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Mercy Corps sending team to Haiti

Haiti, January 13, 2010

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Lynne Terry

The Oregonian
January, 2010

Dozens of people scrambled at Mercy Corps headquarters in Old Town today, organizing the agency’s emergency response effort for Haiti.

“Our office has been nuts,” said Caitlin Carlson, a spokeswoman for the group. “Everyone has been on the phone, on Skype and on email constantly. All of our staff is really experienced in dealing with an inundation of information so it’s a little bit of controlled chaos.”

The group will send a four-person team to Haiti from three separate cities. Two people — program manager Gene Kunze and multimedia specialist Cassandra Nelson — will leave from Portland. Richard Jacquot, who speaks French and is specialized in emergency response, will leave from Medford. Jenny Vaughn, who provides technical support, will leave from Boston.

They will all convene in the Dominican Republic where they will rent a car, stock up on supplies and drive overland to Haiti.

Once in the capital, Port-au-Prince, they will assess the needs of the impoverished country which lacks supplies even in good times.

“We’ll get boots on the ground and things into people hands,” Carlson said. “Food, and clean water — that’s a huge thing. Shelter is going to be huge too because the earthquake damaged a lot of homes.”

The agency has confronted similar situations in the past.

“We have a lot of experience with earthquakes,” Carlson said. “We’ve responded to five or six in the past five or six years.”

She said the damage in Haiti, which was hit by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake, is similar to the devastation caused by the May 2008 earthquake in southwest China. The 7.9 magnitude quake tumbled buildings and killed more than 80,000 people.

The group has set up a Haiti earthquake fund. To contribute call 888-256-1900 or visit the group’s Web site.