Area nonprofits in Northern Utah worried about Haiti

Jan 14 2010 - 5:33pm

Images

(The Associated Press) A family in Haiti rushes an injured girl to the hospital on Wednesday
(The Associated Press) A family in Haiti rushes an injured girl to the hospital on Wednesday

SLIDESHOW: Earthquake Destruction

SLIDESHOW: People Coping

RIVERDALE -- The founder of a Riverdale nonprofit organization is worried that Tuesday's devastating earthquake in Haiti has placed 135 children sponsored by her agency in danger and may have destroyed a building set to become a school for some of them.

Shannon Cox, who operates Haitian Roots out of her home, was anxiously awaiting word Wednesday on the fate of the children as well as the 800-square-foot cinder block building belonging to the organization in Croix de Mission on the outskirts of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.

"I'm trying to keep calm," she said. "But pictures of them (children who receive educational scholarships from Haitian Roots) start swirling in my mind and panic grips my chest."

Cox said the earthquake destroyed cell phone towers, preventing her from getting any information about the children and three education coordinators who work for Haitian Roots.

Cox had planned to visit Haiti next month but fears it may now be several weeks before she can get there because of the devastation. However, she is encouraged by worldwide relief efforts under way to help the nation, the poorest in the Western Hemisphere.

"If anything good comes out of this, it is that Haiti is getting international attention," said Cox, who adopted a son from Haiti in 2005.

Chareyl Moyes, who is the Haitian program manager for Wasatch Adoption based in Ogden, said her organization is working with about 30 families across the country who are in the process of adopting children from Haiti.

Wasatch Adoption received word Wednesday that some of the children who are to be placed with families are OK, but the organization hadn't heard about the fate of others, she said.

The American Red Cross has been flooded with calls from Utahns wanting to volunteer, but has had to turn most away.

Susan Thomas, communications director for the American Red Cross Utah Region, said the organization can accept only those who have been disaster-trained.

"We've had dozens and dozens of people call our office, and it's heartwarming that people in Utah want to help," she said. "Something we can learn from this is to join the local Red Cross, sign up and become disaster-trained, and learn how to care for people in a disaster."

The magnitude 7.0 earthquake that hit Haiti on Tuesday is believed to have left thousands dead. Corpses were piled in the streets near flattened buildings as the world relief response got under way.

Thomas said trained volunteers are on standby, waiting to see if they will be sent to Haiti to help.

Thomas said Utahns can help most right now by making monetary donations.

The Red Cross will use the money to have items shipped from locations near the disaster zone. Thomas said buying locally will help get the exact items needed, and will also help boost the economy near the disaster area. She said the Red Cross has released $1 million so far to help Haitians.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also has set up humanitarian relief efforts for those in Haiti.

The church says it's sending two planes, each carrying 80,000 pounds of food, tents, tarps and water filtration bottles and medical supplies.

Other supplies, including personal hygiene kits and items for newborns, are coming by truck from the Dominican Republic.

The statement released by the church also said all missionaries serving in the country are safe, and they are continuing efforts to account for the 15,400 church members in the area.

While efforts are being made to raise money for people in Haiti, the Utah Division of Consumer Protection is reminding residents to be careful when donating to charities or other groups in connection with the earthquake.

A news release from the division said a warning letter was recently sent to an unregistered charity in Utah that is reportedly soliciting donations, without a permit, on behalf of Haitian earthquake victims.

To avoid charity scams, the division is urging that consumers not reply to unsolicited e-mail messages, be wary of people claiming to be officials who are asking for e-mail donations, open e-mail attachments only from people they know, and never give out personal information.

A complete list of registered charities can be found at http://consumerprotection.utah.gov/consumerinfo/lists or consumers can contact the Division of Consumer Protection at (801) 530-6601.

Information from The Associated Press is included in this story.

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