Doing Our Part

LDS Charities Works to Relieve Suffering

Photographed by: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

The Emergency Response team at Latter-day Saint Charities is constantly on the alert and ready to respond to disasters. Minutes after being notified of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, they immediately began coordination to provide relief.

Latter-day Saint Charities handled the Haiti disaster differently than the 2009 tsunami in Samoa or the earthquake in Indonesia. Both previous disasters had a devastating effect on those within miles of the coastline. The earthquake in Haiti, on the other hand, caused damage to a much larger area inland and brought new challenges for relief workers. The infrastructure of the country was completely destroyed and the government left barely functioning after the quake.

The first step was to contact local LDS Church leaders and other contacts to assess the situation. Partner agencies, such as Islamic Relief, CARE, and the Red Cross, were also contacted to coordinate the shipment of supplies. One hundred sixty thousand pounds of supplies, including medical supplies, family food boxes, water filtration bottles, hygiene kits, blankets, powdered milk, tents, tarps, body bags, and canned food, were included in the first relief supplies Latter-day Saint Charities shipped to Haiti. The supplies were gathered from Church storehouses in Orlando and Atlanta and shipped to an Islamic Relief warehouse in Miami. Two separate airlifts transported the supplies to the suffering in Haiti.

Because of the widespread devastation and lack of a functioning government body in Haiti, partnerships continue to be a vital part of the success of Latter-day Saint Charities’ Haiti relief. The Church has partnered with eight other nonprofit organizations, including the Red Cross, Islamic Relief, and Food for the Poor, along with many more partnerships in the works, for the future development of Haiti relief.

Days after the quake, Latter-day Saint Charities assembled a team of medical professionals to fly to Haiti and provide relief. Each of them was equipped with a survival bag, a medical equipment bag, and a pharmaceuticals bag. After a two-day delay, the team finally arrived in Haiti and immediately began treating the wounded. They set up a temporary clinic in a Church building and worked feverishly to relieve suffering. LDS members aided the doctors with crowd control and translation. More than 4,000 Haitians took refuge in LDS meetinghouses, with an estimated 25% of them requiring medical assistance.

In the United States, the response from donors anxious to contribute to the Latter-day Saint Charities relief efforts was overwhelming. More than 200 medical professionals volunteered to go to Haiti. Donors offered anything from teddy bears to jet planes and shoes to old billboard signs that could be used for shelter. Monetary donations continued to pour in. When volunteers on the ground in Haiti expressed the need for more medical supplies, Globus Relief stepped up and offered 23 pallets of medical supplies, which were shipped out just days later.

Miracles encouraged volunteers in their relief efforts. One man in Idaho requested that volunteers search for his elderly mother, who was also sheltering a young child at the time of the quake. Although overwhelmed with requests from the masses of suffering, volunteers took time to go look for the missing woman and child. They were able to find her and provide her with the first food and water she and the child had since the quake. Miracles like this happened every day as volunteers used supplies provided by Latter-day Saint Charities and their partner agencies to alleviate suffering.