A relief flight carrying dozens of young children from an orphanage in Haiti arrived in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, accompanied by Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell. The Air Force flight brought 53 children, all under the age of 4, to western Pennsylvania, where freezing temperatures greeted orphans accustomed to sunny days in the 80s and 90s-but they also were met by adoptive parents ready to give them a home outside the earthquake zone.
Sisters from Pittsburgh who run the BRESMA orphanage in Port-au-Prince, which was destroyed in the Jan. 12 quake, have been caring for about 150 young children out of doors. Ali and Jamie McMutrie supervised the orphanage through Center of Life, a "faith-based, community empowerment organization" connected to Keystone Church of Hazelwood in Pittsburgh.
Medical workers from the children's hospital at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center awaited the children as they arrived, and a temporary courtroom was set up in the hospital to finalize the processing of adoptions. Parents from all over the country came to the Steel City to meet the children, whose legal adoptions already were underway when the quake hit. The U.S. State Department and Department of Homeland Security on Monday issued a temporary policy known as "humanitarian parole," which allows orphaned children who qualify from Haiti to enter the United States on an individual basis to receive care. The State Department also has extended protection to Haitian nationals visiting in the United States at the time of the quake, allowing them to remain in the in the country an additional 18 months.
Children under the age of 14 make up over 38 percent of Haiti's population, and over 1 million of the nation's 8.5 million people are orphans. Relief organizations could not help but focus on their plight as disaster recovery entered its second week.
Colorado Springs-based Compassion International sponsors 64,000 children in Haiti and pledged to its donors last week that it would work to account for all of them. The organization also had to search for its own workers in Haiti-35 of its 75 staff members had not been accounted for as of Jan. 15. Two U.S.-based Compassion employees had just returned to the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince when the quake struck. Web technician Dan Woolley spent 60 hours trapped in the rubble of the hotel before he was rescued; his colleague David Hames, a Compassion contract worker who specializes in children's video production, remains missing.
"For all the people who know and love David with me, we need to remember that God says, 'Be still and know that I am God.' He is our God who will provide beauty and joy even in the midst of devastation," Hames' wife, Renee, said to churchgoers Sunday at Vanguard Church in Colorado Springs, where the family attends. "I have been blessed with friends who have tucked me under their wings and have prayed with me, encouraged me, supported me, and cried with me. Because of the support structure they have built around me, I have felt a great peace. Please continue to pray for David's rescue and well-being."
Woolley underwent surgery in Miami on Tuesday and is recovering. While trapped beneath the rubble, the self-proclaimed "gadget geek" used his camera and his first aid iPhone apps to treat his own injuries and find safer locations. He also used the time while trapped to pray with fellow victims and lead one of the hotel's Haitian bellhops in the prayer of salvation, according to a statement released by Compassion.
Despite uncertainty and continuing hardship, faith-based relief groups reported progress in getting aid to needed distribution points in and around Haiti's capital. ActionAid reported that its first shipment of emergency supplies had arrived, "and the people we work with are getting high-energy emergency food until supplies of flour and cooking oil arrive in the next few days," said country director Jean Claude Fignole. "Aid is getting to the people who desperately need it." The group plans to distribute water purification tablets on Wednesday. "They're drinking water direct from a stream and a spring near their makeshift camp," he said, acknowledging, "This is only the start. There is so much more to do."
Samaritan's Purse, initially blocked along with other groups from landing relief flights in Port-au-Prince, said it has now put several dozen health professionals and other emergency staff on the ground and has been working to provide medical and other care since last week. Those flights also brought in, according to medical adviser David Gettle, temporary shelters, blankets, hygiene kits, jerry cans, flashlights, water purification sachets, water purification kits, and two community water filters.
"The streets are full of people who have no homes to go back to," said Gettle "They're running out of food, fuel, and water. The situation is desperate and tense, and there is tremendous suffering."
Gettle said he was "thrilled" when an international team from HCJB Global arrived over the weekend to relieve scarce, overworked medical personnel. The team included a surgeon from Ecuador, a British nurse, a water engineer, and several U.S. physicians. Gettle said the 100-bed hospital where he was working had more than 300 people to treat-and only two doctors since the quake.
