Published: February 04, 2010 12:06 am
Pueblo nurse collecting tents for Haitians
COURTESY PHOTO/GINGER VAUGHN — A makeshift tent city in a field in Leogane, Haiti, houses some of those displaced by the Jan. 12 earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince, an hour west of here.
By JAMES AMOS
THE PUEBLO CHIEFTAIN
If you’ve watched the news about Haiti and wanted to help, now you can.
Eric Miller, a Pueblo nurse and former paramedic who went to Haiti to help people in the first few days after the earthquake, is collecting tents for homeless Haitians.
While many agencies want Haiti rebuilt, Miller said that the shortage of money, concrete and fuel will make it difficult. Whatever happens in the long term, some kind of shelter is needed now for the hundreds of thousands of Haitians whose homes were damaged or demolished.
Haitians from Port-au-Prince have gone to rural areas, but “the rural areas can barely take care of themselves,” he said.
All of that leaves Haitians living in fields, often with just a cloth above their heads or maybe not even that. Tents are being collected at the office of ambulance company, American Medical Response, 922 S. Santa Fe Ave.
The tents need to:
Be family-style tents that fit at least four to six people.
Have a rain fly.
Be in working order.
Tarps will be accepted, too. But Miller said the group moving the tents to Haiti can’t accept small tents, lightweight backpacking tents or tents that don’t have a rain fly, which is a separate cloth covering of the roof and walls that keep a tent dry and livable.
And Miller asked that only complete, working tents be donated.
Big 5 Sporting Goods is helping the effort. The store has two tents that have been discounted 10 percent for the project, one for $30 and another for $60. The tents will be held at the store and picked up by the ambulance company.
While many groups are collecting money or goods for Haiti, Miller said this effort is special because it will be able to actually get the tents to the people in the areas outside Port-Au-Prince who need them.
Supplies and donations have been logjammed in the capital city, or even before getting there, and groups that don’t have local contacts can’t really distribute their supplies, he said. Even when that improves, many of the supplies will be used only around the city.
But Miller is working with The Caring House Project, which has been working in Haiti for years building villages and offering medical care. The project is run by Frank McKinney, a luxury homebuilder and real estate author who owns a home in the Canon City area.
Miller got to know McKinney years ago when Miller’s son was suffering from brain cancer. Since then, the men have grown close and it was McKinney who bankrolled and organized Miller’s rescue recovery trip to Haiti just days after the quake struck.
The Caring House group has a small plane that can land on roads and small runways in the rural parts of Haiti so the group can deliver supplies directly, Miller said.
“He (McKinney) is able to get to a lot of these places that a jet can’t,” Miller said.
Miller said several companies have gone to unusual lengths to help. Big 5 Sporting Goods has 400 stores, but responded when a Pueblo manager called to ask to participate.
The corporation has one store in Pueblo and three in Colorado Springs. Miller said he was amazed the company was able to understand the need and act to help so quickly.
“That just does not happen,” he said. “That’s rare.”
The sale runs through Tuesday.
AMR, where Miller used to work, provided him with medical supplies for his rescue mission.
St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center, where Miller works as a nurse now, has also donated medical supplies.
The tent project also is getting help from Food for the Poor in Haiti and Partners In Health in Haiti.
Miller said he’s excited because the tent project is a way to directly assist Haitians without going through layers of bureaucracy.
Haitians also squeeze a lot more people into living spaces than Americans, he said, so a 6-person tent may end up housing as many as 10-12 people.
“We’re going to help thousands of people,” he said. “So little Southern Colorado can do something great. You can’t just leave people in the middle of a field.”