Volunteers Offer Hands, Hearts For Haiti
Just a little more than four months after a catastrophic earthquake hit Haiti and claimed the lives of more than 225,000 people, Sister Martha Burbulla is preparing to return to the country she was visiting when the devastating quake struck on January 12.
Later this month, Sr. Martha will return to the country she has been visiting for 20 years. But this time will be different. This time she will go to assess the recovery and to see what is still needed – what she needs to take with her on the next trip planned for later this year.
Although she will depart from the Fulton County Catholic Mission on May 23, three sea containers packed by her Carmelite Community of the Word in Gallitzin, Pa., have already arrived packed with supplies and building materials to help in the relief effort. As Sr. Martha explains it, the Fulton County community has played a huge role in filling and packing those 40-foot containers that left the Brooklyn, N.Y., harbor on May 12 and should have arrived in Portau Prince on May 19.
Unique to Fulton County, wood from dismantled JLG crates was included in each container but could likely have filled one itself. According to Sr. Martha, local residents Bob and Michael Garlock spearheaded the campaign to dismantle the free crates so they can be used for building material in Haiti. The Garlocks then provided the flatbed trailer to deliver them to Gallitzin where the disassembled boards were packed in the sea containers. The local Methodist Church youth group worked on disassembling the containers for the first load, while another group of volunteers prepared the second load.
To help with the relief effort, the sisters received monetary donations as well as clothing, hygiene and household products, shoes, canned goods, mats and mattresses, bedding, assorted household items and tools from many church groups and individuals in Fulton and counties surrounding the Gallitzin area where the Carmelite Community of the Word Motherhouse is located.
“Make a Difference Day” organizers DeAnn Hawkins and Sharon Youngblood arranged for collections of hygiene products at the local schools. More than 30 boxes were packed on May 1. The Big Cove Service Unit of the local Girl Scout troop worked on Haiti information for its “Thinking Day” project and gathered about a dozen shoebox-size plastic containers of the products to send to Haitian girls.
Local volunteers who joined others in Gallitzin to pack the sea containers on May 7 included Gary Ankney, Richard and Joyce Hornberger, Harvey Kneas, Bill McGinnis and Chris Youngblood.
The sea containers were packed with: 25,893 pounds of construction materials, including steel roofing, wood and tools – all supplies needed for roof construction; 2,845 pounds of hygiene products, including shampoos, hand soap, laundry soap, combs, brushes, toothpaste, toothbrushes and powder; 10,426 pounds of clothing for adults, children and infants; 2,298 miscellaneous items, including mattresses, toys, household and kitchen goods; 2,067 pounds of shoes for adults and children, including 400 pairs of new shoes for the children; 2,233 pounds of canned food; 4,238 pounds of linen and bedding; and 850 pounds of clinic supplies, including first-aid items, midwife kits, non-prescription medicine ointments and bandages.
The Carmelite Community Catholic Sisters based in Gallitzin, Pa., within the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, has had a relationship of more than 20 years with a native Haitian Community of Catholic Sisters, the Little Sisters of the Incarnation.
Each year the CCW organizes a trip called “Hands and Hearts for Haiti,” to spend time with the Little Sisters. The visits include work projects and special needs for which the Little Sisters need help. They send a 40-foot sea container in October before their visit with materials for their projects, as well as anything else the families or the Little Sisters need.
The sisters usually fly from Miami to Port-au- Prince, Haiti, and from Portau Prince they take charter planes to Hinche in the Central Plateau and then they travel by truck to Pandiassou, a village about four miles away. Although the Central Plateau was not affected by the quake, many of those in Port-au-Prince who survived have now gone from the villages into the countryside seeking refuge. This, according to Sr. Martha, has created a hardship for those trying to help them.
Sr. Martha is looking forward to her trip back to Haiti and says that she and the other sisters are overwhelmed by the generosity of the local communities and so grateful for everyone’s help. The Haitian government reported that an estimated 230,000 people had died, 300,000 had been injured and 1 million made homeless. More than 3 million Haitians have been affected by the massive earthquake. “Literally everyone in Haiti has been affected in some way. They have lost family, friends, goods and some have lost everything,” Sr. Martha said. “They suffer from fear psychoses, terrified of another quake and just living day to day takes every ounce of their energy,” she added. She remains in touch weekly with her Little Sisters in Haiti.
The sea containers will also take three life-size statues, two of the Virgin Mary and one of St. Joseph, to provide comfort for many who have lost their places of worship to the earthquake.