In June of this year I traveled to Haiti to see for myself the devastation of the earthquake as well as the status of the reconstruction efforts. Although I was shocked by the extent of the damage, I was more shocked at how little rebuilding was taking place. After all the promises made, photo ops taken, and hands shaken amongst the nations of the international community, Haiti still lay in complete ruins—its people languishing in wretched refugee camps and wandering in an apocalyptic landscape.
Almost a year has gone by and still there is little sign of progress. Over a million people in Port-au-Prince alone continue to live in decrepit tents with little prospect of finding better shelter any time soon. A cholera epidemic has struck, claiming thousands of lives and threatening tens-of-thousands more. And a presidential election marked by fraud threatens to ignite political unrest while leaving Haitians without any viable government.
In January, I will be returning to Haiti and into this new tumultuous and uncertain environment. I will be there for the anniversary of the earthquake and for the run-off election on the 16th. And although I will be covering these momentous stories, amid a time of great tragedy, my primary focus will be on a story of hope.
I will be traveling with a group of 42 New York EMTs, paramedics, and aid workers who will be training the Gwoup Aiyisen pou Ijans (Haitian Emergency Group)—an all-Haitian outfit of 128 first responders who are working to become Haiti’s first emergency medical service.
Other journalists and I will be documenting the story of these EMTs and their efforts to establish a crack, all-Haitian emergency medical unit. We will be with them at their training compounds, as well as out in the field facing all sorts of challenges, including cholera.
Hopefully, at the end of the day, with their training and resources, the GAI will go on to expand and save thousands of lives.
If you are a member of the public, please stay tuned for dispatches, photos, and videos that I will be uploading from Haiti on a daily basis.
I have included their press release below.
DECEMBER 12, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Ede A Ap Vini! Help is coming!
Beginning in early January a group of 42 New York City EMTs, paramedics, and civilian volunteers will depart for Haiti for four one-week deployments to begin training the Gwoup Aiyisen pou Ijans (Haitian Emergency Group)—an all-Haitian outfit of 128 first responders who are working to become Haiti’s first operational emergency medical service.
In January 2010, an estimated 250,000 Haitians lost their lives during a 7.0 earthquake that leveled the capital, Port-au-Prince. After this disaster and a subsequent hurricane, Haiti is now struggling to contain a cholera epidemic amid mounting political unrest following the November 28 election. Though a large number of international aid organizations are there to help, Haiti will forever be dependent on foreign powers in the face of endemic poverty and natural disaster without its own emergency response system.
Six days after the earthquake, a group of 104 NYC medical professionals flew to Haiti with the Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corps/Haitian Physicians Abroad (AMHE). Working alongside Haitian medical personnel and volunteers, they reestablished 24-hour emergency care in Port-Au-Prince’s General Hospital. Out of that effort, two organizations emerged in an ongoing alliance to support civilian-based relief activities: Lend a Hand and Foot (LAHAF), and the Banshee Association.
These groups are now working together to give Haitians the tools and training to help, heal, and save themselves.
For the January 2011 deployment—organized by those who went after the
2010 quake—the aim is simple: to support and train the GAI in their efforts to become the first operational Haitian EMS service. Through this, the alliance aims to establish a sustainable response mechanism to the devastation caused by both natural disasters and Haiti’s critical lack of national emergency relief infrastructure. Many of the volunteers in the NYC group are Haitians themselves, several of whom have family still in the beleaguered nation.
The alliance includes members of the New York City Fire Department’s Emergency Medical Services, EMTs and paramedics from Transcare, Seniorcare, New York Presbyterian Hospital, and the Miami Dade Ambulance Service. Every volunteer is responsible for his or her airfare and gear, while the rest—training supplies, housing, and food—is provided by LAHAF, or through donations. Over the course of the deployments, this alliance will leave behind a 128-member indigenous Haitian emergency medical service—the first of its kind to help Haiti help herself.
If you have any questions please contact:
Communications Department Leader
L.A.H.A.F.-Banshee Press Bureau
G.A.I., Gwoup Aiyisen pou Ijans (Haitian Emergency Group) is an all-Haitian outfit of 128 first responders looking to become Haiti’s first organized EMS system.
L.A.H.A.F., Lend a Hand and Foot is a Haitian-American group operating a long term volunteer conduit and placement program for Haiti.
The New York City Banshee Association is an EMS fraternal organization fighting for New York City’s EMTs and Paramedics, which is facilitating the recruitment, training and deployment of emergency medical professionals to Haiti.