Monday, January 23, 2012

A van for St. Vincent's!

The retired bus

After the devastating earthquake in January 2010, St. Vincent's bus got a real workout, far more than the norm. As the main source of transportation for all 350 kids, the bus carried students—trip after trip—from Port-au-Prince to Montrouis to sleep in tents when the smell of decay in the city became too much to bare. (Read more about how St. Vincent's weathered the earthquake.)

Upon the children's return to Port-au-Prince weeks later, the bus broke down one final time, too costly and extensive to repair. It sits on St. Vincent's destroyed property to this day, nearly 2 years later, a sad reminder of the outings the children used to enjoy before the earthquake and the brokenness of the country.

Since the demise of the bus, the children’s exposure to life beyond the walls of St. Vincent’s has been severely limited. Sadly, they have been forced to transport students in the back of open pickup trucks, which proved especially challenging to those in wheelchairs.

During our February 2011 trip to Haiti, we followed that red thread of destiny to a wonderful lady named Suzanne, chair of the Rhode Island Conference United Church of Christ Haiti Task Force (RICUCC HTF). Our paths crossed while she was touring St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children. Tom introduced himself and struck up a conversation that would lead to a beautiful partnership.

Suzanne was in Haiti on a scouting expedition, looking at three organizations to determine which one would be the recipient of a 16 passenger wheelchair-accessible van with a hydraulic lift that her group wanted to donate. We jumped at the chance to tell her about the children at St. Vincent’s and how a van like this would provide fantastic opportunities to take the students beyond St. Vincent’s walls and experience new things. The Red Thread was already in the process of providing ATW wheelchairs so that students could become more independent. Having a van like this would enrich the children’s lives even more, allowing them further access into their own community.

We were thrilled to hear the news that RICUCC HTF chose St. Vincent’s for the van! And so the lengthy and complicated process of getting the van from Rhode Island to Port-au-Prince began.

The new van

The Red Thread Promise spearheaded this operation by providing critical logistics coordination between St. Vincent’s and RICUCC HTF. Arrangements were made to have the van accessed by mechanics, repairs made, and new tires installed prior to shipping.

Our team capitalized on the ongoing relationships that we have forged over the years to bring this project to fruition. We contacted Physicians for Peace and Childfund with whom we most recently partnered for an amazing week at Camp Jake. As has been our experience in the past, these two organizations understood the need and quickly stepped in with a generous donation to cover the repairs and parts, towing fees (from RI to NJ where the van would be loaded on a ship), export filing and title validation, shipping and port fees. St. James Episcopal (Eureka, AR) also contributed substantially toward the shipping.

Each of the partners played a critical role to complete this project. None of us could have done it without the others. The Red Thread Promise is thankful for RICUCC HTF for securing the van, choosing St. Vincent’s and buying new tires; we are grateful for the continued partnership and financial support of Physicians for Peace and Childfund; we also appreciate the financial assistance of St. James Episcopal in offsetting the shipping expenses. And finally, we are blessed to help provide additional mobility to the children of St. Vincent’s.

As of this post, the van has already docked in Haiti and the paperwork is being processed. The Red Thread Promise and its partners look forward to seeing the van in person during one of our next trips to Haiti.

1 comment:

Thomas said...

Good for them! When there are people injured and disabled, it can be very tough to move them around using trucks. The vehicle has to be fit for duty to ensure safety and comfort amongst the disabled passengers.

-Thomas Wright