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Mum's Haiti Story

Mum's Haiti Story

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Published by ben_rogers_32

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Published by: ben_rogers_32 on Sep 08, 2011
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04/14/2012

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As Ben talks about the great energy behind connecting people and opportunities in the Corridor, I wouldlike to share with you a story about how the Corridor connected itself to the world- and in doing so,helped feed starving people in crisis, and aided sick and injured people by equipping a hospital when noother supplies could get into Haiti.After years of living overseas in New Zealand and owning a business I started there, you quickly learnhow to connect the dots in your world to make things happen and to figure out the ropes. My time inNew Zealand served me well later on, when on the state economic development board I had the chanceto put that experience into practice on many occasions. Over the course of time, some hard knocks andsome successes, you learn that the world is indeed a small place, and the most successful experiencesare usually brought together by the very things Iowans value- developing and nurturing relationships,and valuing
 –
and maximizing- the connections we have with each other.My story is about Haiti, and some extraordinary work that went on in the days and weeks after theearthquake that happened fairly under the radar, but again, draws out what is the very best of thepeople in this area. I have never been more proud to be an Iowan than when I saw us mobilize andunite to get food aid in quickly to Haiti and to be among the first private success stories about gettingmedical supplies to Haiti in record time and with herculean effort.Within 36 hours after the earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010, a chance encounter with theGovernor led him to pose this challenge to me- Marcia, we are still working on our response to Haiti.
You’re always thinking internationally, if you have some ideas, please let me know.
 I only got three blocks away from where I had just had this conversation when I stopped and realized Idid have an idea. Cedar Rapids was totally ready for this challenge- we knew in this community we had
enough food power to feed a country. Let’s see if we could
practice what we had been preaching.By the next morning, we had assembled local businesses- Ralston, Quaker, Diamond V, InternationalPaper, General Mills, Cargill, Worely Warehousing, and others such as the Red Cross and theChamber/P1. By the end of one week we had mobilized resources to secure 58 pallets of area food,literally thousands of pounds of food, and made very elaborate arrangements come together with Foodfor the Poor and Outreach International to get the food from CR-Miami- to Haiti. Our group continuedto meet in the days that followed that first shipment to work on other logistics related to shipping foodto Haiti, when I got a call from a Dr. Chris Buresh in Iowa City asking if he could join our meeting. Thatwas February 7
th
. I have saved his message on my voicemail because it was a day that changed my life. Ilove it every time I run through my old messages and stumble across his and push SAVE
 –
and I smile. Onthat day we found out as our group sat at the Chamber planning food relief, that Chris had been going toHaiti for years, and he had just flown down to Haiti within days of the earthquake to begin preparationsto set up a MASH type hospital. He had been working night and day since the earthquake to securesupplies in order to return to continue building the hospital and suddenly found himself with multiple
filled storage units in Coralville. We looked around the table at each other and said, okay, let’s all agree
not to rest until we have figured out how to ship this hospital down to him.
 
That was on a Wednesday. We got to work, assessing the space, developing a strategy with Chris andhis medical team, and watching the expertise of Worley Warehousing and their brilliant logisticsstrategist kick into action. As we figured out our plan, we ran into a serious situation. We could notfigure out how to get the goods transported from Iowa to Miami and then Miami to Haiti. We hadexhausted most of our trucking options during the first food shipment, and we needed a truck and weneeded it now- oh by the way, we are just a group of volunteers, so we needed this all done for free.
A fellow in the Governor’s office with a friend of a friend of a friend, got right into President Clinton’s
Foundation and appealed for help. We think we have almost an entire hospital to send over, could youhelp us out we asked? President Clinton personally got involved, and with his team indicated that if wecould get the medical supplies to Miami by Tuesday, he would arrange to have it sent over on a bargefilled with GM pick-up trucks. That was Friday. We all worked through the night, arranging trucking
logistics and volunteer management alongside the governor’s staff.
 Worley Warehousing donated Pallettes and expertise and organized the packing operation.Kirkwood Community College donated the use of a semi truck.The Des Moines Teamsters donated drivers.Hy-Vee in Des Moines donated a sleeper cab for the semi so the drivers could drive straight through toMiami.The Governor called Americorps and said help, we need volunteers to help pack. Send them as fast asyou can to Iowa City.In frigid cold February temps, we all came together and packed from dawn to dusk the next day, onSaturday. By 7 pm on Saturday evening, in the dark, we had the semi truck loaded and ready to go. OnSunday morning the Des Moines Teamsters arrived in Cedar Rapids with the sleeper cab, hooked it up
and took off for Miami. They drove like bats out of hell, and we don’t want to know their speed or w
hatstates they bypassed to get to Miami, but they were determined not to miss the Clinton shippingopportunity. They were in Miami relatively early on Monday.The goods were unloaded from the semi, placed in the back of each pick-up truck on the barge andshipped off to Haiti on Tuesday, making this tremendous Iowa effort the first successful medicalshipment to arrive outside of emergency US government aid. Knowing those supplies were on theirway was the proudest moment of my life. Having the chance to go down to Haiti that May to work inthe hospital and see our supplies in use and the thousands of lives that were being saved because of theexistence of this amazing hospital, the Iowa Hospital, was quite an experience. When I hear people saytoday
, oh this or that is impossible, can’t be done, I think back to that band of volunteers who in a
period spanning only 72 hours, managed to DO the impossible. My impression of what is possible hasbeen changed forever!We have an extraordinary community within an extraordinary state. When we work together, we canaccomplish anything! Thanks for having Ben and I here together and for giving us both the chance to

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