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Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Area residents say family members OK

Most students at Haitian school helped by local volunteers doing well after quake

By Daily Standard Staff
There have been no reported injuries to the many local people in Haiti following the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck the island on Tuesday.
Word came at mid-morning today to the worried family of Marty Mescher: The Maria Stein native is OK.
The registered nurse e-mailed her sister, Elsie Balster, at about 9:45 a.m. saying she just got the Internet back. "I thought it was a tornado. The first one lasted 20 seconds and the next one was about 5 seconds. It was scary. PAP (Port Au Prince) is a mess. I couldn't get (there) if I wanted to," she wrote.
Balster, who hadn't yet heard anything when she talked with the newspaper early this morning, was much relieved when she called back. "It's wonderful news!" she said.
Now in her sixth year in Jeremie, Haiti, Mescher left her job at Otterbein St. Marys Retirement Community to journey to the small Caribbean island for what she thought would be one year.
Jeremie is about 108 miles from Port au Prince, which is a 12-hour drive. The Haitian Health Foundation where she works has been operating for more than two decades. Along the way the Foundation built a 27,000 s.f. clinic/warehouse and several satellites in the mountains.
The four-story building has running water and there's electricity to keep at least one refrigerator going for medicine storage.
In a Daily Standard interview just before she left in 2004, Mescher gave some particulars about the country.
She spoke of women walking up to eight hours one way to get from the mountians to the clinic. "Can you imagine how their arms must ache carrying a little one that distance? And, yet, no one complains," Mescher said.
The median age in the area is 15. Malnutrition is common and so are parasites, the nurse commented almost six years ago.  
"The people are very, very poor there and her help is much needed. She lives in a compound with guards at the gate. Jeremie is not a very nice place to be," Balster said this morning.
Another local resident, Ben Huelskamp who has been working in Haiti says the buildings in the Haitian village of Plaisance that were built through his One Block At A Time project were untouched in yesterday's massive earthquake.
"Plaisance is about 70 miles north of Port Au Prince. I received a report that the quake was felt there, but no damage," Huelskamp, of Maria Stein, said this morning. The six OBAAT homes house 11 families, he said.
Huelskamp added that his sister, Linda Thieman, of St. Henry, reported the St. Joseph Home for Boys in Port Au Prince was damaged, but that everyone has not yet been accounted for.
The St. Joseph Home for Boys is supported by veteran Haiti traveler, Thieman, who has organized and led countless mission trips to Haiti over the years.
According to a Web site, most of the children at St. Joseph's were outside when the quake hit.
Former Celina residents Al and Rose Colson also were busy this morning volunteering at Missionary Flights International, an organization in Fort Pierce, Fla. that provides supplies and relief to missionaries in Haiti.
"We started getting reports right after the earthquake and right now, we're helping make arrangements for relief aid," Al Colson said.
"There are a number of missions in Port Au Prince that we work with that were directly involved in the quake and have suffered losses, but we don't know how much yet."
Missionary Flights International also works with Samaritans Purse, a relief organization headed by Franklin Graham, son of the late Evangelist, Billy Graham.
"This group is putting together an assessment team and they hope to fly out yet this morning. They will be taking water purification kits and tarps for shelter," Colson said.
In yet another local tie to Haiti, a six-member missionary group from the small village of Russia in neighboring Shelby County were in Haiti when the quake hit.
"I received an e-mail from them this morning, saying they are okay. They were doing missionary work in Balan, about 15 miles north of where I am building," Huelskamp said.
Additional online story on this date
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