The Logistics of Getting to Haiti

Identifying the needs of the Haitians who were affected by the earthquake, finding a place to stay and work, and getting there would be impossible for us without the help and coordinated efforts of many people.

In addition to being invited to satisfy these specific needs and respond to those needs identified by the survivors, we wouldn’t be able to go without having a safe place to stay and a way to get around, which has been hugely helped by Jesse Mendoza of Jordan International Aid. We wouldn’t have met him without the introduction of another local church— Menlo Park Presbyterian Church—which had sponsored our past trips to Katrina and the San Diego wildfires and regularly sends short-term missionaries abroad to provide medical relief in Ethiopia. Many of their past short-term medical mission members are participating in this current Haiti relief. It’s a testament to the way that local organizations that share common interests can self-organize teams of people with the skills that are needed to go abroad.

One example of how this disaster is much more difficult and extreme in severity is the difficulty of even securing transport into Haiti. Our initial flight on a free charter with United was cancelled, which sent us scrambling and finding that Jordan International Aid could possibly find a military transport with the Miami Chamber of Commerce. Since that was unable to be secured, we’re falling back on Angels Flight West, who has a million miles donated from Alaska Airlines each year to fly physicians and nurses and patients for free. As I write this, I’m coordinating with them to fly into Santo Domingo. And since the Port-Au-Prince Airport just opened, we may be able to fly out through Port-Au-Prince.

Fortunately, our departure and arrival to Santo Domingo should remain February 15th, and we’d be there until the 21st. So that’s one example, on a daily basis, of the difficulties of coordinating this change because of cancellations and lack of availability, in comparison to the past when surrounding areas around a disaster allowed us to fly into unaffected areas and then drive in; for example, we flew into Baton Rouge following Katrina and into the San Diego airport and then drove into the wildfire area. But this is much more severe—more like a war-time environment.

Other than the logistics of getting there, the logistics of getting what we need is a great story of how people online have been so incredibly supportive. Look for more on this in my next post.

Identifying the needs of the Haitians who were affected by the earthquake would be impossible for us, given that we’re over here in Silicon Valley, without the coordination of someone on the ground there who can make contact, which is Randy Roberson. He’s with telehelp.org and has been there for the last week, identifying those needs as a disaster logistics coordinator, which is what he does professionally as a non-profit endeavor.