By Kristen Kushiyama, RDECOM CERDEC Public AffairsMay 13, 2010
FORT MONMOUTH, N.J. - More than five months after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck their nation, Haitians are still struggling to rebuild infrastructure and provide humanitarian relief.
There is still a need for relief efforts, according to Paul Maguire, Catholic Medical Mission Board regional representative and presenter at a Fort Monmouth employee-organized Haitian relief luncheon held here.
According to Maguire, a second-round of amputations will occur because many of the amputees have contracted infections due to improper or unsanitary procedures performed immediately after the disaster.
In response to the January earthquake that struck Haiti's capitol city of Port-au-Prince and the despair in Haiti that the world saw earlier this year, more than 200 people contributed to the luncheon which raised more than $6,000 and reached across the Fort Monmouth community with committee members and attendees from almost every organization here.
More than a month of planning culminated in an afternoon of historical overviews, words of hope, friends and food.
The April 29 luncheon at Gibbs Hall stemmed from the Office of Personnel Management's one-time solicitation allowance for relief efforts. The intent was to raise money and awareness for not-for-profit organizations whose missions support medical efforts in Haiti, according to Jodel Bonhometre, luncheon committee organizer and native Haitian.
Beyond showing the earthquake's destruction, the event organizers strived to raise awareness of pre- and post-earthquake Haiti as well to show the positive, historical and uplifting side of Haiti, according to Bonhometre, an employee of the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center's Command and Control Directorate, or CERDEC C2D.
Proceeds from the event went to the Center for the Rural Development of Milot, or CRUDEM, whose mission includes providing accessible health care to the poor of northern Haiti and training and nurturing a competent Haitian medical staff that is supplemented and supported by volunteer specialists, according to its Web site.
The Hospital Sacre Coeur, where CRUDEM is based, received patients who were initially treated on board the floating U.S. Navy hospital USNS Comfort, said Regina Foley, a registered nurse from Meridian Health Ocean Medical Center who was present to receive the luncheon donation on behalf of CRUDEM.
While Foley was in Milot as part of the Meridian Mission, three operating rooms housed 96 surgical cases over the course of six and a half days. Of the patients treated at Hospital Sacre Coeur during the week she was there, 300 of 350 were earthquake victims.
Due to the lack of hospital space, CRUDEM worked out of tents erected by the U.S. Army a week after the earthquake hit, according to Foley.
Beyond health concerns, Dr. Laurent Simon, a New Jersey Institute of Technology associate professor, provided a historical overview of Haiti that segued to the state of Haiti prior to and after the earthquake. Simon presented a systematical approach to the rebuilding of Haiti, which he believes will lead to a stronger and more durable Haiti.
To encourage continued relief efforts, each presenter addressed the hope and optimism of the Haitian people.
"When people go to Haiti, I hope they find the balance between the hope that is there and the despair that is there because there is a great amount of hope within that despair," said luncheon speaker, Craig Bogard, Aslan Youth Ministries' director.
Fort Monmouth employees saw the potential hope when planning the event. The collective endeavor for the luncheon began as a grassroots discussion between Haitian-American employees and their colleagues, according Dr. Gerardo Melendez, CERDEC C2D director.
"Their words fell on very sympathetic ears and hearts. The idea that we are willing to step in and help others who have a minimal connection from another country is something to be cherished," said Melendez.