Miracles do abound. We are absolutely thrilled that the delegation from the Tennessee Region who had traveled to Haiti are on their way home today. Praise be to God!
Likewise, late last night, I received word that our colleagues Rick Santos and Sarla Chand from Interchurch Medical Assistance (IMA) World Health were found and rescued. I could hardly believe my eyes when I actually saw Sarla on CNN -- being carried out of the rubble alive. According to Church World Service colleagues, they survived by sharing lollipops that Rick had bought for his two young sons. Trapped under the rubble of the hotel, this is how they found sustenance. They have been sent by helicopter to the U.S. Embassy and will be evacuated from there.
Another IMA World Health colleague, Dr. Bill Clemmer, whom Sandra Gourdet, Area Executive for Africa, and I just visited in the Congo late last November, also sent this word. "The group was attending an NTD (neglected tropical diseases) workshop at the Hotel Montana in Port au Prince at the time of the earthquake that reportedly buried over 200 persons in that particular hotel. Yesterday afternoon, after three days without word, we were starting to lose hope. Last night a French rescue team found a group of survivors that were buried under the cement but protected in an enclave between two columns. A handful were pulled from the rubble including Rick and Sarla. There are few dry eyes in our office this morning. Our hearts are heavy for the significant devastation and loss of life in Haiti ...but we are so thankful for wonderful news!"
Our colleagues Sam Dixon from the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and Cliff Rabb were also found trapped beneath the rubble of the hotel but as of yet have not been extracted. Please continue to keep them in your prayers.
Many of you have asked about people volunteering to go to Haiti. At this point, please know that the most effective, efficient and immediate way to help is to send donations to Week of Compassion. Second, continue to encourage all of your churches to assemble emergency kits (baby and hygiene) for CWS - this is a wonderful hands-on project for people of all ages. Many of you have already organized kit-assembling events at your churches this weekend. We would encourage you all to contact local media outlets to gain as much media exposure as possible. The more emergency kits we are able to provide, the more people we will help in Haiti.
It is not necessarily helpful at this time to travel to Haiti. The airport in Port au Prince is currently overwhelmed, and it is difficult, if not impossible, for folks to get in or out. The Haitian-Dominican border may open this weekend, but nothing is guaranteed in a crisis like this. Our CWS colleague and fellow Disciple, Don Tatlock, has been in close touch with me; he is now in the Dominican Republic. Our partner in the Dominican Republic, the Servicios Sociales de Iglesias Dominicanas, SSID, has already airlifted material aid to Haiti and will continue to do so. They are equipped and on the ground able to immediately react.
In addition, our ACT Alliance implementing partner organizations, Norwegian Church Aid (NCA), Christian Aid, Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe (DKH), and Interchurch Organisation for Development Cooperation (ICCO), are already in Haiti and operational. Your dollars are already at work.
THANK YOU for your generous gifts of compassion. Please remind folks that 100% of what you give to Week of Compassion goes directly to Haiti Earthquake Relief efforts. 100%. We are doing an amazing thing here -- together. And this is only the beginning of the recovery. Let us continue on, in prayer, in hope and with courageous compassion.