The Jan.12 Haiti catastrophe, a 7.0 earthquake that left an already impoverished nation in chaos and near ruin, has prompted an outpouring of relief efforts by Hispanic organizations and leaders from inside and outside the United States.

Non-profit and faith-based groups responded to the Haitian people with telethons, community outreach and fundraising.

One such group, Orlando-based Latino Leadership Inc., told Hispanic Link News Service it is partnering with the Haitian consulate there and organizations such as UNICEF and the Red Cross to ensure people receive assistance.

“This is the moment for our community to say ‘We are here,’” Latino Leadership president Marytza Sanz emphasized. “Now we are helping Haiti. Tomorrow we might be helping our Latino neighbors. It is important to realize that we are in this together.”

Latino Leadership is rushing to contribute two truckloads of supplies, she added, mentioning such items as tents, backpacks, water, antibiotics and toys for the children.

Among other organizations that have contributed are Abrazo Fraternal-Dominicans for Haiti, affiliated with Corinthian Medical IPA, which held a five-hour radio and television marathon to benefit the earthquake victims.

“We have the ability to go on short notice and send a team up from Ecuador. We have people with the expertise,” said Harold Goerzen, senior editor of HCJB Global. “We’re a faith-based group so it’s not only an opportunity to reach physical needs, but spiritual needs as well.”

Faith-based HCJB Global, working in conjunction with Samaritan’s Purse, sent a team of seven medical personnel from Quito, Ecuador, to Port-au-Prince. Its team, led by a British nurse, includes Ecuadorian and German surgeons, a U.S. anesthesiologist, two U.S. family physicians and a British water engineer.

Brazilian soldiers have been stationed in Haiti since 2004 as part of a U.N. peacekeeping mission. Fourteen were killed in the quake, while others are still missing. Brazil's government has sent $15 million in aid money, along with 28 tons of relief supplies.

Emilio Sánchez, who heads the Spanish news agency EFE, called the Latino involvement highly significant.

Hispanic media coverage has been exceptional, Sánchez said, “doing everything possible to generate interest in local communities and organizations to help the people of Haiti.” 

The Organization of American States asked that donations to the Caribbean country to be made through the Pan American Development Foundation, which has more than 25 years experience in Haiti.

Contributions may be made through the special website:

PADF has 150 staff members in Haiti working on projects related to, among other things disaster mitigation, community development and protecting human rights. It has provided immediate critical aid on various occasions when other natural disasters struck.

Mexico was among the first and most visible of Latin American nations to assist with the relief effort. It has been sending 15 to 20 tons of aid daily as well as hundreds of doctors, rescue workers and engineers. The Mexican Red Cross has established 486 aid centers.

"There has been extraordinary coordination by Mexican officials," Magdy Martínez-Soliman, who heads the United Nations Development Group in that country, told broadcasters.

Easing some pressure on the island government, on Jan. 17 the Obama Administration granted 18-month Temporary Protected Status to undocumented Haitians already living in the United States.

In past years, thousands of Haitians have lost their lives attempting the perilous 700-mile sea journey in small boats from their homeland to southern Florida’s shores.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has warned that undocumented newcomers will be turned away. Nonetheless, some schools, hospitals and social service agencies in areas with large Haitian populations in areas such as New York and Florida are preparing for any influxes.

(Luis Carlos López is a reporter with Hispanic Link News Service. Email: [email protected]) ©2010


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