The earthquake that devastated the Caribbean island of Haiti and killed more than 200,000 people is still on the minds of residents who are sending supplies and heading there to help.
In Hudson County, a number of fundraisers have been held in recent weeks to help. Last Saturday, a fundraiser in Jersey City was organized by Hudson County Freeholder Bill O’Dea’s Civic Association and the Jersey City-based Haitian group HUDE (Haitians United for Development and Education).
“This has helped me to appreciate things more.” – Roberto Coriano
Growing up in Jersey City, Roberto Coriano, 27, lived on four different streets downtown.
As a Navy officer for the past seven years, he has traveled to different parts of the world. His ship, the USS Bataan, was stationed in the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf regions before it reached Haiti on Jan. 18 and dropped anchor two miles offshore.
Coriano said his responsibility, along with his fellow officers, has been to help in different villages located in the vicinity of the Haitian city of Grand Goave, south of the capital of Port-Au-Prince.
“We have been able to go ashore, and we provide them with water and food and aid,” Coriano said.
The work has also entailed cleanup of debris and building temporary shelter. In addition, Haitians with any ailments or injuries were treated on board the ship.
Coriano called the current relief operation the “largest” he has been involved with in his seven years of service, a situation that he regards as a positive experience.
“Being able to help another country has helped me professionally, spiritually, and personally,” Coriano said. “This has helped me to appreciate things more.”
The USS Bataan will continue to be stationed near Haiti for an undetermined amount of time.
Coming out for a good cause
The burgeoning Haitian population in Jersey City was saddened by the earthquake hitting their home country. About 100 local Haitians attended a fundraiser at Moose Hall on West Side Avenue recently to raise money for the United Way of Hudson County, and more importantly, to raise awareness of what’s happening in their home country. The goal was to raise $5,000, with all proceeds from the evening to go to the United Way. The organizers said they collected the $5,000 last week and still have other donations coming in.
The event was put together by attorney John Collins, Hudson County employee Khemraj “Chico” Ramchal, and Haitian native Pierre Celestin.
Also in attendance was Mayor Jerramiah Healy, who came with his wife Maureen. Several council people also attended including Michael Sottolano, David Donnelly and Nidia Lopez, who announced that she will be a part of a mission to Haiti that her church will undertake in April.
A slide presentation of photos of a recent trip to Haiti, by one of the evening’s attendees, showed the damage and suffering in the earthquake’s aftermath.
But the evening was not doom-and-gloom, as teenager Jessica Ellison performed a traditional Haitian dance, and members of the HUDE group introduced themselves and spoke about their mission.
Freeholder Bill O’ Dea also spoke during the event, saying that he looks forward to the fundraiser being annual.
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.