With the eyes of the world focused on the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, a local organization is doing everything within its power to bring aid to the front line.
Volunteer Medics Worldwide (VMW), 2347 East County Road 600 North, has been aiding missions here and abroad for nearly 19 years. Director Gerald Flint and several associates recently returned from a third mission to Haiti, following the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake, which thus far has taken the lives of more than 275,000 people and left millions more displaced.
Flint said the quake left the nation in a state of "total obliteration." He noted the upsetting site of seeing bodies scattered all over the street, which produced a scent he compared to a combination of "burnt hair, burnt skin and a toilet." Despite his displeasure for the conditions of the dead, he said it had to be done to help create improved conditions for the living.
"It makes you ill to watch human bodies be treated that way," Flint said. "But our mission is to care for the living, which unfortunately means removing the dead."
VMW has been set up in Haiti for five years, where they have have done a great deal of missionary work. He said VMW have five workers in Haiti, more than 20 in the Dominican Republic and 45 volunteer workers from all over the United States currently involved in the rebuilding process.
Flint was also quick to offer praise to local residents who have offered a great deal of assistance in the preparation process, doing what he called "the hard, hard stuff," such as gathering and packing various materials for his trip.
Six area residents he called out by name were William Lewis, Kellie Adams, Michael Key, Rose Aycock, Buddy Knox and Michael Knox.
Flint also praised the family of Roy Trackwell, who drove him to the airport in a vicious snowstorm prior to one of his missions.
"A lot of people wouldn't do what these people have done," Flint said. "They've done wonderful work."
A major method taken by VMW in their Haiti relief seems to follow the old "teach a man to fish" additive. Flint said his objective was not simply to dump aid on Haitian citizens, but to teach them valuable skills they can utilize to be prepared if a similar disaster were to strike again.
"There wasn't a lot of education on how to handle this situation because they didn't have (any previous disasters) to base it on," Flint said. "Our goal is to train locals to gain skills such as basic first aid and general medical exams, not only to aid them in the future, but to also help council some of the kids so they can better understand what happened."
"The more money I save on the trip down, the more money I can focus on using for the relief mission."
While many would likely struggle to find any good to come out of the Haiti disaster, Flint said the earthquake could be a wake-up call to people who have been too passive in response to the nation's centuries of political unrest.
Prior to the earthquake, Flint said Haiti had more than half-a-million orphans roaming the streets. While he adamantly stated he was never in favor of mass annihilation of citizens in any area, he thought all the focus being given to Haiti following the earthquake, in which several of the nations leaders met their demise, could lead to a much-needed political upheaval.
"This whole situation could be a blessing for those of us trying to do something," Flint said. "There is now an international awareness for everything that has gone wrong here, and with a great deal of corruption now gone (following their deaths), we can now create an international awareness."
More than anything, Flint said the most important VMW was doing was adequately preparing the nation to become more self-sufficient if and when the times comes where they are able to repair the damage done not only by the Jan. 12 quake, but the various aftershocks which have followed. Plans for various tasks, such as growing crops on their own land and bringing in cattle for red meat are currently underway, and Flint says this will prove to be a wonderful undertaking for all Haitian citizens.
"We want to leave as big a footprint as we can," Flint said. "People are talking about doing things in Haiti they haven't been talking about for years. We really want to get the Haitians to rebuild their own nation."
For donation and general information about VMW, visit them online at volunteermedics.org, or call them locally at 812-986-3494. All checks should be made payable to Volunteer Medics and mailed to P.O. Box 767, Brazil.