborhoods of Port of Prince. The quake leveled Citi Simone's Seventh Day Adventist Church that housed the program, said executive director Doug Porritt.
All of the Grand Rapids-based group's local staffers reached so far have escaped injury, though most lost their homes.
"We haven't had contact with everyone yet," Porritt said.
The group has long experience of shipping supplies to Haiti and is collecting food, medicine and relief kits now to send to the victims of the island's latest disaster. Four hurricanes hit Haiti in three weeks during 2008.
"This is going to be a long-term relief effort," he said.
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