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Haiti DR planning slated Jan. 26 in Miami

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (BP)–Baptist disaster relief officials along with assessment teams deployed to Haiti by Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and the Florida Baptist Convention are scheduled to meet Tuesday, Jan. 26, in Miami to begin drafting a comprehensive response plan to the Jan. 12 earthquake.

A five-member SBDR team and a four-member Florida team currently are in Haiti.

The assessment teams have been at work “identifying volunteer housing, food supply, logistics, transportation, how we get into the country, how we move about the country, how we move our supplies, how we warehouse,” said Mickey Caison, adult volunteer mobilization team leader for the North American Mission Board. “It’s a tall responsibility.”

Following the day-long debriefing and planning session, Caison said Baptist entities will have a “pretty clear picture” of what’s ahead.

“We should be able to say this is what we’re going to do, how the state DR teams will plug in, and how we’re going do things. It will probably be 10-14 days out before we start sending in general teams. Certain specialized teams now on standby may go in earlier,” Caison said.

“The volunteers who ultimately go in will have to be the best of the best,” Caison said. “They’ll probably have to be tent-dwellers, able to rough it. They’ll have to be stand-alone guys, able to survive on their own.”

Food and water distribution, recovery and rebuild, water purification, communications, chaplains with cross-cultural training and interpreters who speak Creole likely will be top priorities, Caison said, noting that traditional DR feeding units probably will not be deployed in Haiti.

“From our experience over the last several years in Florida, we’ve learned that it’s sometimes better to give locals access to a bulk food distribution and let the ladies of the house prepare and cook the food the way they normally do,” he said.

“Logistics have to be worked out in advance” for the Haiti relief initiative, Caison said. “We can’t have our volunteers go in and get stranded or not have food or lodging or not be safe. We’ve heard stories from other agencies where that has happened. We’re looking at Haiti in the long term. We want to get started, but we must prepare because we’re going to be there a long time. There are a lot of needs.”

Caison said many residents of Port-au-Prince, according to reports, are leaving the devastated city and returning to their villages in the countryside, where living conditions are not as grim. Thus, SBDR operations probably will not be restricted to the capital city but also based in a number of outlying locations.

Coy Webb, a Kentucky Baptist Convention member of the Southern Baptist assessment team, reported, “There are security issues the teams need to be aware of. The situation is still precarious. A medical team or a feeding team could be overrun just because the people here have such great needs.” Webb said there are many ongoing needs that existed prior to the earthquake.

“People are rebounding quickly, but they didn’t have a lot to begin with,” Webb said.

Another assessment team member, Don Gann, disaster relief director for the Mississippi Baptist Convention, said the situation in Haiti remains fluid, chaotic and difficult. “[T]he traffic in Port-au-Prince is unbelievable,” Gann said. “Today, it took us three hours to go seven miles. But in our meetings, we are seeing short- and long-term opportunities.”

In addition to the Florida convention, which has had a 15-year partnership with Haiti Baptists, medical teams from Arkansas and North Carolina Baptists are on the ground in Haiti treating earthquake victims.
Mickey Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board.

Southern Baptists can contribute to “Haiti Earthquake Disaster Relief” through their local church or directly to their state convention, the North American Mission Board (www.imb.org) or the International Mission Board (www.namb.net):

— Initial funding for the relief effort will come from the International Mission Board’s disaster relief fund. Contributions can be made online, www.imb.org, or by mail, International Mission Board, P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, VA 23230.

— The North American Mission Board has set up a Haiti disaster relief fund that will direct money to state conventions and other Southern Baptists who are doing relief work in Haiti. Donations may be made online, www.NAMB.net, by phone, 1-866-407-6262, or by mail, North American Mission Board, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Make checks payable to “Haiti Disaster Relief Fund/NAMB.”

Regardless of the SBC channel, all funds received for this purpose will go to relief efforts; none will be used for administrative costs.

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  • Mickey Noah