In the wake of the recent crisis in Haiti, celebrities have been holding telethons and media corporations have been flying correspondents to the heart of the disaster area. But Sunday, the locals in East Boston found a creative way to combat the catastrophe.
Susan Brauner, owner of local real estate company Parker Associates, lives next to the Boston Harbor Shipyard in East Boston. Brauner was aware that there was a boat that traveled a couple of times a month between Haiti and the shipyard.
After the earthquake hit, Brauner spoke with Dan Noonan, the shipyard manager, and the two came up with the idea to fill the boat, which normally carried clunker cars, with crates of water.
Brauner petitioned help from the surrounding community by sending out e-mails, Facebook messages and flyers. “I just simply hit a few computer strokes,” Brauner said, “”¦before you know it, we had now filled up not one, but two boats.”
East Boston’s Excel Academy participated by having a dance where one bottle of water was required for admittance. Brauner recounted a touching tale of an encounter in a convenience store: “I went into a convenience store and asked if I could put up one flyer,” Brauner said, “and someone standing in line said he wanted to buy the water right then and there and take it right down to the docks — and he did!”
This past Sunday’s event was the second of two gatherings to send water to Haiti on the boats. East Boston business owner Rob Pyles found out about the first event through a friend. “(He) called me up and said, ‘Hey, get your butt down here and help me move water onto a boat going to Haiti.’ And it wasn’t like just watching it on the news, and just hearing about the tragedy and all the devastation and feeling bad — this was a friend telling me something constructive and actionable that I could do to help Haiti right away. So I was in.”
Pyles joined an “army of helpers” who got to work loading thousands of crates of water into old cars and trucks bound for Haiti. “We had a brigade passing water back and forth,” Pyles said. “Just piling them into the back seats, the front seats, the trunk,anywhere water could fit, we stuffed it in. It was grunt work, but it felt good to come together with friends and neighbors to do this. It made me feel good to take time out for this cause, not just donate money but to donate time, effort, water and labor. I hope it helps.”
Boston Harbor Shipyard manager Dan Noonan said that Haiti was struggling long before the earthquake, and that this tragedy is a blessing in disguise that will offer an opportunity for Haiti to rebuild. He also pointed out that this event will actually make a tangible difference in the lives of Haitians, whereas money donations just seem to evaporate.
“There’s been a lot of money pumped into Haiti over the years, and they have nothing to show for it,” said Noonan. “Haiti looks the same except for”¦ a couple of resort areas. It just seems to me, money, when it’s poured into Haiti, just doesn’t get there.”
Brauner and Noonan said they hope to continue sending water and other needed items to Haiti, as long as there is a need. “The East Boston community had done an excellent job of rising to the humanitarian occasion,” Brauner said.