Mission 500 unites security industry to bring relief to Haiti

SSN Staff  - 
Friday, January 15, 2010

Mission 500, a strictly non-profit organization affiliated with World Vision and dedicated to serving the needs of children and communities in crisis, was already responding to Haiti’s needs through fundraising efforts when the major 7.0 earthquake hit just outside Port Au Prince, Haiti.

“Now, more than ever, Haiti needs help,” said George Fletcher, a Mission 500 volunteer. “We urge everyone in the security industry to get involved in supporting our efforts to aid in what is perhaps the worst natural disaster in terms of human toll of our lifetime in the Americas.”

To make matters worse, there have also been a series of 5.7+ aftershocks and Haiti has already been classified a Category III emergency by World Vision’s emergency relief team, the highest emergency response level. With reports of collapsed buildings, including hospitals, World Vision anticipates massive needs and a difficult response effort.

“It felt as if a truck had hit a wall,” said World Vision staffer Magalie Boyer, of the initial tremor. “This was the most powerful earthquake on record in the area and there is extensive damage in the city. People are spending the night in the streets. They are not comfortable staying in their houses. World Vision Haiti will distribute first aid kits to survivors, along with basic materials such as soap, blankets, clothes and bottles of water as an initial response,” Boyer added.

World Vision has worked in Haiti for 30 years and has approximately 370 staff members in the country. The downed communications, blocked roads and continuing aftershocks slowed relief efforts overnight, with staff unable to leave the agency’s Port-au-Prince office for several hours due to fallen debris in the roadways.

Reaching hard-hit areas with supplies is expected to be a significant challenge due to the damaged roads and infrastructure, including the main airport and government buildings.

World Vision’s workers from less affected regions of Haiti are mobilizing and the agency’s global experts are expected to arrive in the disaster zone with relief goods as soon as possible.

“We would be very concerned about a quake of this magnitude anywhere in the world, but it is especially devastating in Haiti, where people are acutely vulnerable because of poor infrastructure and extreme poverty,” said Edward Brown, World Vision’s relief director in the United States.

According to the U.N. Office for the Special Envoy for Haiti, unemployment reaches 70 percent nationally, and 78 percent of Haitians live on less than $2 a day. A New York Times story in 2008 reported that one in five children is chronically malnourished. The one business booming amid all the gloom is the selling of patties made of mud, oil and sugar, typically consumed only by the most destitute. “It’s salty and it has butter and you don’t know you are eating dirt,” said Olwich Louis Jeune, 24, who has taken to eating them more often in recent months. It makes your stomach quiet down.”

The disaster is the latest to befall Haiti, which has a population of about 9 million people and is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Hurricane Gordon killed more than 1,000 people in 1994, while Hurricane Georges killed more than 400 and destroyed the majority of the country’s crops in 1998. In 2004, heavy rains from Hurricane Jeanne caused landslides and flooding that killed more than 3,000 people, mostly in the northwestern city of Gonaives. Gonaives was hit heavily again in 2008, when four tropical systems passed through.

Well before the earthquake hit, Mission 500 was taking action to Haiti’s needs through a fundraising effort during the upcoming ING Marathon to be held in Miami. As of today, about 40 people from the Security Industry community in South Florida are scheduled to participate in the ING Half Marathon on January 31, 2010. The goal is to raise $25,000 to help sponsor needy children as part of Operation “Hope for Haiti.” Mission 500 already has over $11,000 in committed donations. Silmar, a Miami based security distributor, is committed to getting 20 runners and sponsoring them. More than 15 other individuals have also made the commitment to participate.

Anyone wishing to support relief for Haiti and the Mission 500 running team can donate by visiting http://twv.convio.net/goto/mission500team. You can also help with the immediate relief efforts for Haiti by making a cash donation at: www.worldvision.org/mission500haiti.

Mission 500 is also hosting a 5K charity run at ISC West in Las Vegas on March 25, 2010. This first of a kind event at an ISC Expo was conceived to engage new corporate sponsors as well as individuals within the industry. Altronix Corporation, HID, LRG Marketing Communications and Morse Watchmans are charter sponsors to date. The Security 5K / Mission 500 Race is a joint collaboration between United Publications, publishers of Security Systems News and Security Director News; Reed Exhibitions, proprietors of ISC Expos; and Mission 500. More details at www.mission500.org or you can register to walk or run at www.firstgiving.com/mission500.