web analytics
Your Independent Alternative!

UPS Workers Head to Haiti

When UPS executive Craig Arnold returned to the Salvation Army children's home in Haiti after the devastating earthquake, one of the little girls there offered him her bottle of water.

It was one of many poignant moments for Arnold, who has been volunteering with the Salvation Army in Port-au-Prince since Jan. 15, three days after the massive 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit. The sales director for UPS' Northern California region, whose parents spent 42 years as Salvation Army officers, is continuing his family's and his company's tradition of service by helping get food, water, medicine and other supplies to people affected by the earthquake. His sales training for UPS' logistics and supply chain consulting has been invaluable.

"Whenever a crisis occurs, logistics is the first thing that needs addressing," says Ed Martinez, director of philanthropy and corporate relations for the UPS Foundation in Atlanta.

UPS says it urges its employees to volunteer during natural disasters and other crises. Along with executives who, like Arnold, have their own relationships with charities, the company has a 20-person Logistics Emergency Team in Asia, Europe and the Americas that is trained in humanitarian relief. Team members perform "skill-based volunteering" while still earning their pay.

Team members Bill Torres, UPS' compliance coordinator for the Americas, and John Vera, health and safety manager in the region, are spending the next six weeks in the Dominican Republic setting up a distribution center for the World Food Programme's efforts for Haiti.

In Haiti, Arnold's base is the Salvation Army's headquarters, a compound that makes up about four city blocks and had a 15-foot wall with razor wire around it before the earthquake hit. It was a haven in a frequently violent neighborhood for the 1,000 members of the Salvation Army church, 700 students at its school and 52 children at the children's home, La Maison du Bonheur. "My immediate concern was with them and what I could do to help," Arnold says. "None of the children were badly injured or killed. . . . It's truly a miracle."

Some were missing for a few days, though. One, a girl of about 16, was in a local hospital with minor injuries and had been unable to make contact. A sibling, who was walking home with her from another school when the earthquake hit, was killed.

Before the earthquake, the compound had a clinic with one doctor and a few nurses whose jobs were primarily first aid and handing out medications. After the earthquake, it became an emergency room, thanks to 12 doctors who flew in soon after the earthquake. They saw more than 100 patients in the first two hours. In five days, there were five births and several amputations, Arnold says.

Because so many amputations were done quickly after the earthquake, doctors at the compound are correcting some of the amputations and performing "after care" to prevent infections, using painkillers when available.

"They triage in the playground, and the worst cases end up in the Coleman tent," Arnold says.

Because of his logistics training, Arnold spends a lot of time at the Port-au-Prince airport helping to unload planes with supplies and making sure aid gets to where it's most needed as quickly as possible. It's not always fast enough.

Arnold and a Swiss Army veteran were working with other volunteers last week to find morphine for an amputation being performed at the clinic. They met with one of the United Nations' agencies and were able to get some to the clinic, "But by the time that happened, the amputation had already happened," Arnold says wistfully.

Because the walls of the compound were so "compromised" by the earthquake, Arnold says, thousands of people walk through every day, heading to a soccer stadium where the U.N. estimates at least 12,000 are sleeping. "They ask for food and water every day," Arnold says. "It's very difficult to say you can't do that. If you start with a very small distribution, it will get very ugly, very quickly."

He says the Salvation Army's long relationship with the community - the compound has been there since 1960 - has helped bolster efforts to get food and medical care to the residents in a somewhat orderly fashion.

One day last week, Arnold helped volunteers feed 10,000 people without incident. Arnold says he's working with others to figure out how to repeat the success on a regular basis.

Arnold, who is using vacation time to volunteer, expects to be in Port-au-Prince through this week or until the Salvation Army can find someone to replace him. The experience has been full of highs and lows. For example, he says it was "extremely challenging for me not to break down" when the young resident of the children's home offered him her water bottle.

"It's definitely been a life-changing experience," Arnold says. He's seen "some things that are horrifying" but is awed by how the Haitians' "spirit has still been strong, how they don't give up and how they are still helping each other."

Comments are closed.