Cut to Haiti. The last thing any American wants to read right now is how their aid or tax dollars are locked up in red tape, stuck in containers of goods, failing to reach starving and hurting people. So it was with pleasure that ATPN participated in a conference call on February 10th with Portlight Strategies’ Richard Lumarque—on the ground in Port au Prince—communicating clearly and directly with disability advocates and others in the states, exactly what is needed in Haiti and by whom, and exactly how it would get to them. For fans of Stones to Schools, Richard Lumarque sounded analogous to Sarfraz Khan, which makes Paul Timmons, board chair of Portlight, a Greg Mortenson of sorts (Timmons grew Portlight from his living room). Timmons uses Lumarque’s intelligence to organize U.S. resources and partner with disability networks and others to provide effective relief in Haiti—relief that Lumarque and his team have been delivering, personally, on the ground.
The disability networks Portlight is partnering with are many and include Friends of Disabled Adults and Children (FODAC) in Georgia (an Enterprise Depot of the STAR Network of reuse programs), the programs of the Pass It On Center (PIOC) and the Association of AT Act Programs (ATAP). The Haiti Aid Network, a private nonprofit with decades of experience and long-established relationships in Haiti, is also supplying intelligence on specific Haitian needs.
The collaboration is exciting and effective. FODAC has a 64,000 square foot storage facility in Stone Mountain, GA that it is deploying as a staging ground for durable medical equipment (DME) donations from around the U.S. For AT programs, this means most of the wheelchairs, walkers, hospital beds, and canes that you donate are being collected, evaluated, and coordinated by FODAC staff and volunteers. Portlight and the Haiti Aid Network are seeking out and raising funds for low cost shipping options. So far these have included securing a cost-effective U.S. trucking network and partnering with the Liberty Schooner (a tourist tall ship that has signed on for relief work).
So how did AT program networks like PIOC and ATAP get involved? “It began with a single tweet,” emphasizes George Heake, emergency management and response coordinator at the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University (home of Pennsylvania's Initiative on AT) and a consultant with the PIOC. It was a tweet from Timmons forwarded by a colleague to Heake that alerted him to Portlight’s effort to get together its first container of DME and other needed supplies. Heake has been designated the National Point of Contact by FEMA for PIOC and ATAP. That tweet led to the AT program community helping to fill requests from Portlight’s contacts (crises responders at universities, hospitals, and elsewhere in Haiti). As result, AT program networks are now working in collaboration with Lumarque, a man who is personally driving a truck more than 12 hours a day to deliver donated DME exactly where it needs to go.
(See the related article: “Your Haiti Relief Efforts: From the Top Down...”)