Getting Relief into the Hands of Hurricane-affected Haitians

Note: The following appeal is now closed.  You can support our ongoing work by donating to the Canadian Red Cross


Hurricanes Gustav, Hanna and Ike devastated Haiti in early September. I had the opportunity not just to manage supplies here in Canada, but also to travel with them to Haiti – an already vulnerable country made even more so by these three powerful storms – and to ensure assistance made it directly into the hands of the people who needed it.

Working for the Canadian Red Cross is rewarding each and every day. As a Logistics Officer for the Canadian Red Cross, it is my responsibility to purchase, prepare, stockpile and transport goods all over the world when disasters happen. On September 10th, when I arrived in Port au Prince to support Red Cross relief efforts there, it was truly inspirational.

Haiti is a beautiful country with a mountainous terrain and breath-taking beaches. However, beyond the beauty is the devastation. The storms have washed out roads and bridges and left communities surrounded with thick mud and debris. Although the storms have long since disappeared, the immense needs of the people remain.

When I arrived in Haiti, I was immediately put to work helping to unload the supplies I had accompanied. The plane was filled with relief supplies for 2,000 families, provided by the Government of Canada.

For the next couple of days I spent long hours doing hands-on work as well as general logistical paperwork. I learned quickly that my job was vitally important because the people of Haiti were not in a position to wait for help; their needs were urgent.

While working in Port au Prince, I needed to purchase 1,500 brooms so that families could clean out the mud and debris that filled their homes. I made my way downtown, ready to purchase the brooms in much the same manner I would in Canada, by requesting quotes from several businesses and ensuring that the product was of good quality.

When business owners realized that I was from the Red Cross and needed the brooms to help the people of Haiti, they worked together to ensure that I got what I needed. One business owner literally ran to his competitors’ stores to recruit their help. It was amazing to watch people, who would normally compete for my business, work together as a team.

This attitude was common throughout my stay in Haiti. I visited several distribution points near Port au Prince where Haitians came to receive much needed relief supplies such as blankets, jerry cans, mosquito nets, hygiene supplies and kitchen materials.

Transporting these materials to distribution points was challenging, due to washed out roads, but many locals offered their assistance. We were always greeted with smiles and words of gratitude.

Now that I have returned to Canada I have a strong appreciation for what I have. I do not take for granted the simple things, like sleeping in a bed each night and waking up each morning to go to work.

The work that the Red Cross does in Canada and the support that the Canadian public gives us is vitally important to people whose lives are torn apart by disasters. I will never forget the faces of the children I helped. It is so encouraging to know that even when I can’t be in the country where the Red Cross is working, I can make a difference.

Haitians are still in great need because of these hurricanes. Canadians wishing to support relief efforts in Haiti may do so online, by calling toll-free 1-800-418-1111 or in-person at any Red Cross office. Cheques should be made payable to the Canadian Red Cross, earmarked “Haiti Hurricane” and mailed to the Canadian Red Cross National Office, 400 Cooper Street, Suite 8000, Ottawa, Ontario K2P 2H8.