The founder of a White Rock thrift store that opened eight years ago with the sole purpose of supporting Haiti says help is needed more than ever now, in the aftermath of a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck the impoverished country on Aug. 14.
Laura Mawhinney, owner of Project Aftershock, said Tuesday (Aug. 24) that the organization’s medical team in Haiti has been deployed to the one of the hardest-hit areas, and that “thousands of dollars in wound care supplies & life medicines” have been purchased.
“Everyone is working so hard together and doing a remarkable job,” Mawhinney said in an Instagram post, of the Haitian-led team of two doctors, two nurses and a medical co-ordinator who are working at a hospital near the epicentre.
“I haven’t slept in days,” Mawhinney added to Peace Arch News by email Tuesday morning, explaining 24/7 efforts to co-ordinate patient care and remain accessible to the team.
“Many hospitals are overwhelmed with patients and still many areas have not been reached. Our team plans to assess some surrounding towns and villages to see if there’s anyway we can support the victims.”
As of Sunday (Aug. 23), the death toll in Haiti had surpassed 2,200, with 344 people still missing. The quake – centred on the nation’s southwestern peninsula – also injured more than 12,000 and destroyed nearly 53,000 homes.
It’s the latest in a series of tragedies to rock the country over the past two years.
“Within just the past several months a hurricane, heavy gang violence, the assassination of their president, a massive earthquake and tropical storm Grace,” Mawhinney writes. “I honestly don’t know how anyone could handle back-to-back tragic events such as this.”
Mawhinney’s heart for Haiti dates back to 2010, when she travelled there on the heels of that year’s earthquake to volunteer as a nurse.
She said that trip “rocked me to the core and changed the entire trajectory of my life.” It was a pull she’d never felt before – and it has anything but lessened in the years since, inspiring her Marine Drive thrift store, “dozens” of trips to Haiti, sponsorship of a Haitian family and even two years of calling the Caribbean country home.
Normally, Mawhinney would have been en route to Haiti herself now, but explained that in recent years, the reins of the operation have been handed over to Project Aftershock’s in-country partner James Alexandre, founder of Chedesapa, an organization that was created to provide health care in Cité Soleil, a commune of extreme poverty in the Port-au-Prince area.
“Over the past two years we have felt it’s best for our team to be all Haitian and Haitian-led,” Mawhinney explained. “It’s been a long road of learning and growing but we feel so good about the way we operate now.
“I will be back, but now is not the time.”
Mawhinney described photos from the latest devastation shared with her by the medical team as “absolutely horrific,” and said she has been “flooded” with calls and messages from friends and colleagues in Haiti who are receiving appeals “all day all night of people still trapped, people injured, people in such remote areas still unable to be rescued.”
She said those who are on the ground in Haiti are “doing an incredible job… working around the clock to save lives & bring support to the suffering.”
“We just hope to do our part.”
Crediting also the volunteers who help at her White Rock store, Mawhinney said it’s “truly a group effort to provide medical support for those who need it most.”
Those wishing to support Project Aftershock’s efforts may donate at the store, 15545 Marine Dr., via PayPal or by etransfer to email@example.com. Charitable donations may also be made at https://gcfcanada.com/project-aftershock/
– with files from Associated Press
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