A community in need

By Rick MacDonnell, SnowSeekers Inc.

Synonymous with community and cross-cultural togetherness, the Olympics have rarely, if ever, been a platform for such an important relief effort as the one that is taking place right now in Haiti.

Tonight, at the Torch's stop in Calgary, Alberta, Merv Chia, volunteer regional president for the Red Cross's Southern Alberta chapter, came out to speak to the gathered crowd of nearly 20,000 about the work being done in Haiti, and all the work that yet needs to be done.

"Here in Canada, (the Olympics) really pull Canadians together," Chia said. "It's so gratifying for us to be a part of this and to band with the Olympics to spread this very important message."
That message: keep up the hard work.

"On the regional level, we're fundraising all across the country. So far, across Canada, we've received approximately $26 million in funds already. The support and generosity is really incredible. And the funds are matched by the government, so you can really double that number."

Despite the massive relief efforts that are taking place, not just here, but all over the world, Haiti is still in a state of utter and total disrepair.

"As soon as the earthquake hit, the Red Cross organized what's called 'Disaster Response Teams.' The Canadian Red Cross has sent staff there. We've sent volunteers there providing emergency disaster response, which at this stage is emergency shelter, food, and water.

"But the need is huge, and it's going to continue because the devastation to the country is enormous. The last statistic that I read was that 70% of all their buildings have been destroyed. So there's really no basic infrastructure left, it's been crushed. So what we're focused on is just trying to help rebuild communities."

In addition to disaster response teams and medical personnel, the Red Cross has organized psychosocial programs to help people cope with the trauma that they've received.

"The shock itself is just so inhibiting."

If there was ever a time to embrace your worldwide community, this is it. For not only does the Olympic Torch connect communities, it most certainly connects the world. Please donate.

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