Local Relief Effort Aims To Help Haiti

BERLIN – Hundreds of thousands of pounds of food, water and medical supplies from all over the world are heading the earthquake ravaged Haiti this week including a vast amount of material from right here on the lower shore, thanks in large part to a “Herculean” effort by the local community to rally in support of the victims.

When Salisbury natives Tom and Bev Brumbley left for Haiti to establish a mission there 38 years ago, they knew times would often be tough in the third world, war-torn island nation, but their collective mettle, but not their faith, has really been tested in the last week or so since the massive earthquake. In 1972, the Brumbleys established the Evangelistic World Outreach in Port-au-Prince with just a church and an orphanage, but in the nearly four decades since, their mission has turned into nine satellite schools, multiple bible schools, a vitamin and feeding program and a centralized campus that provides education for nearly 1,000 Haitian children and adults.

The massive complex in and around the capital was hit especially hard last week when the earthquake shook Haiti to its core, mangling many of the facilities and leaving hundreds of children and adults in a desperate situation. In response to the tragedy, a massive relief effort is underway with the Brumbleys handling things on their end and a vast network of local individuals and public and private entities rallying to generate and deliver tens of thousands of pounds of food, water, medical supplies and other life essentials from sources all across the shore in Berlin and West Ocean City.

What started at first as a trickle is becoming an avalanche of sorts as several local individuals and organizations are pulling their collective resources for the cause. The first shipment of about 500 pounds of supplies made their way to the Brumbleys’ mission late last week and the steady stream has been growing almost daily. Another 3,000 pounds of supplies from the local area was expected to fly out today with as much as 20,000 pounds more heading to Haiti early next week.

A vast network of caring individuals and organizations springing out the Brumbley’s home church, the Uprising at St. Paul’s Church in Hebron, has been making phone calls, calling in favors and utilizing all of the resources at their disposal to mobilize the massive relief effort for the mission with local ties in Haiti. The Brumbleys’ son-in-law Ben Lyndaker is coordinating the effort on this end, arranging air transportation for the thousands of pounds of relief materials collected through agencies like Agape Flights, a faith-based organization formed for just this purpose.

Already, tons of supplies have reached the Brumbleys’ ravaged mission in Haiti, but much more is needed. To that end, the mission has formed a list of the supplies needed the most and drop-off locations have been set up all over the shore. In Worcester, drop-off sites have been set up at Barrett Chevrolet in Berlin and near the Applebee’s restaurant in West Ocean City. Another location is up and running in Pocomoke.

The list of needed supplies is vast and includes medical supplies, bedding and toiletries, food, cooking supplies and building supplies. Any donation is welcome and Lyndaker and his crew on this end are prioritizing what is needed first at the mission in Haiti. The first batch of around 500 pounds of supplies included the most basic of life’s necessities.

“Five hundred pounds doesn’t sound like much, but they were down to just five gallons of water, so every little bit helps and now we have tens of thousands of pounds heading that way,” said Lyndaker, who emphasized no donation is too small at this point. “The local community is playing a huge role in this. A $3 case of bottled water doesn’t sound like much, but that’s 24 bottles. That’s huge considering they have nothing.”

The mission is relying on practically all of its resources and connections across Delmarva to help mobilize the relief effort. For example, local developers Jack and Todd Burbage have been in the middle of the effort from the beginning, calling on their considerable connections to help make the relief effort happen.

“It’s been a Herculean effort by a lot of people,” said Todd Burbage, who spent much of last week making phone calls to organize transportation for the thousands of pounds of supplies. “It just kind of snowballed outward with all the different people and groups doing their parts. It’s amazing, really, how people can rally at a time like this. There hasn’t been a person I’ve asked that hasn’t jumped in with everything they can.”

For his part, Jack Burbage called in a couple of markers to help with the relief effort, including Atlantic General Hospital, which responded immediately to the need.

“I called AGH at noon last Thursday and asked if they could provide any help, and by lunchtime the next day, they delivered a truckload of medical supplies,” he said. “How a hospital could turn that around so fast was just amazing.”

Jack Burbage said coordinating the relief effort has been difficult at times, particularly on the Haiti end, where public and private relief crews are just starting to organize the avalanche of material pouring into the tiny island nation. Burbage said he has been amazed at the resolve of those involved.

“It’s been an up-and-down situation, a real roller coaster ride,” he said. “At one point, you think things are going well, and then you get a big setback. But the people involved just regroup and figure a way to get over the hurdle. Things appear to be going very well now.”

However, after being in Haiti for nearly four decades, the Brumbleys have a distinct advantage in wading through the red tape to get the supplies headed for their mission, according to Lyndaker.

“They’ve been there 38 years,” he said. “If there is anybody on the ground there that knows more about the situation then Tom and Bev, I don’t know who it could be.”

Tom Brumbley is also a United Nations warden in Haiti and knows the ins and outs of how to manage such a massive undertaking. He is also well known in and around Port-au-Prince, which has allowed him to gain access to the supplies being sent from Delmarva, while others less connected have struggled.

“Tom has a lot of connections both down there and up here,” said Lyndaker. “There are not many people in and around that airport who don’t know who he is.”

Nonetheless, confusion on the ground in Haiti has made delivering the relief materials difficult, although it appears the situation has improved in recent days despite another major tremor on Wednesday, according to Lyndaker.

“It’s been a little frustrating,” he said. “First, there were no customs, then there were customs. For a while, the freight that was sent from here was locked in a warehouse in the airport, which is about 10 miles from where they are, and they couldn’t get it delivered. They were able to go to the warehouse with the vehicles they had and get some supplies. Now, it’s opening up.”

Lyndaker was quick to point out the supplies sent directly to support the Brumbleys’ mission are finding their way to their destination, but there are many similar missions in the same situation and the goods are being shared when possible. He also pointed out the supplies sent from all over the Lower Shore are getting to the people who need them the most.

“All of the various missions are sharing whatever we can get to them,” he said. “They’re like one big family. If one has specific needs, the others rally to find it for them. I guarantee that everything that is collected here and sent down there is reaching the people who need it the most. I’m not sure the same thing can be said about all of these efforts.”

While the most basic necessities are finding their way to the mission, the relief effort will likely go on for months, even years. One of the Brumbleys’ schools was completely destroyed and most are severely damaged. Their own home in Haiti was severely damaged, although repairing or rebuilding it is not an immediate priority.

“This is not something that is going to go away,” said Lyndaker. “This was a third world country to begin with. It was terrible before this happened. With all the talk about Katrina, they had the equivalent of three or four Katrinas in the last year alone. These people have seen more natural disasters then anybody else on earth.”

Lyndaker said those who are concerned about the images they have seen on the major cable networks and the Internet of Haitian victims attacking supply trucks and planes should not be dissuaded from donating.

“The Haitian people are very resilient and they are very proud,” he said. “You see those reports on cable news or on the Internet, but that’s not a real depiction of what’s going on there for the most part. They have to find the worst, but those are isolated incidents. For the most part, there is not pandemonium and chaos, but rather a surreal calm. The people are working together to get through this.”

The Uprising Church and its pastor, Bill Cropper, has set up a Brumbley Haiti Relief Fund to accept tax-deductible monetary donations for the relief effort and there are dozens of drop-off sites around theshore including Berlin and West Ocean City, for example. For more information, visit www.theuprisingchurch.org.