Truro residents sending milk donation to Dominican Republic to help displaced Haitians
TRURO - Ian MacHattie chokes up and almost spills over emotionally as he looks through a photo album of his previous trips to an orphanage in the Dominican Republic.
He and wife Brenda Leenders have been there three times on working vacations and planned to skip this year in order to co-ordinate a long-term effort to provide "sustainable" funding to purchase milk products to both support the local economy in Santo Domingo and meet the dietary needs of
the more than 200 people who eat at the
And then a massive earthquake struck in the neighbouring, impoverished country of Haiti and everything changed.
Two days after the quake, MacHattie and his wife received a frantic email from the director of the orphanage asking "Ian and Brenda to speed up the milk donation" to help meet the sudden and increased needs of the displaced Haitians.
Their response has been to create Ian's Haiti Milk Relief Project which has a plan to send 24 pallets of powdered milk and vacuum-packaged liquid milk to Santo Domingo, for use by Haitian children coming into the orphanage and for distribution into Haiti itself.
So far, the Canadian Dairy Commission has donated 10 tonnes of milk powder and Farmer's Dairy has provided four tonnes of whole, ultra-high temperature (UHT) milk to the effort. Individual Nova Scotia dairy farmers have contributed a further $3,000.
The results to date represent 14 pallets of milk and, MacHattie, who departs on Feb. 15 for Santo Domingo, is hoping the entire 24 pallets will have been received by then.
That will be enough to provide more than 500,000 cups of milk, or a six-month supply, primarily destined for the St. Damien Children's Hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
When he arrives in Santo Domingo he will be serving as a truck driver to deliver fresh water, fuel, food and medical supplies to Haiti.
And once their shipment of milk is complete, any extra money raised during the campaign will be forwarded so other supplies can be purchased locally.
What his effort is sadly lacking at the moment, however, is a way to ship the container of milk supplies to the Dominican and MacHattie is hoping someone will step forward to solve that problem, so other donated funds do not have to be used to pay for
"So we need a way to get it there," he said. "We need a shipper, so we're looking for that contact. Hopefully Halifax to Santo Domingo."
MacHattie and his wife originally became involved with helping at the orphanage several years ago through a combined family reunion/holiday. They enjoyed the experience so much they decided to make it a longterm part of their lives.
Looking through a photo album of past trips and speaking of some of the young orphans they have been exposed to, he begins to choke up and takes a moment to catch his breath.
When asked what he takes away from the experience, MacHattie pauses and tries to explain.
"Oh, he sighs, "you'd have to go for two weeks to know that one. You could've asked me that the first time before I went and I would give you an answer but after you've been there they just become like family. So, it's like helping your cousin ... The part I've enjoyed in this whole process, it's almost a privilege to go there.
"What's life all about?" he asks. "Well you go there and you come back and, wow, you have an answer. We come back here and we realize, my wife and I, we have enough (material possessions). It just changes you. It taught me, you have enough. I'm not as impatient as I used to be. I don't want things, I'm just happy with what I have."
MacHattie also knows that his Haiti Milk Relief Program and other efforts will not solve all of the country's woes but he believes it will ease some of the pain and it is certainly better than doing nothing.
"If we weren't down there, things would still happen, unfortunately people would still die, whether you are there or not people will die. So, the race now is not are we helping people, the race now is, the more we help the fewer die.
"It's just like a clock ticking, and it's like do we do enough? Well, we'll never save everyone but it just helps."
Anyone wishing to donate to the Milk Relief Program can do so by dropping off cash or cheques to the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture on Willow Street or at the First United Church in Truro. Cheques should be made payable to the Friends of the Orphans-Canada (FOTOCAN - based in Woodstock, Ont.).
As well, a Haitian fundraising stew dinner will be held at the First United Church on Feb. 11. Sittings are at 5, 6 and 7 p.m. Free will offerings will be accepted.