REAL-LIFE ANGELS HELP VICTIMS OF THE HAITIAN EARTHQUAKE
(Sentinel-Review) - By Heather Rivers
His name was Junior and he wandered into a Port-au-Prince makeshift medical clinic about a week after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit on Jan. 12.
"He came into the clinic wearing a bandana and said his head hurt," explained London-resident Tanya Bultje, a member of the local group known as Angels for Haiti.
It turns out the 20-year-old Haitian had been wandering the Port-au-Prince streets for a week with his head split open and brain exposed.
"How he was walking and talking we have no idea," Bultje said.
Bultje and her "Angels" later learned that both of Junior's parents had been killed in the quake, and Junior had been trapped in the rubble for hours until he was rescued. He had been sleeping with his six-year-old sister on bath towels on the side of the road.
Junior's is just one of many stories the Angels for Haiti tell about their traumatic experiences this year in Haiti.
While they have visited Haiti about seven times since 2005, the group has been to Haiti three times since the earthquake hit to deliver medical and food supplies and lend a hand in the medical clinic.
Angels for Haiti is comprised of Bultje, whose sister Karen runs Coram Deo Learning Centre, a Christian mission for orphans and children in need; Otterville resident Marlene Magashazi; her daughter Teresa Magashazi from Brownsville; Woodstock resident Teresa Ciasek, and Elizabeth Pais from Courtland.
Marlene Magashazi, Bultje, Ciasek and Pais all met through their jobs as personal support workers at Woodstock's Woodingford Lodge.
Bultje said, after receiving medical attention, Junior now lives and works as security for Coram Deo, and his sister is also attending school there.
He has become very close to the Angels, whom he credits with his survival.
"He cries and puts his arms around us and says he can never thank us enough," Bultje said.
The Angels began travelling to Coram Deo in the Delmas district in 2005 to help with projects such as building a septic system, constructing a playground and helping with feeding programs.
After the earthquake worried and uncertain of the fate of many of the children at Coran Deo, three members of the team decided to go and do what they could to help.
They landed in the Dominican Republic with 23 kilograms each of medical supplies and gained admission to Haiti by pretending to be a doctor and two nurses.
"You have to do what you have to do," Marlene Magashazi said.
Surviving on strawberry Pop Tarts -- the mission had just received a shipment -- the trio worked tirelessly in the medical clinic, sleeping outside on milk bags in tents with 200 others.
Bultje said they were working so hard she actually slept through a 6.0 aftershock.
"I was exhausted," she said. Despite witnessing numerous severe traumatic injuries, Magashazi said she is grateful everyone they treated survived. The group used their vacation time to return to Haiti in February and May, and plan to return on Jan. 31 for seven days.
They fund their trips through fundraisers, and selling jams and apple pies.
Today the trio is trying to raise awareness about the current state of the Haitian people. The country has recently experienced a hurricane in which 8,000 tents were destroyed and many damaged.
"People are living in adverse conditions," Bultje said. "It's only getting worse. My sister is having a lot of difficulty. It's overwhelming.
"There had been a flood of people again at her gate."
Bultje said money that has been donated through aid organizations has been frozen because "they don't how to distribute it."
And food and other supplies at the airport are rotting because it's becomes too dangerous to distribute due to mob violence, she said.
"The people are literally getting nothing," Bultje said. "It's the little people on the ground -- non-government organizations like my sister's -- that are making the biggest difference."
The group stresses the importance of donating money because of the difficulty of transporting supplies.
Anyone wishing to contact the group can call 519-788-8848 or 519-680-3306 or visit their Facebook site "Angels for Haiti."