By Akshay Bhansali
Last Friday’s (January 22) “Hope for Haiti Now” telethon raised $58 million in donations (as of Saturday, January 23) from donors all over the world. A lot of times, one never gets to see how exactly donations result in tangible relief on the ground, or just how long it takes to get from your text, or submission, to a life in Haiti changing for the better. In an effort to observe this exercise, I joined MTV News supervising producer Sean Lee, production manager Adam Stewart and correspondent Suchin Pak on an expedition to see just how donations affect Haitians on the ground.
After a day’s worth of Navy Blackhawk chopper rides from Guantanamo Bay to the USS Carl Vinson to the USS Batton, we made it to the U.S. Armed Forces camp at Port-au-Prince airport on Thursday evening. The level of activity on the base was monumental: 290 helicopter and plane relief runs occurring daily. Almost the entire airport tarmac was lined with relief goods waiting to be taken into the city. On the armed forces base itself, we witnessed volunteer surgeons at an erected relief hospital busily attending to critical care medical needs, and some cases, amputations. Special Ops Surgeon Shea Brennan elaborated on the work he and his volunteers are doing, relating it to one specific patient, “While the injuries he’s sustained has resulted in the loss of an extremity, we are being able to save his life.” Due to the outpouring of support and medical donations coming in lives are continuing to be saved.
The next day our team ventured into Port-Au-Prince. The destruction was all around us, with two- and three-story buildings leveled to the ground. We saw long lines at water supply points and especially large gatherings around places like Western Union and money transfer centers, where Haitians waited to collect funds coming in from relatives abroad.
We soon linked up with the volunteer workers of Project Medishare on a bus convoy to deliver medical supplies and treat injured Haitians at a clinic they set up in the Delmas section of Port-au-Prince. Inside, dozens of injured Haitians awaited medical treatment in an igloo like tent camp, with volunteers either treating injuries or using their hands to load in medical supplies, canned food and water. Miami Beach Firefighter Adonis Garcia was among the volunteers working with Project Medishare and was upbeat about the work being done. “They are an amazing and brave people,” he told us. “In fact, the bravest people here are the Haitians. I’m just trying to help out.”
For volunteer Michael Capponi, his message to the world is clear. “This is a microcosm of what is going on,” he said. “We need to multiply the number of volunteers by 100,000 and multiply the supplies by 10 million. This is just one tiny little suburb of Port-au-Prince.”
As you can see, help is underway — but the need for continued donations remains constant.