March 12, 2011 by Dan Swinhoe
Roy Dixon, Director of the Hexham-based charity Mercy Trucks, drove a converted ambulance from the North East all way to the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Roy was one of the first to arrive. “The scene was one of great need. The people are very resilient but the needs were heartbreaking.” When he arrived he found many people suffering with infections because their bandages hadn’t been changed since the day they were put on, immediately after the earthquake.
The 12th January 2011 will mark one year on from the devastating Haiti earthquake, which killed over 230,000 people and left 1.5 million homeless, Laura Hinks sadly says. She works for the British Red Cross, and their relief effort was the biggest single country response the organization has ever carried out, “one year on the British Red Cross is still working tirelessly to meet the needs of the millions affected and to help people as they try to rebuild their lives.”
Outbreaks of Cholera since October have hampered progress, and the people have rioted, believing that the U.N Peacekeepers brought the disease to the region. A recent U.N report has confirmed their beliefs. To try and combat the disease hygiene volunteers have been trained to use street theatre, radio broadcasts, songs, demonstrations and posters to pass health messages and have built latrines in Auto-Meca, and in La Piste. ‘Every day the Red Cross trucks 2.4 million litres of water to 280,000 people,’ Laura says with hope.
“I have been blown away by the hard work and the dedication of the medical volunteers here,” Roys says. Many of them have got here at their own cost, “they all pay to make this happen and many are working exceptionally long days and even given their own blood, and some are applying to adopt orphaned babies, that is what I call dedication.”
On the surface things are going smoothly. “There is such a good working relationship here between all nations working together to lift up one nation that is hurting,” Roy says with a smile “the people are so thankful for any help that we are able to give them.”
More concerned about the future of Haiti is Justin Palmore, a writer, volunteer and friend of Roy’s. “Now is not the time to stop just giving, but it must come eventually,” he says with concern and passion. “I have seen with my own eyes the toxic and cancerous effects of constant giving.”
Justin is dedicated to helping those in need, and is trying his best to make a difference. “Instead of sending plane loads of people to clear rubble, and rebuild, let’s start companies that are ran by Haitians with Haitian workers to do these jobs.” But Justin knows it can’t just stop there. “I have all kinds of ideas for Haitian ran companies that could make a difference, but it is futile to just talk about them, because words without action are meaningless.”
Roy agrees with him whole-heartedly. “Haiti was a disaster area long before the last earthquake, it needs infrastructure development and good governance, so that the economy can grow,” and most importantly, “they need to be taught how to do it themselves.