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Snapshots from Haiti
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Joe Lowry
 
January 25, 2010
The first time we saw four-year-old Joe was heartbreaking.

He was barely able to sit, wiping crumbs off the little cardboard mat that had become his home. He cleared a space to sleep, like his mother would have done, his eyes rolled back in his head, and he slumped into a daze.

Joe came from nowhere. Someone noticed him lying naked on the ground and he was brought to the Red Cross field hospital in the center of Haiti’s shattered capital.

Mageli St. Simon, a Haitian Red Cross volunteer, started taking care of him. “His head was injured,” she said. “And he was sick; maybe malaria, maybe typhoid.”

St. Simon started to interact with the sick child, and after a day or so, she got his name. She gave him a pen and paper, and he drew his mother and father. Then she gave him a toy phone.

“He started speaking to his mother. I asked him what she was saying. He told me, ‘She says don’t look for me, I’m dead.’ I don’t know how he knew, someone must have told him before he got lost.”

Three days on, Joe’s doing well. He's still sick, but is taking water and a little food. He draws us a cross. I tell him my name is Joe too, and he gives me a long, deep look.

He’s a beautiful, fragile little boy, with a slight squint that makes him look even more vulnerable; it makes you want to protect him.

St. Simon agrees. “You have to really know yourself before you know other people,” she said. “That’s why I take care of Joe, to know what he needs. I can’t give people any money, but I can help in my own way.”

If Joe has no family members who can take on the responsibility of caring for him, the little boy will go to an orphanage as soon as a suitable organization working with orphans can be found. And he’ll do fine. He’s a survivor.

A Relief Worker
Grim reality has a way of knocking at the door for the aid workers in Haiti. That was certainly true for American Red Cross relief worker Steve McAndrew, who is serving as the head of the global Red Cross relief operation in Haiti.

“I was walking across the parking lot when a voice said, ‘Sir, can you help me?’ I said, ‘I’m really sorry, this isn’t a hospital.’ She screamed, and it was then that I saw the baby in her arms. He was small, maybe four or six months old, and he had a drip in his leg. He was foaming at the mouth and his chest was heaving up and down, up and down," McAndrew remembers.

"I called over two of my medical colleagues. They put the baby in the shade and started to check him over. Then a surgeon came over and said the kid had to get to hospital fast.”

We had to be quite aggressive to clear the dozens of cars and trucks that were in the way. We weren’t expecting a critically ill child to be brought in," McAndrew said.

The boy was sped to the Red Cross field hospital, where he was received by Dr. Hossam  Elsharkawi. The baby's condition was so severe that he needed immediate ventilation and was rushed by helicopter to the USNS Comfort, an offshore floating hospital run by the military, where American Red Cross volunteers are serving as interpreters.

“We don’t now if he will survive or not, but he’s in the best possible place,” said Elsharkawi.

Four-year-old Joe, one of the young survivors of the Jan. 12 earthquake, sits with a relief worker in Port-au-Prince.
Four-year-old Joe, one of the young survivors of the Jan. 12 earthquake, sits with a relief worker in Port-au-Prince.
Steve McAndrew is an American Red Cross relief volunteer currently working in Haiti.
Steve McAndrew is an American Red Cross relief volunteer currently working in Haiti.
Tessa (left) decided to volunteer with the Haitian Red Cross after witnessing the devastation in her homeland.
Tessa (left) decided to volunteer with the Haitian Red Cross after witnessing the devastation in her homeland.

A Local Volunteer
Tessa is 22 years old and has the world at her feet. She just graduated from a university in Florida, where she studied biology and public health. A month before the earthquake, she came home to Haiti to have some time off, look for a job and think about settling down in the land she loves.

Then her world turned upside down. Although her family escaped tragedy, there was no question about where she would go: the Red Cross. Her father, Dr. Guiteau Jean-Pierre, is an executive committee member of the Haitian National Red Cross Society, so within hours of the disaster, Tessa—like thousands of others—was volunteering.

Her background and trilingualism made her a natural candidate to work at a Red Cross field hospital in Delmas, a heavily hit part of the capital. The devastation all around, and the harrowing stories she hears and sees every day, bring her down.

“Oh God, I love this country so much,” she sighed. “But I wonder if the hope will ever come back. Right now I am questioning if I want to stay here, if I can raise children here. I just don’t know. It’s so sad.”

But then she brightens, secure in the knowledge that she’s doing the right thing—the only thing she can do to help those less fortunate.

“Maybe the hope will come back. This is such a great country.”

You can help the victims of countless crises, like the recent earthquake in Haiti, around the world each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, which will provide immediate relief and long-term support through supplies, technical assistance and other support to help those in need. The American Red Cross honors donor intent. If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster, please do so at the time of your donation by mailing your donation with the designation to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013 or to your local American Red Cross chapter. Donations to the International Response Fund can be made by phone at 1-800-REDCROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish) or online at www.redcross.org.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation's blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.


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