A week after a devastating earthquake rocked the small Carribbean nation and caused almost 200,000 in casualties, people from across the area have flocked to the Hatian embassy to offer donations and assistance.
Volunteers at a foldout table greeted visitors at the door, while men and women in suits strode purposefully throughout the building, talking into cell phones and clustering together in groups.
There were no empty chairs in front of the television. Tuned to CNN, men and women of all ages watched the crisis unfold, a series of heart-wrenching details that those gathered around were hoping to solve.
There is a lot of work to do – everything from collecting donations and coordinating relief efforts to helping Haitian citizens contact loved ones.
Michael Bruin, 21, knew he had to do something to help. Perched against the wall in a red metal folding chair, he waited patiently for his turn with the volunteer coordinator.
Laisa Pertet, a 20-year-old history major at Howard University, presented Bruin with a few forms and peppered him with questions.
“Do you know any other languages? Do you have any special skills?” Pertet asked. She pulled up another red chair and sat behind him, pointing out the pertinent sections of the papers.
Bruin had already donated money to relief efforts, but decided to skip class to come down to the embassy to lend a hand.
“I just wanted to help out,” Bruin said.
Bruin wasn’t alone in his effort to help. Denise Douglas, a former news producer and Oxen Hill, Md., resident, saw what was happening and felt compelled to help.
“It’s devastating to sit down at home and see all the hurt and graphic images on television. So I figure I have to come out and help out the way I can,” Douglas said.
Laisa Pertet talks about her experiences as a volunteer over the past week.
Pertet collected forms from both Douglas and Bruin and handed out papers to a third person, making sure to write in her clipboard at the same time.
She said her experience volunteering at the embassy has allowed her to help organize relief efforts and take part in the response to the crisis.
“Now we’re just making things happen. And if we were more on the ground we would be in Haiti. This is the hotspot and the epicenter of the help,” Pertet said.
Denise Douglas talks about why she decided to volunteer, and what she hopes to accomplish.
After being flooded with care packages and donated clothes, the Haitian embassy is currently accepting only cash donations.