Haiti: Notes from the Field
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Haiti: Notes from the Field

Luis Matnog, a Red Cross Emergency Response Delegate, shares his experience with Grand Circle

When Grand Circle Foundation delivered a $545,603 donation to the American Red Cross on behalf of Haitian earthquake victims, Alan and Harriet felt it was important to update the 4,239 contributing donors on how our gift is making a difference. To this end, they invited Luis Matnog, a Red Cross Emergency Response Delegate, to give a presentation at Grand Circle headquarters.

Luis is no stranger to the devastation wrought by earthquakes—not only is he a member of a Red Cross Emergency Response Unit (ERU), but he is also an earthquake survivor. In 1990, Luis was trapped in a school building during a deadly earthquake in his native Philippines. He was lucky to escape with his life. "It became my life's mission to conquer my fear," says Luis. "And I conquered it when I stepped into Haiti."


No time to complain

What he and his fellow delegates encountered there was unlike any other disaster they—or anyone at the Red Cross—had seen yet. "It was the first time every type of ERU was deployed," says Luis, "including relief, logistics, IT/Telecomm, water and sanitation, basic health care, referral hospitals, and a Base Camp." By this token, it is the worst disaster in modern history.

Luis' ERU arrived in Haiti on January 30—just two weeks after the earthquake struck. They landed in the Dominican Republic and traveled overland, which took more than 12 hours because landslides had rendered the roads impassable. Once in Haiti, Base Camp was set up on the grounds of a brand new hotel that never had a chance to open. For a month, Luis' home was a small tent pitched within a larger tent. His diet consisted primarily of sports drinks and energy bars. This, he knew, was a relative life of luxury. "It was no time to complain," he says.

An emotional reality

The unit's main objective was to distribute relief items—including water, food, tarps, blankets, and kitchen sets—to thousands of survivors each day. They traveled through Haiti with no armed guards or escorts, choosing instead to build relationships within the communities through their own personnel. Sometimes, desperation and frustration led to violence among those who were waiting—which was especially dangerous, since it could take up to three hours to transport a wounded person to the hospital. More often, though, quieter emotions ran high. "Many people cried a lot," says Luis. "The emotion is always there."

One morning, Luis' ERU was scheduled to distribute aid to a large refugee camp at 8am. By 4:30, 5,000 families were lined up in anticipation. "The team decided, 'Why wait,'" says Luis. They handed out supplies then and there.

"Every day, every morning, this is the reality in Haiti."

By the numbers

To give an idea of what our donation has funded, Luis gave us a progress report as of May 5, 2010, which included the following statistics:

  • More than 100,000 patients have been treated by Red Cross/Red Crescent health care facilities
  • 152,342 people have been vaccinated against communicable diseases (including measles)
  • 120,000 cubic meters of water distributed (estimated number of beneficiaries 308,000)
  • 1,869 latrines built
  • 88,404 hygiene kits distributed to households
  • 61,723 kitchen sets distributed to households
  • 41,234 food items distributed to households
  • 129,826 mosquito nets distributed to households
  • 228,048 blankets distributed to households

Our donation of $545,603 has gone a long way toward making this possible. Says Luis, "The people of Haiti all thank you for your support."

While Grand Circle Foundation is no longer accepting donations for Haiti, we encourage interested donors to give directly to the American Red Cross.