'Still in shock' | Haiti is hit by a massive earthquake followed by aftershocks, with an epicenter near the capital, Port-au-Prince | Mindy Belz and Jamie Dean | Jan. 12, 2010
Helping Haiti | WORLD provides a list of relief organizations accepting donations to assist earthquake victims in Haiti | The Editors | Jan. 13, 2010
Search and rescue | U.S. disaster experts, the U.S. military, and private relief groups head to earthquake-devastated Haiti | Mindy Belz | Jan. 13, 2010
In the dark | Haitian-Americans hope to contact loved ones and quickly send aid back home to family and friends | Alisa Harris | Jan. 13, 2010
Weeping and waiting | Haitian earthquake victims await help, but obstacles slow relief efforts | Jamie Dean | Jan. 14, 2010
Desperation | Too many Haitians are in a holding pattern awaiting aid, as relief organizations try to make progress | Jamie Dean | Jan. 15, 2010
Long night | With tens of thousands of casualties, Haitians weep and wait for morning | Jamie Dean | Jan. 15, 2010
Crying for help | Hard-pressed Haitians seek assistance as aid groups face logistical challenges | Jamie Dean | Jan. 21, 2010
Leaving Port | Beyond the capital city are rural communities equally devastated by the quake and in need of help | Jamie Dean | Jan. 22, 2010
The new normal | As life and death continue their morbid mingling, relief groups forge ahead to help | Jamie Dean | Jan. 22, 2010
Finding home | Now that search-and-rescue efforts have been called off, attention turns to providing shelter for survivors | Jamie Dean | Jan. 23, 2010
Chaotic aid | Relief groups attempt to help Haitians despite murky rules, government interference, and the lack of a cohesive plan | Jamie Dean | Jan. 28, 2010
Aftershock | Caregivers predict a second wave of death, as Haitians find moments of deliverance amid days of devastation from one of the modern world's worst natural disasters | Jamie Dean | Jan. 29, 2010
Homecoming | For Haitians orphaned before the quake, it means leaving home and starting over | Alisa Harris | Jan. 29, 2010
Crisis giving | Instant need calls for long-term strategy | Rusty Leonard | Jan. 29, 2010
An indecent grief | First lamentations, then comfort that strengthens more than soothes | Mindy Belz | Jan. 29, 2010
Hope for Haiti? (audio file) | Hear WORLD news editor Jamie Dean discuss her visit to the earthquake-ravaged country | Nick Eicher | Feb. 1, 2010
Despair and salvation | While the UN grapples with unruly crowds, The Salvation Army peacefully distributes food | Jamie Dean | Feb. 2, 2010
Crossing lines | Failing to heed sound advice, 10 Americans now find themselves facing kidnapping charges in Haiti | Jamie Dean | Feb. 4, 2010
Haiti's plight (audio file) | A discussion of the country's days of devastation and moments of deliverance | Jamie Dean | Feb. 5, 2010
Stress management | Helping Haitians recover takes zeal-with wisdom | Jamie Dean | Feb. 12, 2010
Taking charge | In quake aftermath, build new cities, says Haitian ambassador (and Bible translator) Raymond Joseph | Mindy Belz | Feb. 12, 2010
Houses of God | Grand-Goave, Haiti | The Editors | Feb. 12, 2010
Living water | Water Missions International offers long-term solutions for clean, drinkable water | Angela Lu | Feb. 13, 2010
Building blocks | While Christian Aid Ministries provides for the immediate needs of quake victims, it looks ahead to helping the country rebuild | Angela Lu | Feb. 16, 2010
Close quarters | ActionAid helps homeless Haitians deal with sanitation and security issues at camps set up in Port-au-Prince | Angela Lu | Feb. 23, 2010
Hardest hit | With nearly half a million orphaned children before the quake, Haiti's challenge to parent them just got bigger | Jamie Dean | Feb. 26, 2010
The search for miracles | Port-au-Prince is a city desperately seeking turnaround-and that's before the earthquake | Jamie Dean | March 12, 2010
Hope in the darkness | World Hope International offers Haitians practical assistance and spiritual guidance | Angela Lu | March 24, 2010
Night crawlers | A new disaster threatens defenseless women and children in Haitian tent cities: rape | Jamie Dean | March 25, 2010
Homecoming | Missionary Patrick Lataillade, who nearly died in the quake, returned to help Haitians this week | Angela Lu | March 27, 2010
Hashing out Haiti | As the UN makes recovery plans, Haitians struggle for the basic necessities for survival | Jamie Dean | March 31, 2010