published Saturday, January 16th, 2010

Haitians hold out hope for relatives

  • photo
    Staff photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press - Georges and Patricia Charles, who reside in Ooltewah, have not heard from familly members in Haiti since the earthquake. Mr. Charles is still awaiting news of his brother, Jean-Marie Charles.

As news trickles in from the devastated Caribbean country, local Haitians balance grief and hope as they find out who died and who survived.

"It has affected every household, every single person has someone who died or lost everything," said Collegedale resident Herndeur Joseph, who just found out his immediate family is fine but that he lost many friends and distant relatives.

"It's just heartbreaking," added the 35-year-old, who left Haiti close to eight years ago.

The Red Cross estimates 45,000 to 50,000 people were killed in Tuesday's catastrophic 7.0 earthquake. Up to half of the buildings in the capital of Port-au-Prince and other hard-hit areas were damaged or destroyed, The Associated Press reported.

It's been almost four days since the earthquake and Georges Charles hasn't heard anything from his 34-year-old brother Jean-Marie Charles, who lives in Port-au-Prince.

"But I still haven't given up hope," said the 31-year-old TVA engineer. "I try to remain active and bring awareness. My faith was been the biggest thing to hold me and keep me strong."

Meanwhile, relatives of missionaries and aid workers caught in the earthquake anxiously await their loved ones' return.

The last couple of days have been a roller coaster of emotions for Mary Talbird, wife of the Rev. John Talbird, who arrived in the Haitian capital hours before the earthquake struck.

"Unfortunately, I'm a nurse and I was working and didn't know of the earthquake until my phone started ringing off the hook and people asked me if my husband was all right," Mrs. Talbird said. "When I heard about it, I amazingly felt he was all right, (I felt) very peaceful."

When she got home from work, her husband, who retired three years ago from the Church of the Good Shepherd on Lookout Mountain, had left her a message saying he was fine.

He was evacuated in a cargo plane with a group of Americans on Thursday night, including Chattanooga resident Ashley Aakesson, executive director of the Children's Nutrition Program in Haiti, Mrs. Talbird said. They were transported to New Jersey and were looking for flights home, she said.

"Frankly, I'm a little more nervous and upset since I talked to him," she said. "While I wasn't talking to him, I knew he was being cared for by God and, now that I'm talking to him, I'm having to work on getting him a flight (to come) home."

Mr. Talbird and Ms. Aakesson were expected to arrive in Chattanooga late Friday night or early today, she said.

Back in Haiti, the suffering is monumental, Mr. Joseph said.

"The people who got out OK are facing some other major issues like food, water," he said. "They are staying in shelters, but it's not easy to reach them."

Although Mr. Charles left his home country when he was just 7 years old, he feels it is his duty to help Haitians.

"I feel they are my people and I feel I need to be there," he said.

He and other Haitian-Americans are planning to go as volunteers and help with the relief effort in February.

Before the earthquake, life in Haiti -- the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere -- already was an everyday struggle, Mr. Joseph said.

"What about now?" he asked. "They had their health, they had their homes and they were struggling. What's going to happen now that they've lost everything?"

LOOKING FOR LOVED ONES

* Tennesseans seeking information about loved ones in Haiti may contact the local office of Sen. Bob Corker in their area. To locate that office, visit: http://corker.senate.gov/public.

* Call 1-888-407-4747, a number that has been set by the U.S. State Department Operations Center for Americans seeking information about family members.

* Visit the Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network at www.satern.org.

GET INVOLVED

Several local organizations are accepting donations or asking for volunteers to help with the relief effort:

* Children's Nutrition Program of Haiti, call 495-1122 or visit http://cnphaiti.org

* Score International, call 423-894-7111 or visit https://scoreinternational.org/give. Specify Help Haitians Rapid Response.

* American Haitian Foundation, checks can be mailed to: 3602 Anderson Pike, Signal Mountain, TN 37377 or visit www.americanhaitianfoundation.org.

* The Salvation Army is accepting monetary donations via www.salvationarmyusa.org, 1-800-SAL-ARMY and postal mail at: The Salvation Army World Service Office, International Disaster Relief Fund, P.O. Box 630728, Baltimore, MD 21263-0728; or donors can text the word "HAITI" to 52000, to automatically give $10 to the Salvation Army's relief efforts. Note that the money will go directly to the Salvation Army's World Service Office.

* The Center for Rural Development of Milot Foundation (CRUDEM) is accepting to support the Hopital Sacre Couer, a hospital in the north of Haiti. The foundation, based in Ludlow, Maine, was set up in 1968. For more information or to donate, go to www.crudem.org

* The Samaritan Center will host a matching gift campaign for the disaster relief efforts in Haiti. Since Katrina, that account has grown to $8,000, and the Samaritan Center is going to use that money to match any gifts that come in for Haitian disaster relief. Visit www.thesamaritancenter.net or call 423-238-7777.

* Habitat for Humanity International is gathering funds for rebuilding efforts. Area residents can give through www.habitat.org or send donations to: HFH of Greater Chattanooga, 1201 E. Main St., Chattanooga, TN 37408. Please note that they are for Haiti.

* Bright School students will decorate wooden bells which will be sold for $5, proceeds will go to the Children's Nutrition Program in Haiti.

* Vision Ministries of Chattanooga, a local church with a multicultural congregation, including Haitians, is accepting donations to coordinate with other organizations. To donate, visit www.visionministries.webs.com or call 423-475-5563.

* Bi-Lo Charities launched a donation program where shoppers can donate to the American Red Cross to assist those in Haiti and in turn, they will match customer donations up to $25,000. This in-store donation program begins Monday and will continue through February 9 in stores in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

* AMG International, visit www.amginternational.org

VOLUNTEERS

Volunteers may travel to Haiti with Score for $1,200, which includes airfare, meals, lodging, supplies, and ground transportation overseas.

Dates include: Jan. 30-Feb. 4 and every Saturday through Thursday for the following six weeks.

For more information, contact Trey Bailey at trey@scoreinternational.org or call 423-894-7111.

about Perla Trevizo...

Perla Trevizo joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 2007 and covers immigration/diversity issues and higher education. She holds a master’s degree in newswire journalism from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Texas. In 2011 she participated in the Bringing Home the World international reporting fellowship program sponsored by the International Center for Journalists, producing a series on Guatemalan immigrants for which she ...

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