Haiti's orphaned children ‘OK,’ Tri-Citian says

The orphans at New Life Children’s Center in Port-au-Prince finally were back to sleeping in their beds after the deadly Jan. 12 earthquake that leveled homes and other buildings, killing thousands and leaving survivors scared to stay indoors too long.

Then a magnitude-5.9 aftershock hit Wednesday, followed by another tremor Thursday.

“Everybody was running outside,” said Brandon Gregory of Benton City, one of several Tri-Citians who traveled to the orphanage this week to help in the relief effort.

No one was hurt there in the earthquake or aftershocks, and overall, the 100 or so children seem to be doing OK, Gregory said Thursday via satellite phone.

He and other Tri-Citians at the orphanage spent the morning working on the damaged security wall that surrounds the New Life compound. They planned to replace it with rebar and barbed wire.

They also planned to turn the compound’s church into a clinic where people wounded in the earthquake can recuperate.

The Tri-Citians at New Life this week include a team from City Church in Kennewick and brothers John and Todd Thomas from Richland.

“The heat is incredibly draining, but the kids pitched in and a lot was accomplished,” John Thomas wrote in an internet post Thursday. “Part of the roof on the church had collapsed (in the Jan. 12 earthquake) ... and some of the guys were working to shore up the joists on the remainder.”

John and Todd’s mom, Patty Thomas of Kennewick, works at New Life several months out of the year and was there when the quake hit. She wasn’t injured.

Patty’s longtime friend, Heather Hill, a Benton-Franklin Health District nurse, and Hill’s daughter Darcy, a nursing student, were scheduled to arrive in Port-au-Prince on Thursday to help with medical needs.

The orphanage is operated by the Florida-based World Harvest Missions Outreach and is next to the Port-au-Prince airport.

Other Tri-Citians are working in different parts of the Haitian capital.

Dr. Lewis Zirkle and a team from his Surgical Implant Generation Network in Richland started doing surgeries at King’s Hospital in Port-au-Prince, but they’re now looking to set up operating rooms at other medical facilities not demolished by the earthquake, said Michael Kane, SIGN’s spokesman.

“They are assessing other locations because (King’s Hospital) has only two operating rooms and there are many more patients,” Kane said.Zirkle, an orthopedic surgeon, developed a specialized metal rod implant technique for repairing broken bones. His team in Haiti includes Jeanne Dillner, CEO for SIGN, and several other surgeons from the Northwest.

They took about 800 pounds of supplies with them, but need several times that amount, Kane said.

About three tons of medical supplies and equipment have been collected and are packed on six large pallets at SIGN’s Richland offices.

“We are just waiting for a cargo plane,” Kane said.

Arrangements for a military plane haven’t been confirmed, so SIGN’s supplies and cargo that need to go to Haiti may end up going by way of a commercial carrier, which will be pricey, Kane said.

The shipment of the six pallets probably won’t occur until today, so it will end up where Zirkle decides he wants to be set up, Kane explained.

SIGN’s website, www.sign-post.org, is updated several times daily with e-mails from Dillner and photographs showing the recovery efforts in Haiti and the medical work being done around the clock.

Kane said donations to SIGN will help pay for the commercial shipping of supplies, both for what is ready to go and for additional supplies that will continue to be needed in coming weeks.

The New Life orphanage still needs donations, volunteers said.

Tri-Citians who want to help can contact the Thomas brothers’ church, Richland Church of the Nazarene, at 509-627-0759. People also can make donations through the brothers’ blog, pattythomashaiti.blogspot.com.

Jeff Marlatt of Kennewick, who’s at New Life with the City Church team, said he and other Tri-Citians at the orphanage are pitching in wherever they can — and they’re far from the only ones.

“You see all these countries here; everyone is here to help,” he said via satellite phone.

Marlatt and other Tri-Citians described the scene at the orphanage as relatively calm. There are enough supplies that people there are getting regular meals, though diesel is scarce and medical supplies are needed.

Workers are expecting the orphanage to get more children soon because many kids lost their parents in the earthquake.

Chris Coburn of Pasco, who’s been working with New Life for more than 20 years and arrived in Haiti earlier this week, said via satellite phone that part of her mission is to get the children back into a routine as soon as possible.

The other day she had them marching around the compound, praying and singing.

“I told them that everybody is scared of an earthquake, but that earthquakes go away and we can be good again,” she said.

-- Sara Schilling: 509-582-1402; sschilling@tricityherald.com