It took a bit longer than planned, but the campaign to raise funds for an ambulance for Haiti reached its target. Donors to the fund established by the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey came up with the $35,000 needed to match an initial gift of that amount presented in March by a group of friends and federation supporters.
The 4×4 ambulance was delivered in late August. The gift was made in coordination with the federation’s partner, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which has been active in relief efforts in Haiti since almost immediately after the Jan. 12 earthquake there.
The $70,000 ambulance brought the total raised by the Central federation for Haiti relief to around $180,000. It was one of only 12 federations in North America to cross the $100,000 mark.
Amy Cooper, associate executive vice president and director of financial resource development for the federation, said, “I’m really very proud of what our community achieved and that people here took this initiative and gave us the opportunity to work with them.
“It says a lot; this was a crisis that had passed its ‘news cycle’ but people in this community didn’t forget that Haiti continued to be an area where people’s lives were really devastated.”
The donors who launched the project said they chose to give an ambulance because it was a concrete, verifiable way to provide help that was urgently needed. With so many people requiring medical care and so few centers able to offer it, transporting patients to those places had become an almost overwhelming challenge.
Federation board member Eric Harvitt spoke for the donors who started the challenge. He said, “We discussed this with an acquaintance who is in Haiti, and came up with this idea. It’s really great knowing what the money will be used for, and we wanted to get the ambulance on the ground as soon as possible.”
According to the federation, the JDC arranged for the nongovernmental organization Zanmi Lasante to maintain the ambulance. It will be used to carry internally displaced people who require care to medical sites run by Partners In Health in Port-au-Prince, and return them from there to their homes. It is one of six such ambulances JDC has put into service.
Through its collaboration with other aid organizations, JDC has also been involved in providing critical medical equipment and supplies, mattresses, blankets, food, water, tents, and family shelter kits.
Over the longer term, according to its website, the organization is helping with rebuilding efforts “that focus on meeting the needs of the most vulnerable citizens; the reconstruction and building of new schools; addressing the needs of Haiti’s displaced population living in temporary locations; and continuing to provide opportunities for physical and psycho-social rehabilitation.”
Gideon Herscher, who has been serving as JDC’s humanitarian aid director in Haiti, reported that people in Haiti’s rural areas often have no choice but to walk for days to reach any health-care services. He said that, “fueled by the belief that all human beings, regardless of location, bear the right to medical care,” JDC made the commitment to help those people.
The ambulance is part of that plan. JDC also purchased four 4×4 vehicles to transport hundreds of medical volunteers to remote areas. Together with the Union for Reform Judaism, the organization also bought a boat, which is fully equipped and staffed with a top-level medical team, to transport people from Haiti’s isolated coastal communities. For many people, the vehicles and the boat and their crews, Herscher said, are already “making the difference between life and death.”