Communication to Haiti remains patchy at best, but one Long Island church has a steady connection to a 1,400-student school it runs as a mission in one of the areas worst hit by the earthquake.
Employing satellite, Internet and Skype technology, the Southampton Full Gospel Church has managed to maintain visual and audio contact with its school in Leogane, about 20 miles from Port-au-Prince. The school has kept the technology running with diesel generators and cameras posted around its grassy campus.
The news church workers in Southampton have received is not good: At least two teachers killed in their homes, and one student fatally injured when part of the church building on the 3-acre campus collapsed.
"The feeling of people down there is one of desperation," said James Boyd, a church volunteer who was communicating with the school's staff. "They see bodies under concrete. They have not seen any help whatsoever."
The church has run the mission since 1982. In the past week, the church was able to reassure a few Haitians in the United States that their relatives were safe.
Can-do drive for loved ones
Several Elmont residents spoke Friday - with a mix of relief and grief - of loved ones who are doing fine, others who are missing, and a few who are injured or dead.
The lawn of the Renfrew Street home of David Duchatellier was packed with concerned residents who heard harrowing reports. "One of my aunts is under the rubble," said Elsy Mecklenbourg Guibert, a former vice president of the Elmont school board who has dozens of relatives in Haiti. "They are trying to remove her. It's been three days already and she passed."
With a backdrop of U.S. and Haitian flags, and canned goods gathered in front, several speakers thanked local residents who have responded, as they pleaded for more help. "The loss of life and the illnesses as a result of the earthquake are much more severe than anything any of us ever experienced before," said Assemb. Tom Alfano (R-North Valley Stream), who helped organize the news conference to appeal for donations.
Duchatellier, who earlier helped build a school for 400 children in Haiti, said the organization, Haiti Relief Effort, is collecting food, clothes and money to ship in sealed drums.
Vladimir Crevecoeur, a student at Stony Brook University, was impressed with the relief effort. "It shows the strength in our community for us to come together like this," he said, adding he lost at least one cousin in the quake.
Relief fund set up
In Roosevelt, Nassau Democratic Legis. Kevan Abrahams of Hempstead and Robert Troiano of Westbury, along with local leaders, led a fund drive request outside a local Haitian church.
"The devastation in Haiti may be over 1,500 miles away, but the feeling of loss and heartbreak is right here at our doorstep," Abrahams said.
He said he had set up a relief fund through Roosevelt's City National Bank, whose president, Louis Prezeau, is from Haiti. He also said Arthur Katz, owner of Knockout Pest Control, has promised to match up to $10,000 of money raised by this effort.
Gil Finch of Giggles Comedy Plus club in Hempstead said he is holding a fundraiser at the club Saturday evening.
Troiano said he is coordinating with the Town of North Hempstead to use its parks as drop-off points for relief aid. For additional information, call 516-571-6201.
Pooling aid from sectors
Henry Schein, a health care product provider based in Melville, is donating a million dollars in medical supplies. East Northport-based Seaflight Logistics is offering its services in loading those supplies on airplanes to Haiti.
At a news conference Friday, Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) joined Haitian community leaders from Suffolk and business leaders to announce the latest efforts. Israel said he is working with the State Department to get supplies to Haiti as soon as possible, but delivery could take some time because of logistical and infrastructure issues. "What we want to do is organize donations now and deliver them to one centralized place so when the airport and roads open up we will have resources to send immediately," he said at Henry Schein headquarters.
Huntington Hospital is allowing employees to donate comp time it will convert to a dollar amount for relief efforts. For more on Long Island relief efforts, go to house.gov/israel.