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Haiti reels amid ruins



Published: Fri, January 15, 2010 @ 12:01 a.m.

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Mirian Harvey in Sudan while working for the UN's World Food Program in Sundan, Eritrea, and Kenya from 1998-2001.

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Mirian Harvey in Sudan while working for the UN's World Food Program in Sundan, Eritrea, and Kenya from 1998-2001. "You don't miss that part of it, like putting tablets in water," said Harvey as she looked a small temporary hut used as a toliet, "you miss seeing the peoples faces when you help them."

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The Vindicator/Geoffrey Hauschild At her southside home, Mirian Harvey stands alongside a trunk covered with gifts and souvenirs from her time working for the UN's World Food Program in Sundan, Eritrea, and Kenya from 1998-2001. "You don't miss that part of it, like putting tablets in water," said Harvey as she looked a small temporary hut used as a toliet, "you miss seeing the peoples faces when you help them."

Earthquake victims will need counseling, a disaster volunteer from Mahoning Red Cross says.

By WILLIAM K. ALCORN

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN — Many of the victims of the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that devastated Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, on Tuesday are in shock and still don’t know exactly what happened to them.

Yes, they need food, tablets to purify water, tents to live in and medical care.

But they also need counselors, somebody to hold their hand and hug them, said Mirian Harvey, a disaster volunteer with the Mahoning Chapter of the American Red Cross.

One of the paramount jobs for the relief workers will be reconnecting families — helping children find their parents and vice versa, she said.

Haitian officials estimated Wednesday that tens of thousands of people died in the earthquake that demolished schools in session, hospitals, homes and businesses in the impoverished Caribbean country.

Harvey, of Youngstown, has never been to Haiti, but she is an expert on the aftermath of wars and natural disasters, having served many years with the United Nations World Food Program and as a volunteer in the U.N.’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations in countries around the world.

“There are lots of displaced people. They have lost their homes and have no place to live. There was a time in Yugoslavia when all we did was reconnect families,” said Harvey, a substitute teacher for Youngstown city schools.

When Harvey first heard about the earthquake, she called her boss at the Red Cross and said: “If they need people, I am ready.”

Originally from Guinea, Harvey said the earthquake brought back memories of when she worked for the United Nations in the Sudan, Rwanda, Kenya, Yugoslavia and other countries.

Right now, there is the initial need for food and water and medicine. After that, officials will organize and conduct an assessment to find out what is needed for the rebuilding process, said Harvey, whose specialties are coordination of food distribution and needs assessments.

Harvey is one of the few volunteers at the local Red Cross who has international disaster experience expertise and training, said Guido P. Jannetti Jr., director of operations for the Mahoning Chapter.

As a result, and because the process of getting Haiti back to normal will take a long time, Jannetti said the Mahoning Chapter will conduct two training sessions geared for volunteers for future Haiti missions. Training will be from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 6 and 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Feb. 15.

While relief organizations around the world and locally gear up for the Haiti project, people with connections to the devastated country are trying to get information about others caught up in the disaster.

Among those are the Sisters of the Humility of Mary, who are still awaiting word from or about Sister Judy Dohner, originally of Akron, who is a nurse at a clinic about 90 minutes from Port-au-Prince. They talked to her Tuesday before the quake, but have heard nothing since.

“We are trying everything,” said Sister Joanne Gardner, director of communications for the Order.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, said he is monitoring the situation closely and would use his resources to ensure that swift disaster relief is sent to Haiti and the Haitian people.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to the families that have been affected by this devastating earthquake. I ask that all Americans please keep the Haitian people and all victims of this disaster in their thoughts and prayers,” he said.

The U.S. State Department, in conjunction with American Citizen Services, has set up a hotline for U.S. citizens who are wondering about family and friends in Haiti. The number is (888) 407-4747.

Additionally, the Ohio Air National Guard’s Mansfield-based 179th Airlift Wing is providing aid to Haiti by flying search-and- rescue teams and communications crews from Florida to Port-au-Prince in their C-130 Hercules cargo planes.

The 179th had deployed about 45 of its members to Puerto Rico on Saturday for a mission. Three days later the earthquake hit neighboring Haiti, and that evening three crews from the 179th were put on alert and early Wednesday morning the first crew was activated and airborne within three hours. Shortly after, a second crew was alerted and airborne, officials said.

In addition, three Puerto Rico Air National Guard aircraft were assigned to the 179th Airlift Wing for the Haiti operation. Thursday, 179th crews arrived in Florida in two of these aircraft to pick up and deliver additional supplies and personnel. They were to arrive in Haiti by early that afternoon.

alcorn@vindy.com


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