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Salon owner tries to focus amid Haiti worries

Yolette David, owner of Myoda Salon International Inc.,

Yolette David, owner of Myoda Salon International Inc., styles hair on a customer. She is not able to contact her adopted daughter who is in Haiti. Yolette is chairperson of the L.I. Coalition for Haiti's Relief Collecting Suppolies for Quake victims. (January 16, 2010) Credit: Newsday/Karen Wiles Stabile

You are looking for a touch-up?" Yolette David says into one of her two telephones Saturday morning, her voice making good business use of her musical Haitian accent as she consulted with a prospective client.

It was almost 10 a.m., but David has been working since 6:30 a.m. at her shop, Myoda Salon International, which sits in a shopping center on Wheeler Road in Central Islip, between a self-service laundry and an auto supply store.

She puts the phone down and returns to her seventh customer of the day, scissors flying, as she made great hair styling look easy. In the background, a children's TV show played on a large flat-screen TV hanging from the ceiling.

"We keep CNN on in the back," David said, leaning in to add, quietly, "We want to keep things nice out here because there are children."

It's just another busy Saturday at the salon. Except that David is more than a business owner. She is chairwoman of Haitian Americans United for Change, a confederation of churches, businesses, not-for-profit groups and Long Island politicians, who last week launched a coordinated supply drive for earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

Her business is the only salon on a list of more than a dozen collection sites in Suffolk County. But David is juggling another difficult task, too.

She, like so many others, still waits and prays to hear from relatives in Haiti. Among them are Christelle Lafortune, her 14-year-old daughter, who attends Christian Academy in Delmas; a cousin, Christa Carrefour, 23, who lives in Carrefour; along with another family of cousins, surnamed Labbe, who are too numerous, David said, for her to remember each name.

David reaches out to Haiti too many times a day to count. On Friday, after days of hearing nothing on the other end of the line, she got a busy tone for her Christa's home telephone. But, as of Saturday, she still couldn't get through to anyone.

"Usually at the shop, I am all about business," said David, whose busy salon caters to a clientele that includes neighborhood and New York City residents as well as emigrants from Guyana, Haiti, Trinidad and the Dominican Republic. "We do all kinds of hair, all kinds of textures," she said, proudly.

But it's been hard since the earthquake.

"I am here but I am not here," she said as she curled hair on her ninth customer of the day. "I do my best to please them, but my soul is in Haiti."

At one point, the children's program on the television is interrupted by a news report. The salon tenses and stills. Things relax as President Barack Obama and former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush announce an effort to raise funds for Haiti.

Later, Tim Porter, a New York City firefighter from Central Islip, stopped by, with a friend, Bonnie, to drop canned food and cases of water in the front of the salon. They will return later, after a shopping trip to a nearby Target, to drop off even more supplies.

On the first trip, Porter talked about how his heart goes out to Haiti. And then his eyes began to tear.

"I spent time digging at the World Trade Center," he said. "I know what it is to be in something so surreal and so nightmarish. The people in Haiti are in a hell that is going to last for a very long time. They need all the help they can get."

David, whose family moved to the United States when she was 11 years old, is already back with a customer when Porter speaks.

Before the day is through, she will cut, curl, style another 10 or so customers.

She will also continue to collect donations.

And try to reach relatives back home in Haiti.

"I pray every morning before I come here," David said. ". . . If I didn't do it, I would not survive."

>>PHOTOS: Frantic rescue effort in Haiti | Deadliest recent earthquakes

>> LIVE: Twitter coverage of the scene in Haiti, from aid agencies, and reaction worldwide

>> VIDEOS: Latest videos from Haiti and on LI

>> MORE: Read more about LIers grieving and LI's efforts to help | Latest news from Haiti | Haiti's road to chaos: 2006 Newsday series



* You can help immediately by texting "HAITI" to "90999" and a donation of $10 will be charged to your cell phone bill and given automatically to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts.

* Wyclef Jean, a rapper and hip-hop artist from Haiti, urged people to text "Yele" to 501501 to donate $5 toward earthquake relief. Yéle Haiti is a grassroots movement inspiring change in Haiti through programs in education, sports, the arts and environment, according to its Web site.

* The State Department Operations Center has set up the following number for Americans seeking information about family members in Haiti: 1-888-407-4747. The Red Cross has also set up a Web site to help family members find and contact relatives.

* You can also go online to organizations such as the Red Cross and MercyCorps to make a contribution to the disaster relief efforts.

The FBI warned Internet users to be wary of e-mail messages seeking donations in the aftermath of the quake. People who want to send money or assistance should contribute to known organizations and should be careful not to respond to unsolicited e-mails, officials said.


Other Web sites accepting donations include:

-Haitian Health Foundation
-Hope for Haiti
-International Medical Corps
-Beyond Borders

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