Haiti aid effort growing locally

Terry Roberts
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Oram brothers vow to return to Caribbean country; Red Cross official says donations pouring in

Brothers Emerson and Vaden Oram could be forgiven for wanting to keep a low profile and quietly give thanks for their health and well-being.

After all, they could easily have been among the many thousands who perished in last week's devastating earthquake in Haiti.

A family sits together in a makeshift home at the Petionville Club, at Delma 40B, in Port-au-Prince, Monday. The U.S. Army is distributing food and water at the tent city. Photo by The Associated Press/Michael Laughlin, Sun-Sentinel

Brothers Emerson and Vaden Oram could be forgiven for wanting to keep a low profile and quietly give thanks for their health and well-being.

After all, they could easily have been among the many thousands who perished in last week's devastating earthquake in Haiti.

But the Glovertown men, like others in this province, are more resolved than ever to help the shattered Caribbean country.

In many respects, they have become unofficial symbols and an inspiration for the mounting relief effort that is underway here.

"I expect to go back ... in the later part of February," Emerson said Tuesday.

The Orams were in Haiti on a business trip, trying to drum up business for their fishing company, Golden Vista Foods. They had also brought with them a tractor-trailer filled with caplin, salt and drying racks.

Their intent was to give the caplin to the locals in hopes they would dry the caplin and sell it for profit.

Their plans fell apart Jan. 12 when the earthquake struck.

Both men were in their hotel in Port-au-Prince and managed to escape to safety. They spent two uneasy nights in the hotel parking lot, surrounded by chaos, death and destruction. They made a harrowing journey to the Port-au-Prince airport Thursday, and barely managed to board a Canadian Forces flight to Miami, Fla. They returned home to Newfoundland Sunday, and were swept up in a wave of emotion as family and friends rallied behind their safe return.

During a fundraising event at the Pentecostal church later that day, parishioners donated more than $7,000 for Haiti relief efforts. The federal government has pledged to match dollar-for-dollar, up to $50 million, the contributions of Canadians.

Emerson said this is just the beginning. He's planning another fundraising drive to launch a feeding program for hungry Haitians. He believes he can raise enough money to provide shipments of beans from North Dakota and fish from this province to several villages in Haiti. Once he gets his plan in motion, he will return to Haiti to make sure the aid is properly distributed.

"I can only do a little, but if we all did a little, imagine the impact we could make," he said.

Some say he would be a fool to return to Haiti. But Emerson feels like he left a part of himself in the impoverished country, and feels compelled to go back.

"I've been 25 years doing humanitarian work. It's who I am," the 61-year-old said.

Judging by the scope of the nightmare in Haiti, the efforts of people such as Emerson and Vaden Oram are desperately needed. Authorities estimated Tuesday that about 200,000 people died and another 1.5 million are homeless.

Hundreds of Canadians remain unaccounted for, including Deer Lake native James W. Coates, a civilian employee with the United Nations. Coates, 37, is thought to have been working in his fifth-floor office at the UN headquarters in Haiti when it collapsed. Dozens of UN workers remain unaccounted for in the rubble.

Family members are still hopeful Coates can be found alive.

"There were one or two people rescued on Monday, so we have to keep on hoping," said Darryl Drover, Coates' brother-in-law.

Coates will be the focus of a special prayer vigil to be held at the Salvation Army Citadel in St. John's Sunday at 6 p.m., Maj. Wayne Bungay said.

"We're hoping for a miracle," he said.

Karen Huxter, a former resident of Springdale, remains in Haiti. She established an orphanage in the village of Deschappelles - a settlement located in the centre of the country - many years ago after visiting Haiti and witnessing the struggles faced by children in the area. She has since established a Christian ministry called Hands Across the Sea - Haiti, or HATS-Haiti for short. There were no injuries in her village, and although communication with Huxter has been sporadic, family members say she has vowed to stay in Haiti.

Aid and personnel are pouring into the country, and the needs of those affected by the earthquake are growing daily. Numerous aid agencies are scrambling to raise funds for relief efforts, and those with certain skills are preparing to travel to Haiti in the coming days and weeks.

In this province, the Canadian Red Cross has received $1.2 million in donations for Haiti relief efforts, said regional director Rhonda Kenney. That includes the $1 million committed by the provincial government.

That's more than half of the $2.1 million contributed to the Red Cross in Atlantic Canada, Kenney stated.

"It really demonstrates the priority that the province and the people place on assisting people, not only here locally, but internationally," Kenney said.

Premier Danny Williams said reaction to the province's donation has been extremely positive.

"We have a reputation for being a very generous people and we've been helped in times of need," said Williams. "Given the relative good fortune that we've had in recent years, I think we felt it was appropriate that we step up in a significant way."

Kenney described the response as incredible, and said people of all ages and backgrounds are chipping in.

The Red Cross extended its operating hours again Tuesday, and Kenney said there's no sign of a slowdown, with schools, organizations and businesses stepping up their fundraising efforts.

She related stories of students donating part of their lunch, birthday and Christmas money. Some people have even donated their paycheques, and some workers in the retail sector are donating their tips, she added.

"People are really opening their hearts," she said.

troberts@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Red Cross, United Nations, Golden Vista Foods Canadian Forces Pentecostal church Salvation Army Citadel Christian ministry

Geographic location: Haiti, Caribbean, Port-au-Prince Glovertown Miami, Fla. Newfoundland North Dakota Deer Lake St. John's Springdale Deschappelles Atlantic Canada

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Recent comments

  • Ursula
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    This statement , the Oram brothers could be forgiven for wanting to keep a low profile, is misleading . Could it somehow suggest that these brothers are being forced to go public , as there is a great deal of publicity surrounding this story ?

  • Gordon
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    Heartwarming story ,as the brothers had to leave Haiti so quickly , did they manage to leave behind the caplin? This could be a good food source for a hungry people?

  • Ursula
    July 01, 2010 - 20:05

    This statement , the Oram brothers could be forgiven for wanting to keep a low profile, is misleading . Could it somehow suggest that these brothers are being forced to go public , as there is a great deal of publicity surrounding this story ?

  • Gordon
    July 01, 2010 - 19:50

    Heartwarming story ,as the brothers had to leave Haiti so quickly , did they manage to leave behind the caplin? This could be a good food source for a hungry people?