On Aug. 14, Haiti — the Caribbean island nation ravaged by an earthquake in 2010 — was struck again by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake. With more than 130,000 buildings destroyed, more than 12,000 injuries, and close to 2,500 deaths, it is the deadliest natural disaster of 2021 so far. Relief efforts were immediate in providing help to the communities affected, many of them rural and poverty stricken.
The Freeport-Merrick Rotary Club, which has many members who are Haitian, was among the many to join the relief efforts. Having already held one successful drive, the club is still accepting donations, and has described their efforts as “ongoing.”
“The first portion of the drive has been completed,” Rotary Club member Jordan Pecora told the Herald. Pecora is the head of the club’s membership committee and their public image committee.
“It’s been an island-wide effort of the Rotary Clubs,” he explained, adding that various clubs on Long Island participated. “Our president and other members are Haitian — this is very near and dear to their hearts.”
Including monetary donations, the club was accepting all sorts of supplies, such as a food, basic medical equipment like gloves, masks, rubbing alcohol, Tylenol and Advil, and also toiletries like towels and hand sanitizer.
“We have direct contacts with other rotary clubs in Haiti, and we have people who actually know people who are there, and told us what is needed,” Pecora added.
Immediate past-president of the club Florence Marc-Charles was of the many members who were closely involved with establishing direct contact to people in Haiti.
“What we decided to do is focus our relief from Rotary Club to Rotary Club,” Marc-Charles explained.
Having worked with two Rotary Clubs in Haiti in the past, Marc-Charles said they reached out to them and assessed how clubs on Long Island could be helpful.
“We identified a few villages that were effected,” Marc-Charles added. “Relief effort has been focused on getting specific supplies for those villages. Those supplies have been packed, are being transported, and will be distributed by Rotarians.”
Additionally, Marc-Charles said a few hospitals in Haiti that took in airlifted patients were in desperate need of equipment.
“We were able to purchase the things needed, and send them directly by plane to the hospitals,” she said. “The supplies that were transported by plane were urgent supplies and have been there for two weeks.”
The other supplies collected were transported by boat, and left on Sept. 20. A transportation company — KBG Logistics — offered their service for free, and has been of tremendous help to the Rotary Club, according to Marc-Charles.
“In the first round of donation — it was successful,” Pecora said. “It’s definitely not going to be enough. The earthquake hit one of the rural parts of Haiti.”
The 2010 earthquake in Haiti had an epicenter close to Port-au-Prince, the nation’s capital city, which made it easier to provide relief, according to Pecora. However, with recent political unrest, there are still many Haitians living in makeshift camps due to damage sustained in 2010.
“The more stuff we get, the better we can help,” Pecora said.
“We are thankful for the generosity of the people of New York and the generosity of other Rotary Clubs— it is really extraordinary,” Marc-Charles said. “It is truly an organization where people want to serve.”
Donations can be brought to a drop off site in Freeport, located at 294 West Merrick Road, Suite 12. Additionally, other Rotary Clubs in the area are also taking donations, and there is a spot on the club’s website to donate money directly.
“It took a team of about ten people — packing those big boxes,” Marc-Charles said of the club’s efforts. “It was a tremendous effort, but it’s really what makes Rotary a great organization.
“It was hard work, but I went home encouraged, inspired and lifted,” she added. “These are the things that give you hope.”