Chicagoans keeping up with Haitian relief demand

January 15, 2010 8:54:20 PM PST
The Red Cross is playing a vital role in how money and supplies- more of which is on the way from Chicago- are distributed in Haiti. On this fourth day of the crisis, individuals, communities and churches in the Chicago area are coming together to help in the Haitian relief effort. Organizations are mobilizing to get much-needed food and funds to the country.

"Phones have not stopped ringing. We have had people calling from southern Illinois, St. Louis asking, 'how can we that we can be part of helping these people restore their lives,'" said Jaime Gill, New Faith Baptist Church International.

The faithful of New Faith Baptist Church International have been preparing supplies donated through the Christian global humanitarian organization the Joseph Assignment for the relief effort in Haiti. While the water, rice and other non-perishables will be delivered in the next few weeks through the initiative's well-established delivery routes, the Red Cross is encouraging those who want to help to make monetary donations.

UNICEF'S Chicago region manager showed ABC 7 items Friday that save lives in a crisis of Haiti's proportions, things to fill empty tummies, warm shattered souls and hold off disease -- the next great worry.

"If you have access to any water at all, even if it is dirty water, these water purification tablets will make it safer," said Casey Marsh, UNICEF Chicago region manager.

The Red Cross has also set up a Web site where people who have loved ones missing in Haiti can register their names.

"What they have done is set up this Web site and what family members can do is register themselves and they can look up their loved ones in Haiti. So, what we have on the ground in Haiti we have ICRC tracing workers who will be going around and trying to register people," said Becky Steifler, Red Cross.

Red Cross is also trying to help people in the United States by sending mental health experts and volunteers to various churches over the weekend to to provide comfort to those who obviously are worried and concerned about relatives in Haiti.

Donations can be made to the general International Response Fund online at or by phone at 1-800-REDCROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish).

As well-meaning as those collecting donated items are, the Red Cross is stressing that what helps the most is money. Local officials are saying non-UN supplies can at this point be more a hindrance than help.

Chicago's television and radio stations are joining the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago and Hewitt Associates in an effort to help victims of the Haitian earthquake.

The Chicago Helps Haiti Relief Drive will take place next Thursday January 21 from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. Stations will air series of public service announcements encouraging people donate to the American Red Cross Haitian relief effort. There will be a telephone number for viewers and listeners to call in donations Thursday.

Chicago medical professionals organize relief

Cook County medical workers are preparing to leave for Haiti on Saturday. The county has authorized pay for several staff nurses to head to the earthquake zone.

"By me going over there, I think, every person that I bump into with an injury, I can do something to help them," said Margarette Dupiton, Cook County hospital nurse.

Haiti needs equipment too. Family physician Dr. Yves-Mario Piverger is working with physicians at Metro South Medical Center to send items such as electro-cardiogram units, ultra sound machines, syringes and basic IV equipment.

Haiti also needs money for the relief effort. First Lady Michelle Obama is asking Americans to help by giving to the Red Cross.

"We can all do something. We can help the Red Cross as it delivers the food water and medicine that can save lives," said Obama.

Cell phone users have already donated nearly $6 million to the Red Cross through text messages - the most ever donated via mobile devices. The U.S. State Department set up the program to donate. Mobile users can text the word "Haiti" to the number 90999. Each message sends a $10 donation with the charge showing up on the texter's mobile device bill.

Online networking critical in Haiti tragedy

Networking online and over the phone has been critical for people in the Chicago area who are desperate for word about loved ones in Haiti.

Those desperate for word are using any means. The communication - to and from - Haiti is not dependable. So Chicagoans are piecing together information from any technology available.

Facebook groups like "Find Family in Haiti" are designed so families can post pictures of their loved ones and ask for help locating them.

Other groups, such as "Earthquake Haiti," have more than 100,000 members sharing information about disaster relief.

Jeanette Attisso, a Rogers Park teacher, has been parked in front of her computer and connected to her phone to get word from her husband and dear friends in Haiti.

"For one second you're so happy that you find somebody that is there who's alive and the next second you find out somebody has died," said Attisso.

Her husband escaped a crumbling building after the earthquake. Now she's trying to help others get information about their loved ones.

Her husband is gathering information about survivors so Attisso can share information on social networking sites. But connecting with her husband by phone is difficult. After an hour and a half Thursday night, she finally got. She took down the information he has collected and is eager to share survivors' stories on her Facebook page. And she shares information about those still searching for relatives.

In the North Park neighborhood, a mother and daughter use social networking to find out about loved ones.

"I need to get on there and send a message somebody may know something," said Keisha Saintil.

Keisha Saintil already heard sad news Thursday about her paternal grandparents. They did not survive. Now they search for information about her maternal grandparents.

"I'm just keeping faith that my maternal grandparents are alive and well you just have to stay strong and encourage and stand as one," said Keisha Saintil.

"If I'm thinking, I try not to worry, to stay in faith and pray that everything is okay with them," said Gigi Saintil, Keisha's mother.

Back in Rogers Park on Thursday night, Attisso was still working the phones after getting information from her husband. This time she gave a stranger good news.

"He wanted me to let you know that everybody is okay," said Attisso.

Attisso runs a library in Port-Au-Prince. She fears some of the children may have been in the building at the time of the quake. While ABC7 visited with her, she got a call about her library manager who survived.