A decade of help and hope in Haiti

Ten years ago Haiti was struck by a powerful earthquake that left more than one-hundred thousand people dead and millions hurt and displaced. United Aid Foundation President John Alex and board members Mike Wnek and  Mary Jane Alex reflect on that terrible time, and on how United Aid Foundation volunteers and supporters have helped Haiti: then and in the decade since.

Mike Wnek:

“The initial response primarily focused on basic human needs including food, drinkable water, medical supplies, clothing and basic shelter supplies. We assisted in search and recovery efforts primarily in the Hotel Montana area along with our friend Fed Golba and his dog Nitro. After delivering aid by day we fed doctors and patients. Most of the patients were amputees, who came came from severely damaged buildings  that had collapsed on them.”

 

 

United Aid Foundation coordinated a surgical team from Kansas City and New York to head to the earthquake zone. As soon as the team arrived they were stopped while putting gas in their vehicles and urgently asked to come to a hospital to help earthquake victims suffering from horrific injuries but had no access to pain medication or treatment. The UAF team, carrying their own supplies, anesthesia, equipment antibiotics headed in and operated through the night. They continued to treat patients in open fields and slept on the ground.

 

 

Mary Jane Alex:

“It was my first trip for disaster relief. Had no idea what I was in for! It was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. The human suffering was just unimaginable. Despite all that, the experience of being there and organizing that surgical mission was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.”

Led by Mike Wnek, and with support from our Haitian partners Daniel Thelusmar and Frantz Vil  the first tent city was created in the town of Gaunthier. The compound had 24 hour security in an enclosed area with drinkable water and sanitation facilities on site. The team delivered over 25,000 pounds of beans and rice and several hundred gallons of cooking oil.  We assisted in furnishing and constructing a field hospital on the grounds of Love A Child school in Fond Parisien  and provided refrigerators and freezers as well as A/C units for the hospital operating rooms. We helped repair quake damaged orphanages in  Croix de Bouquets, Simonette, Gressier and Martissant.

 

 

John Alex:

“I believe the earthquake in Haiti marked the nadir for UN relief efforts.  The lack of coordination and actual help given to people on the ground was so bad that groups like UAF became the go-to organizations to deliver medicine, generators, food and water for the first few months.  It forced the UN to completely revamp their disaster response and today it is much better.”

United Aid Foundation and friends have made twenty eight trips to Haiti in the ten years since the earthquake. Organized by Mike Wnek our efforts have built forty-four sustainable homes. We also replaced roofs on twenty-six dwellings after Hurricane Matthew hit in 2018.

On every trip to build homes we supplied several tons of rice and beans with cooking oil, clothing and medicine, as well as tools. Perhaps more important, we have trained a team of  Haitians in carpentry, and concrete work, and they are proficient enough now to build on their own.

In the last year and a half UAF expanded into a town called Gressier and our volunteers have been very involved on the Christianville campus. Over Memorial Day weekend of 2019 our team rebuilt a three-story dormitory left abandoned and in disrepair since the earthquake, rebuilt the roof on an orphanage, and supplied food and clothing. Our team has become became active in an agriculture program and provided the funding to triple crop production. We also sponsor chicken houses and egg production which is a source of income. This program has been an outstanding success and is feeding over 600 people at a time when starvation is rampant all around them.

Our team has also been involved in providing significant funding to build a vocational college in Macombre.  The college is  a huge step in providing advanced education and training in business and accounting skills as well as modern gas and diesel engine mechanics. Our dream is that one day our Haitian friends will no longer need our help.

Mike Wnek:

“I’ve seen terrible tragedy and great miracles. I am truly blessed. And there is more to come.”

Mary Jane Alex:

“All of that made a huge difference in saving lives,” Mary Jane said. “And it changed my life for the better.”

John Alex:

“For those of us at UAF who responded continuously that first year, we knew how much we were needed and how important the work was to keep people alive.  Despite the sacrifices to our families, work, etc., it remains my proudest time. No doubt in my mind we help save and sustain thousands of lives. I am proud of the tremendous work done by our volunteers in past ten years. ”

United Aid Foundation remembers that tragic day in 2010. We honor those who lost their lives by helping survivors build a better future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The Destruction is Worse than I Imagined”

A guest post by Bahamas volunteer Kathy Clark, who is volunteering with United Aid Foundation and Team M/V Adventure

Bradley and I were recruited to join our good friends Brad and Lorraine Carolton at Green Turtle Cay (GTC) in the Abacos to assist with hurricane recovery efforts. Brad and Lorraine are boating friends who own a Nordhavn 55. Shortly after Dorian struck the Abacos, they connected with United Aid Foundation, loaded their boat up with generators, freezers, and tons of food and headed to GTC, a small island in the Abacos where the major recovery efforts are not yet focused. Brad and Lorraine had already set up a fully functioning kitchen and trained local people to operate it. They serve two meals a day to over 200 people per meal. There is still no running water or electricity on the island, so even for people whose houses are habitable, it is difficult to prepare meals and/or wash dishes.

