While some are coming home, five people from Nebraska are now on their way to Haiti as part of an international rescue and relief team.
For Justin Woods, a senior in Union College's International Rescue and Relief Program, helping people runs in the family. His parents spent years working for relief agencies in developing nations including a year in Haiti when Woods was a boy. "My father has worked in situation like they are facing right now in Haiti," he explained. "When I heard about the earthquake, I was really interested in going, more so because I know the place."
Now Woods will get his chance. On Sunday, January 17, he will join a five-person team of International Rescue and Relief students and staff departing from Union College to help set up relief centers in earthquake-devastated areas of Haiti.
According to John Thomas, the administrative director of Union's International Rescue and Relief program who will lead the team, the students will work in conjunction with ACTS World Relief and World Vision to set up relief centers that will function as bases of operation for relief workers in the area.
The level of devastation makes planning this trip difficult. Aid workers can't risk being a burden on sparse resources. "We'll have to be completely self-contained," he explained. "We'll even have to pack our own water." The group plans to fly from Lincoln to Miami on Sunday and then stock up on supplies before the final leg of the trip into Haiti on Monday.
Union College's International Rescue and Relief degree program is designed for adventurous students who want to serve around the world through disaster and humanitarian relief. All certified as emergency medical technicians, each student must also complete training in wilderness survival, search and rescue, swift water rescue and high angle rescue and other emergency preparedness skills. Another group of IRR students and faculty are currently in Nicaragua for a scheduled semester abroad, working with a medical team to bring health care to isolated villages and towns. This specialized training combined with general education course work gives graduates a specialized degree with an emphasis in one of seven areas including business, pre-professional and counseling.
Woods believes that much of his IRR training will prove useful. "We've taken critical incident stress management and psychological first aid," he said. "That will play a key role in helping the people cope with what they have experienced."
Ginger Hany, a senior from Washington, Sarah Sexton, a junior from Oregon, and Jeffrey Schall, a senior from California, will round out Union's team. "These students have within their nature a desire to help people in difficult circumstances," said Thomas. "That is what their degree is leading them to and that is why we are going to Haiti."
You can help fund Union's relief effort in Haiti. Clickhere to give a tax-deductible donation via credit card or electronic funds transfer. To designate the Haiti trip please select "other" as the gift designation and then type "IRR Haiti."