Haiti 2010 Earthquake- 300,000 dead -hundreds of 1000’s injured- homes crushed- millions displaced. On the next day I received a text from Sean Penn —“Haiti …?” I replied “lets go!” Soon I was heading from NYC to Miami, on a borrowed private jet of designer Donna Karen ( no we don’t usually fly this way but Everyone’s needed right!?). She drove Third Wave volunteers and ten doctors (I had found on facebook) to the airport at 4am and given us blankets, essential oils and supplies to take with us. Donna has a heart of gold for preserving other cultures and helps wherever she can. We were to meet up with Sean and our cargo plane full of aid in Opa Locka in Miami and then fly onto Haiti together.
In Miami we bought generators, lights, tents, food, water and enough supplies to live on for two weeks to be self sustainable and not become a burden on the system. After getting special military clearance we landed in Port au Prince with medicines, food, water filtration systems, and many other urgent supplies. The first night we slept in the open air on a piece of private land, surrounded by trees in an urban setting. We dug latrines and set up a barb wire barrier around the perimeter of the land to keep people who may want to steal our aid out. On the 1st night I awoke at 4 am to the sound of 1000’s of people singing church hymns somewhere not to far from us and it was as if they were singing us to them. The following night I heard them again and at 5am I decided to go find the church of ‘voices’. I woke up Oscar, Sean and Maria and Captain Barry to come with me. We found the people singing but it wasn’t inside a church. It was inside the Petionville Golf Club grounds, where the walls had fallen down and over 70,000 earthquake victims had moved in living under sheets without food or water. The club was also the base of the US military relief efforts. We met with LT Colonel Foster for suggested we come and live with them on the red clay tennis courts for our own safety. We now had US soldiers for protection. It was still a very dangerous place and the local jail had collapsed and their prisoners had escaped and still roaming the streets-( alongside the looters and other desperate people.) Our medical teams  supported the US Army and there began an inspiring collaboration between the 82nd Airborne and Sean Penn’s group, the third wave volunteers, John Rose – Water for Waves and a few other groups and we became JPHRO- with Sean as our new leader. Everyone slipped into a duty and I led the strike force medical teams out to do rescues in the streets of Port au Prince using the military hummers and protection where many people still lay injured. I became the medical coordinator for the original DMAT field hospital, which was working alongside the Army. As DMAT began to close their field hospital and pack to leave I noted that there were still 1000’s of people with serious medical needs and it was discussed that the hospital needed to remain in place. LT Col Foster protested on our behalf and took the cause all the way to the White House in DC. Permission was granted for us to stay and run it. I worked my heart out shaping the hospital organizing medical staff, supplies and other clinics within the golf course. Oscar concentrated in logistics, Captain Barry wore ten working hats from setting up X ray machines to fixing generators and Sean managed the camp working to exhaustion and becoming everyone’s hero. He didn’t seem to sleep and was driving dying babies to larger hospitals all over Port au Prince at 4am or buying x-ray machines and spending all his personal money. When he did sleep he’d sleep under the stars on the ground or on a military bunk- he was a good camper and never complained. There is a long wonderful magical story of the following 6 months and the months past those filled with great highlights and joy- to deep sadness and tragedy but most of all its a story of a ragtag team of volunteers whose spirit, love and determination to help save lives blossomed into an inspiration to 1000’s of other volunteers who followed. Everyone worked hard and everyone was needed! Thank you to Chris Tompkins and IMAT and CMAT (great emergency disaster specialists) who supplied and rotated their medical staff and supplies for many long months and who made my life easier in the raw, harsh working conditions. Thank you to Bill -the charming, diplomatic President of the Petionville golf club ( and for the cheese and proscuitto, your sense of humor and trust). Thank you to Pastor Syncere for your support and guidance through some very hard trails. Thank you to Sean, Captain Barry, Julie, Oscar, Stephen, Waldo, Aleda and Cassidy for being the core team that held it all together. Thank you to over 20,000 volunteers (and still counting) who came to Jphro in the following 5 years, who made a real difference in peoples lives and whose own lives were changed forever. In February of 2010, I met a volunteer named Albert Gomez, who was with a group called First and Alton. These volunteers had banded together in Miami after the quake and were sending us large quantities of aid from Miami to us via cargo planes out of Opa Locka. Albert was an American Cuban with a large heart and 5 years later I would marry him up the Citadel ruined castle in Cape Haitian, Haiti. Volunteering can be selfish because you also get so much out of it ( but we don’t do it for that reason) When I returned home to NYC six months later -like most of the volunteers, I had lost 10 pounds, got a tan, had 100’s of new friends (Haitian and foreign volunteers) and helped save 1000’s of lives. I was glowing and many of my NY friends were asking if i had been away at a spa? ummmmmm … kinda i would say … would you like to go back with me?:) love Alison      

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