By Joe Earle
Dr. DiDi St. Louis spent last week desperately trying to find a way to get to Haiti. Saturday, she found a flight and ride into the devastated country.
“I’m in Haiti,” she said, excitement in her voice during a brief cell phone call Sunday afternoon.
She’d already worked an overnight shift in a mini- hospital set up after the Jan. 12 earthquake, she said. She’d delivered two babies and comforted an injured child and a woman whose legs had been amputated.
“You just help wherever you can,” said St. Louis, an ob-gyn with Northside Women’s Specialists in Sandy Springs. “You just help where you can.”
Other metro Atlantans also spent recent days trying to help Haitians injured in the devastating earthquake. Few may have applied their skills to ease suffering as directly as Dr. St. Louis, but each contributed.
Schools held fundraisers. In Brookhaven, St. Martin’s Epsicopal School raised $8,500 for Haitian relief efforts. In Sandy Springs, students at The Epstein School strung beads onto “Hope for Haiti” bracelets and sold them to raise money to aid the victims of the earthquake.
Churches raised money, too, as they prayed for help for earthquake victims. In Buckhead, the Catholic Cathedral of Christ the King offered special prayers and took a special collection for Haiti. Northpoint Ministries raised about $160,000 through collections at three north metro churches, with nearly half of the total collected from members of the Buckhead Church, said Bob Strickland, executive director of multi-site ministries for Northpoint.
Sandy Springs-based UPS contributed $150,000 in cash and $200,000 in services to Haitian relief, according to CARE.
At The Epstein School, B boys basketball coach Mendell Midy spent the first days after the earthquake wondering. His family — his father, mother, grandmother – lived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital city which was very hard hit by the earthquake and aftershocks. Midy was born there.
His parent’s home was damaged, but not destroyed, he said. His parents have sheltered relatives and friends whose homes were destroyed, and were housing about 16 people last week. “I think it’s harder on my mom, simply because she was home when the first one hit and could feel the house ‘lifting,’ as she put it,” Midy said. “As far as my father, it’s been the destruction and the death toll.”
Midy was able to reach his family two days after the first earthquake though Facebook, the on-line social networking site. Those two days, he said, “were about the longest two days humanly imaginable.”
St. Louis also had to wait days to find out her family was OK. Once she could make connection by phone, the accounts of earthquake damage from her family were staggering. Her father had been working out at the gym when the earthquake hit. The drive home that usually took him 20 to 30 minutes took three hours because of damage, St. Louis said.
“My uncle was filling his car at the gas station when the quake hit,” she said. “His car blew up.”
Her father, a retired physician and diplomat, went back to work to try to provide medical help, she said. “There are a lot of physicians, my dad included, who are trying to give services for the poor.”
St. Louis decided she, too, should help out. She was born in Brooklyn and had grown up in Europe and Japan when he father was posted there as a diplomat, but she attended high school in Haiti and felt strong ties to the island.
She started out collecting medical supplies to contribute through local relief efforts while looking for flights that would carry doctors from the U.S. to Haiti. “I’m packed,” she said eight days after the earthquake.
She packed a duffle with donated medical supplies and with diapers. She had been working on adopting a 2-year-old boy named Nickelson from a Haitian orphanage and was awaiting approval. When she was able to reach the orphanage by phone, officials there told her they had a great need for clean diapers.
Then, finally, 12 days after the earthquake St. Louis was able to find a seat on a flight ferrying doctors and relief supplies from New Jersey to the Dominican Republic, which shares an island with Haiti. She rode arrived in Haiti about 8 or 9 a.m.
By 1 p.m., she was at work.
Many charities are providing help to Haitians following the devastating earthquake. If you wish to contribute to relief efforts, here are the Web sites of a few charities based or active in metro Atlanta you might want to consider: