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Haiti relief efforts

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Tom Schaafsma, Sequim-Dungeness Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year, returned to Sequim still haunted by the sights, sounds and smells of post-earthquake Haiti.

In the past few years the small country has suffered a violent overthrow of its government, four hurricanes and now a huge earthquake.

Government buildings were destroyed, taking with them records as well as police, fire and medical personnel. International aid is pouring in with no local government to direct it, and that is where Schaafsma's training comes in to play.

He has been trained by ShelterBox, an international disaster relief agency, to clear the way through customs for relief supplies, secure the supplies in a safe location, evaluate where the need for those supplies lies, and get them to the people who need them.

Rotarian's idea

ShelterBox was the idea of a Rotarian in 2000. It since has grown into an independent agency.

In Haiti, the United Nations has a logistical base that helps coordinate aid coming into the country to keep agencies from overlapping, however, trained people are needed to assess needs.

ShelterBox representatives usually work in groups of two to four; however in Haiti, the groups had five to eight members. They work with local people and interpreters suggested by local Rotarians, when possible, to find areas of need.

Tent for 10

Each ShelterBox contains a tent for 10 people, a cook stove plus

supplies for cooking and serving food, mosquito netting, bedding suited for the climate, water containers and water purification tablets, tools, and materials for children such as paper, pencils and crayons.

Each box costs $1,000. Boxes are donated by service agencies from around the world.

A new addition is school boxes that contain supplies so teachers can begin to teach soon after a disaster to help children return to a semblance of their normal lives.

In Haiti, 1 million people are homeless. ShelterBox has delivered 16,000 boxes with supplies.

Schaafsma said the help is appreciated and as the workers would enter the eating tent after a day of directing aid to the homeless, people would start chanting, "ShelterBox! ShelterBox! ShelterBox! ..." one of the few English terms they knew.

Reach Dana Casey at dcasey@sequimgazette.com.

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