Members of the Bay Area Haitian community gathered at the Dolores Street Community Services on Friday to ask San Franciscans to send aid and prayers to their homeland.
The island was devastated by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake that left as many as 50,000 dead and tens of thousands homeless.
Haitians are in desperate need of water, food and medial supplies. Also in great demand are trauma surgeons, anesthesiologists and orthopedic surgeons, said Cassia Van De House, with Partners In Health, a non-profit organization that is sending medical supplies and personnel to Haiti.
“The need is enormous,” Van De House said Friday during a gathering of organizations and community leaders at the Dolores Street Community Services at 938 Valencia St. The gathering was intended to drum up support and monetary donations to help Haitians get basic food, shelter and medical care.
More than 400,000 Haitians live in the United States. Ifonia Gelin, a Haiti native who lives in Oakland, said that between seven and 10,000 live in the Bay Area.
It is estimated that more than 50,000 people have died from Tuesday’s earthquake that struck 10 miles from Port-au-Prince, the capital. Thousands more remain injured, missing or homeless.
Before the earthquake, Haiti suffered an estimated $900 million in hurricane-related damages.
The quake destroyed or severely damaged at least eight health facilities, according to the Pan American Health Organization. Doctors are running out of medicine and medical supplies.
One non-profit representative on Friday read text messages sent to her phone by medical personnel in Haiti: “Running out of meds,” “More materials, more meds.”
Gelin sent a message in Creole to people in Haiti: “Kimbe Fem Nou la Pou ou.” “Hang in there. We’re here for you.”
Organizers said they are working with national and local organizations already in Haiti to ensure that medical supplies, food and assistance is delivered directly to those affected. Still, news reports show that getting aid to Haitians is becoming increasingly challenging.
“We have unfortunately seen many disasters around the world, but this may be the most catastrophic we have ever seen,” said Senator Leland Yee, who helped organize the gathering. Yee announced on Friday he was making a donation of $1,000 to help with the relief efforts.
Haitians are forced to sleep near crumbled buildings, bodies are still in the rubble, and medial personnel are tending to victims in makeshift hospital, organizers said.
“Haiti is just not Haiti anymore,” said Jim Thelusma, 33, a San Rafael resident who was born on the island and has friends and family there.
The concerns for people’s safety are growing each day.
“In Carrefour, there’s no help. About 40,000 people live there and security is really bad,” said Thelusma. “There’s no help. No food. No water.”
Thelusma said his daughter was hurt when a brick fell on her arm. She is doing well, he said.
Gelin, however, lost relatives.
“My little brother died,” she the Oakland resident. “And my father has become homeless.”
While much of the media attention has been on Haiti’s capital, residents of the Haitian community wanted people to also focus on the rural areas of the Caribbean island.
“Ten miles outside of Port-au-Prince, you see little of what is happening in Haiti. We can’t forget that,” said Wilfred Bellot, a Haitian native from Oakland.
Bellot, who in 2004 created the non-profit organization Bellot Idovia Foundation to help rural Haitians have clean and safe water, urged people to continue assisting Haitians even after television cameras leave the country.
“Please put your heart in that country,” Bellot said.