 

Bradley and I flew to Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday, October 5 and stayed with a good friend until we could get a flight to GTC. We were delayed a couple days waiting for good weather but flew out Wed morning on a small Cherokee piloted by Rod. That gave us plenty of time to shop for things Brad needed, including groceries, tools, and various supplies. We were so successful that we ended up over our 900 pound weight limit (including human weight) and had to leave a small generator behind for another day.

Below is a report from Bradley:

The destruction is worse than I imagined.  I would say over 50% of the people here lost everything, including their homes.  More than a third of the homes  still standing were so flooded that everything has to be removed including furniture, insulation, wiring etc.  About 15 to 20% of the homes had only minor wind damage and no flooding.   There were solid cement block homes completely leveled. There is no electricity on the island and Adventure is making 50% of the water for the island with their water-makers operating almost constantly and sending water to a large tank at the marina where it can then be distributed. The only power is from generators and gas is $5 a gallon.

Kathy and Lorraine are working on increasing organization, inventory control, logistics, and expanding “Adventure Cafe” menu.   Brad and I are running around fixing things, gathering supplies for projects and just helping people.  Friday, John Alex, the founder of United Aid Foundation came in with volunteers Abigail Hayo and Ryan Beasley. The five of us put up 11 ten-person tents for the Haitian community on Treasure Cay. Over 60 of them spent 2 days trapped in a school bus, as their houses got blown down and their cars flooded.  The bus was on the highest point of land for miles.

Everyone is very nice and for the most part helpful.  The people are very resilient and are beginning the rebuilding process. There is absolutely no risk or fear for our safety, quite the opposite.  Many of the locals are welcoming, industrious, and friendly.

We are working, lifting moving things Ten+ hours a day.   Good thing I showed up in shape.  It is both physically and mentally exhausting.

 

United Aid Foundation thanks Kathy and Bradley for all of their  efforts in the Bahamas, and for helping to spread awareness of the conditions there.

 

Direct Aid to the Bahamas

One month after Hurricane Dorian struck the Bahamas, the affected areas are still without electricity, running water, and the most basic supplies for daily life. United Aid Foundation has answered the call for help sending four consecutive teams into the area.

Upon arrival in the the devastated area of Green Turtle Cay, UAF volunteers immediately cleaned storm debris from a heavily damaged church, then put a tarp over the roof in order to create a kitchen for the people in the area. Working alongside Brad and Lorraine Carlton, who transported our team via their boat, The Adventure, UAF has served more than five thousand hot meals.

 

Our volunteers then dug a one-thousand gallon cistern out of the ground, then  cleaned and sterilized it and brought it to the kitchen to hold water and sustain the town.

 

UAF volunteers have worked tirelessly to clear debris, set up tents for storm survivors who need a roof overhead- as most of them do- and are assessing ways in which the organization can help those who do not have means rebuild. This is merely a snapshot of work UAF has done thus far, and there is much more to be done. We are motivated by the smiles of the people we serve there, especially the kids. We are grateful for the donors who are willing to make a difference.

Heading to the Carolinas

John Alex

Message from UAF founder John Alex

Friends of United Aid Foundation,

The historic flooding from Hurricane Florence continues as I write this. We’ve been anxious to respond due to the requests for aid from local officials, churches, and community groups but have been unable to get past the flooded roadways.That ends now. The UAF advance team leaves today  to determine where we can do the most good. Our first work team leaves next week. Volunteers from NY, NJ, MA, FL, LA, MO, and TX (including Texas volunteers whom we helped after Harvey and want to pay it forward) will help cut clear trees, tarp roofs, gut and mold remediation for houses in under-served neighborhoods where we know they are last in line for help and rebuilding.

We know all too well from New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Houston, and Puerto Rico what these communities are facing. The loss of most of their possessions, months in FEMA hotels or trailers, no flood insurance, and limited FEMA grants for rebuilding. We will at least defray the costs of clean up and, funds permitting, we will be able to duplicate our efforts in Houston and help families rebuild. Please follow our efforts on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. If you feel so inclined, reach out to me via DM on UAF Twitter or info@unitedaidfoundation.org about volunteering and joining us on a trip (this is dirty work under harsh conditions, not a vacation FYI) or helping us financially at https://www.unitedaidfoundation.org/support-us/  where we will keep you up to date on exactly who you are helping and how.

Peace!

