Health Kits One Part of Emergency Response in Haiti
By ALICE M. SMITH
Special to the Advocate
BALDWIN, La. – Volunteers at the United Methodist Committee on Relief’s warehouse during the week of Jan. 17 – which included six Georgians – worked quickly to make and inspect health kits that would be shipped to Haiti and other areas to meet pressing human needs.
One container of kits – about 31,000 in all, including health, school and layette supplies – already had been promised to the Republic of Georgia and would be shipped the next week. But Glenn Druilhet, director of the Sager-Brown Depot, said 68,000 health kits were already in inventory at the warehouse, and another 40,000 were being gathered from sites around the country, including North Georgia.
“We’re gathering all the kits we can so they will be ready to go. As soon as UMCOR gets the okay to send, we will send,” said Druilhet, adding that there must be someone on the ground in earthquake-devastated Haiti to receive and distribute the kits. A health kit contains basic hygiene products, including a hand towel and washcloth, toothpaste and toothbrush, a bar of soap, a comb, a pair of nail clippers or a fingernail file, and six adhesive bandages.
The group of Georgians working at the depot, in addition to myself, included Barbara Rankin of Hanleiter UMC in Griffin, Pat Flynt of Union Point UMC, Pat Lassiter of County Line UMC, Griffin, Sara Worden of Marietta First UMC, and Sherry Caldwell of Barnesville First Baptist.
The group joined a full house of more than 60 volunteers, mostly from Minnesota but also from other parts of the country, whose main project was making new kits and opening and inspecting pre-made health kits to be sure they met exact specifications. In two weeks, volunteers at the depot had processed 29 pallets containing close to 19,500 kits.
Some volunteers sewed school bags and layette blankets, and others went out into the community to help repair homes. The Sager-Brown depot has a deep commitment to the community where it is located. To begin the week, the staff and many of the volunteers participated in a community march and worship service celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
While the volunteers at Sager-Brown were working on health kits, UMCOR was mourning the deaths of two UMCOR executives while responding to emergency needs in Haiti and sending a team to assess how the agency could be of further help. The assessment team is led by Melissa Crutchfield, UMCOR international disaster response director.
On Jan. 22, the team participated in a memorial service at the Hotel Montana in Haiti, where the Rev. Sam Dixon, top executive of UMCOR, and the Rev. Clinton Rabb, executive with the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, died from injuries they sustained when the hotel collapsed during the earthquake. Three others with the group survived.
The United Methodist Church has a long history of working in Haiti, and in 2005 UMCOR opened a field office in the country. Dixon and Rabb had gone there to discuss projects to improve lives in one of the most impoverished nations in the world.
Early response from UMCOR has included emergency grants to the Methodist Church of Haiti and GlobalMedic. UMCOR is partnering with GlobalMedic to provide clean drinking water, treatment for diarrhea, and other medical help.
While the immense needs in Haiti are pressing, Sager-Brown executive director Kathy Kraiza pointed out that UMCOR’s relief and rehabilitation work must continue in other areas as well. “Those people also are relying on us too,” she said.
Relief supplies are shipped from the warehouse to all parts of the United States and throughout the world. Last September, shipments of school kits and flood buckets were sent to North Georgia in response to record flooding.
Kraiza emphasized that work in Haiti will be comprehensive and long-term: “There are seven different units of UMCOR, and we will all be involved in Haiti.”
That work will be a continuation and enlargement of the church’s ongoing commitment to Haiti. While UMCOR is not a “first responder” and is not involved in search and rescue efforts, the agency will be in Haiti for the long haul, through relief and recovery.
In the meantime, the plea goes out for monetary donations and health kits.
This article ran in the February 19 edition of the North Georgia Advocate. If you would like to learn more about the North Georgia Advocate, or to subscribe, find out more at www.ngumc.org/advocate.
For more information on how to build a health kit, visit http://new.gbgm-umc.org/umcor/getconnected/supplies/health-kit/