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A month after quake, Utahns still helping Haiti

Dr. Ray Price, left, and Dr. Jeff Randle, founder of Healing Hands for Haiti, help a man in Port-au-Prince Jan. 22. Donations are pouring in to help Randle rebuild his clinic there.
Dr. Ray Price, left, and Dr. Jeff Randle, founder of Healing Hands for Haiti, help a man in Port-au-Prince Jan. 22. Donations are pouring in to help Randle rebuild his clinic there.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utahns responded with an outpouring of relief after a magnitude-7.0 earthquake rocked Haiti a month ago Friday, killing more than 200,000 people, injuring many more and leaving 3 million in need of food.

Local aid included major efforts that dovetailed with well-established national and international relief and religious organizations as well as makeshift groups formed shortly after the disaster hit the impoverished Caribbean nation on Jan. 12.

Relief ranged from an anonymous multimillionaire CEO who donated the use of a corporate jet to shuttle personnel, equipment and supplies back and forth between Utah and Haiti to the many unnamed individuals whose simple donations online, through text-message services, at school or at church added to the wave of generous charity.

"I've spent the last 10 years as the voice crying from the wilderness, 'Haiti needs our help! Haiti needs our help,' " said Jeff Randle, a Salt Lake City physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor who founded the Healing Hands for Haiti in Port-au-Prince a decade ago.

"All of a sudden, with this earthquake, people have been knocking down the door trying to help. I'm humbled and very touched by it all."

Randle has fielded calls from potential donors all across the country and world who want to help rebuild Healing Hands' all-but-demolished clinic and surrounding campus. The donations are creative, ranging from a gift of $6,500 from a Beacon Heights Elementary student read-a-thon to the promised proceeds from Saturday's Love for Haiti Valentine's Formal Ball at the Provo Marriott Hotel.

And that's just a handful of examples for one specific project.

The Haitian earthquake has served as a rallying cry formyriad ventures, efforts and donations.

Nearly 23,000 health/hygiene kits were shipped from the United Methodist Committee on Relief's West office/depot based in Salt Lake City. While kits were assembled in many Western states, a big push of nearly 400 volunteers in Salt Lake City helped account for a good share of the regional total.

The Lutheran Social Services of Utah, working closely with the Lutheran Disaster Response and the Lutheran World Foundation, provided 250 first-aid kits and $5,000 to that church's $2.5 million total donation.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was able to promptly truck in much-needed food and relief supplies from its Caribbean Area offices in the neighboring Dominican Republic, following with multiple airlifts of food and supplies from the United States.

The LDS Church also sent in a team of 14 trauma and orthopedic specialists and a pair of licensed clinical social workers to help with the injured and ailing.

Utah Haiti Relief was spawned by a southern Utah contingent — equipped with three helicopters and a private jet — to help airlift medical volunteers and injured Haitians, transport adopted orphans to the United States and deliver food and supplies throughout Port-au-Prince.

The same group accepts donations for Haiti through its online site — utahhaitirelief.org — and Zions Banks across the state.

Utah Hospital Task Force, some 120 individuals with medical, construction or Haitian Creole expertise, spent several weeks in Haiti providing medical care, helping restore limited operations at Healing Hands of Haiti, providing construction and reconstruction insights and offering interpretation services to relief and military operations.

Small groups of doctors and nurses made their own down to Haiti to treat provide treatment in Port-au-Prince and outlying areas. Other in Utah helped to arrange the donation of much-needed medical supplies and equipment, while other individuals collected and shipped wheelchairs and crutches.

In the quake's aftermath, existing adoptions were expedited, and Utahns welcomed more than a dozen Haitian adoptees. Utahns in Haiti helped foster the release of scores more to the United States.

Efforts will continue in the coming weeks and months — later in February, 20 Salt Lake youth groups totaling nearly 800 individuals will participate in World Vision's 30-Hour Famine, hoping to raise $36,000 locally as part of a $12 million global donation.

Diggs said UMCOR West's next efforts will be to replenish the depleted stockpiles of health/hygiene kits and to start assembling additional supplies, including layette kits for newborns and clean-birthing kits to help decrease the chances of infant mortality.

And the LDS Church's upcoming efforts include helping provide temporary housing for the homeless and participate in the reconstruction of demolished hospitals and schools.

e-mail: taylor@desnews.com