John Alex

The most traumatizing situation is war

Northern Uganda has been dealt many difficult blows over the years, not the least of which was a long war that saw children abducted; forced to become soldiers after watching their parents brutally murdered.

Today Uganda has new hope, exemplified by young women like Kevin Aber.

“We all have problems,” Kevin said. “But we need to talk to someone”

United Aid Foundation sponsors Kevin as she completes a master’s degree in counseling. She wants to help Ugandans heal. “The most traumatizing situation here has been the war, ” Kevin says, followed by domestic violence, gender-based inequality, HIV/AIDS and the many problems that come with poverty in Africa.

Kevin, who lost both of her parents in the war believes everyone has an opportunity to live a healthy life. She says they need to start by stopping the cycle of getting trapped in the past. “What has already been done is done and they need help to move on with life,” she said. “I will use my experience and education to help others in my country. They need to feel like someone is out there caring for them.”

You can be proud of helping in Houston

Your support directly aided a family who needed a little help to keep their kids healthy in the wake of Harvey

The Landeros family

Want to feel good about your donation to UAF? Check out these picture from Landeros family in SE Houston, a perfect example of the kinds of people you helped.

The Landeros home was flooded in Hurricane Harvey- they didn’t have flood insurance because, like so many other families they believed they were safe from a catastrophe.

The father, Alfredo was already exhausted working from two jobs and had little time and money to remediate the dangerous mold that started to spread after the flood water receded. But the smell of mold became overwhelming; the family had to move quickly to avoid getting sick, especially with a 4-month old baby in the home.

The smell of mold became overwhelming; the family needed to move quickly to avoid getting sick, especially with a 4-month old baby in the home.”

United Aid Foundation provided moldicide spray and offered help with tearing out the ruined walls and appliances. Alfredo and his son Edgar worked through several sleepless nights and soon the home was cleared.

“I was really proud of them,” said Cenovio Villa, UAF board member who coordinates our home reconstruction projects. “Like all of us they want their kids to be happy and healthy and they did what they had to do.”

UAF donated new cabinets, refrigerator, stove and a microwave. Cenovio and volunteers installed everything the week before Christmas, along with six other families that needed Somali aid.

The new kitchen is beautiful. But even more important, Alfredo, his wife Yvonne, and Edgar, Lesley Yamileth, Stephanie and little Avery Aylin can get back to life after Hurricane Harvey without fear their home will make them ill.

Thanks to all who made it possible.

Holiday Greetings from United Aid Foundation!

“Tis the season” indeed, and UAF has been busy.  We responded all out to Hurricanes Maria and Harvey.

We began working in South Houston while the floodwaters were still in the streets. We’ve gutted homes and sprayed entire neighborhoods for mold.

UAF volunteers have delivered food, clothes, diapers, and baby formula.  We’ve resupplied homes with beds and cribs, stoves, microwaves, and refrigerators.

The weekend before Christmas, board member Cenovio Villa and a crew from Florida worked around the clock rebuilding kitchens for families in great need. We also helped sponsor the best Christmas party ever for over 300 kids in the area school district. Our partnership with Texas State Representative Carol Alvarado and Javier Loya from OTC Global have been critical.

While working in Houston, we joined the world in watching the growing and continuing humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico.We felt as an organization that we had to respond for our fellow citizens.  After a frustrating two weeks attempting to get on the island, we finally arrived and went to work.

With the island without power or water, we’ve made two trips. In addition to carrying critical medicines to local clinics, we delivered over 50,000 meals, 1000 solar lamps, and individual water filters capable of cleaning tens of thousands of gallons of water per day. We continue to respond with food, filters, and solar lamps through our wonderful hosts Pedro and Provimar Melendez and their family.

In addition to this work we continue to support the kids of “Deb’s House” in Romania, and sponsor two girls, Georgiana and Denisia as they attend in high school Kansas City.

UAF sponsored three volunteers on a medical mission to Uganda in September and purchased Afripads, a feminine hygiene product that often means the difference between young girls in Africa staying in school or dropping out. We continue to sponsor Kevin, a brave young woman there who has seen the struggle of war first-hand as she finishes a degree in counseling.

We continue to support house building efforts in Haiti, while our UAF team in Nepal is constantly working to make life better for people who live in extremely difficult and often dire conditions.

In 2018 United Aid Foundation will begin working with a program in Guatemala that ensures kids in school get to eat one meal per day.

I cannot be more proud of my fellow UAF team members, all volunteers with lives and families of their own, who dropped everything to respond to the needs of people who needed them.

They inspire me every day.  I want to personally thank every donor for their faith and trust in us.  We take that responsibility very seriously.

Finally, I want to wish everyone a happy holiday.  Whatever you may find in your social media feed, we are all blessed.  The people that I have met in these amazing times give me full confidence in the future.

Peace!

John