By Sara A. Fajardo
A symphony of clunks, clangs, and taps resonates in the Catholic Relief Services’ Dominican warehouse as dozens of volunteers drop crackers, sardines, canned beans, juice boxes, and other food items into endless rows of white plastic buckets. In the dimly lit but overflowing structure, Haitian University students work side-by-side with local youth groups, former street children, and CRS and Caritas staff to prepare much needed food and hygiene kits for survivors of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that wracked the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.
Working long hours in sweltering conditions, some volunteers carry extra shirts to wipe their sweat-stained faces. Others sport back braces to support them in the fill-close-lift-and-toss-on-trucks workout that has become their routine. In the first weekend alone, enough food buckets to feed more than 5,000 people and another 500 hygiene kits were prepared and shipped out.
The response that CRS Dominican Republic and our partner Caritas Dominicana have seen since the earthquake struck has been tremendous, the waves of volunteers have not ebbed and staff members are stepping up to make sure that the caravan of aid is uninterrupted. Working 15-18 hour days, people like Eric Gómez, who usually heads a CRS program to help stop child labor, have scoured stores and taken over the logistics of keeping the warehouse stocked with supplies. “Life will never be the same,” Eric says of the impact the earthquake has had on her. “It makes you value what you’ve been given.”
Trucks carrying in supplies and trucking out prepared food and hygiene buckets arrive and depart the warehouse in equal measure. With a conductor’s efficiency of movement, the volunteers fill rows of buckets, stack water bottles, and sort food cans. When the time comes to load outgoing trucks, they form a human chain and lob the plastic pails from hand-to-hand while counting off how many have been loaded, 345 they chant, 346, 347. . . .
A week into their efforts the volunteers continue to pour in and the rhythmic symphony of relief efforts has yet to skip a beat.
“It’s something we all need to do,” says Edual, 17, who came from the neighboring city of Boca Chica to help, “We don’t just share a border with Haiti, we share an island, and I hope that all people unite to help them.”
As long as there is a need the CRS and Caritas Domincana team will continue to work and dispatch trucks of relief supplies to their western neighbors.
Sara A. Fajardo is a CRS communications officer and photojournalist reporting from the Dominican Republic
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