Coordinating Relief From 1500 Miles Away
By Marissa Maier
Before the earthquake in Haiti, Christina Carter was a regular mother balancing her responsibilities as a film producer while raising her seven-year-old son. This would all change after Carter’s close friend Jonathan Glynn, a Sag Harbor based artist and recreational pilot, decided to jump in his four-seater Cessna and fly to the seaside city of Jacmel, Haiti, on Monday, January 18. Suddenly, Carter found herself coordinating multiple relief efforts for Glynn and other organizations from 1,500 miles away in her East End home.
Carter’s typical day now consists of sending hundreds of text messages to and from people on the ground in Haiti, soliciting donations of medical supplies or fuel for Glynn’s plane, finding orthopedic equipment in Port-au-Prince to send to doctors in Jacmel, among dozens of other tasks. Because many volunteers in the devastated Caribbean country cannot make phone calls to one another, Glynn and others communicate with Carter to arrange pick-ups and drop-offs between cities and even other nations.
Above: The scene from one of Glynn’s first stops about one and a half hours from Barahona, Domincan Republic, near the Haitian border. He wrote that an orphanage for 40 children has since been transformed into Jiminy hospital. The makeshift medical center is serving close to 400 patients. Glynn said he hopes to create an airstrip to facilitate deliveries of supplies.
Above: The children amputee recovery room at Jiminy hospital.
“It has been constant coordination and asking people for favors,” remarked Carter, during a brief moment of down time on Wednesday. “Sometimes I will talk to people in four different countries in one day … Between the islands people aren’t able to connect with each other. I am getting the text and I will send it back through email or Facebook.”
The ubiquitous social-networking website has been an invaluable tool for Carter to rally donations and raise awareness of Glynn’s mission, dubbed the “Haitian Aviation Relief Project 2010.” Through posts on his wall and pictures taken from his iPhone, Glynn has been able to document every leg of his journey. Glynn’s comments are usually made up of pleas for supplies and colored with first-hand accounts of what life is like on the ground after the earthquake.
Above: Temporary recovery rooms set up outside the building.
On January 23, Glynn wrote from a makeshift hospital in the Dominican Republic, which is a few hours away from the Haitian border, “Everyday is a new obstacle to [overcome]. Tomorrow scouting out the region north of here near a hospital that needs one so I can shuttle supplies, doctors, etc. by the plane and save them 3 hours of commuting time — also they are in desperate need for more doctors and surgeons. Lots of amputations needed and I think it will get worse this week as more Haitians make it to the clinics.”
Later that week, Glynn attempted to fly back to Jacmel but encountered a snag in his plans: “Customs from Dominican Republic bringing in medical supplies is suspiciously and remarkably slow all of a sudden. Trying to get supplies to doctors in Jacmel. The customs people in Barahona D.R. kept me here for hours to look at every bandage, surgical sponge, aprons, etc.”
“The biggest challenge in the beginning was not enough help. Then there was a wave of too many medical personnel and not enough supplies,” said Carter, recounting reports she is hearing from volunteers. “Then it became too bureaucratic. There were people who were appointing [Glynn] to coordinate volunteer groups because he happened to be one of the first people there. There is still a sense of ‘who is in charge?’ There are still distribution problems. There are a lot of doctors there now but people fear in a week or two the doctors will have to go back to their real lives.”
“We need a second wave of aid,” she added.
Above: A recovery area at Jiminy Hospital.
Sarah Ehrlich, founder of the non-profit organization Help for Orphans, of which Carter is a board member, is heeding this call and reported on Glynn’s Facebook wall that her group plans to open a school in Haiti. She said a “truckload of school supplies including uniforms, shoes, chalkboards, etc.” had already been brought in from the D.R.
Glynn’s work is similarly inspiring others back in the U.S. Facebook user Lily McCullough reported to Glynn that she had gathered $4,000 worth of medical supplies in two days by calling stores.
Although scores of people are donating their time and efforts, Carter said the needs often outpace the ability to deliver materials. Every day Carter posts a new plea for specific donations. A few days ago, Carter requested 50,000 gallons of marine diesel oil for a donated ship to travel from Miami to Jacmel. On Wednesday, Carter was looking for a trucking company to pick up a portable x-ray machine and x-ray film and deliver it to Sarasota, Fla.
After spending over two weeks in Haiti, it appears Glynn is at the end of his emotional and financial rope. Yesterday, Glynn reported he was traveling to Miami for an oil change on his plane, to spend a few days with family and raise funds to be able to return in the coming weeks. Glynn is looking to raise $20,000, which would cover the costs of fueling the plane for around two weeks and leave $8,000 for supplies.
Volunteering in a disaster zone is often emotionally taxing, said Carter, though Glynn appears intent on traveling back to Haiti. Carter said, “[Glynn] has said to me ‘I can’t help everybody. I have a mission for the day and I’ll do the best that one person can do.'”
Above: A small boy at Jiminy Hospital.
Donations for the Haitian Aviation Relief Project 2010 can be made to Jonathan Glynn through Paypal at firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations for Help for Orphans can be made at www.helpfororphans.org. For more information visit the group “Friends of Jonathan Glynn . . . Helping in Haiti” on Facebook.
Above: Glynn and others unload medical supplies from his small private place in Jacmel, Haiti.