Former teacher, student offer relief opportunities
Ericlee Gilmore and his wife, Dorina, have led summer ministry groups in Haiti with their church, The Bridge, and aid the local people by fixing orphanages. The Gilmore family (Dorina, Giada, Meilani and Ericlee) hang out in August 2009 with Serline, left, one of the orphans now in the orphanage. They are in front of Serline's grandma's house in the town of Savanette.
On Tuesday, Jan. 12, at 4:53 PM (UTC), a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck the small Caribbean island of Haiti just 15 miles southwest of its capital, Port-au-Prince, and left the country devastated, according to the United States Geological Survey.
The earthquake was the worst the country has experienced in more than 200 years and left 50,000 people dead, says the New York Times. The quake not only destroyed buildings and lives, but also left the country without electricity or phone service, hindering relief efforts and necessary calls to family members.
However, when disaster strikes another nation, residents far away may think that nothing of the sort could happen to them or that it is too distant to help. However, in contrast, many Valley residents had friends and family in Haiti when the earthquake occurred despite the long distance.
Former teacher and track and field coach Ericlee Gilmore has traveled to Haiti at least once a year since childhood because he has had family members born in that country.
"I grew up loving those people and sharing Christ with them," Gilmore said. "My family has a ministry over there. I can't believe that, with all the pain, poverty and severe sickness, a new disaster would occur."
Recently, he and his wife Dorina have led summer ministry groups in Haiti with their church, The Bridge. Gilmore was involved in leading sports groups and ministering through music and fixing orphanages, most recently in August 2009.
Traveling with Gilmore during the summer 2009, sophomore Cooper Belmont was a part of the sports group from The Bridge that went to Pignon, Haiti, about 50 miles from where the earthquake struck, for eight days last summer.
"I can't believe that, with all the pain, poverty and severe sickness, a new disaster would occur [in Haiti]. We should want to help and meet their needs." --Ericlee Gilmore, former teacher
"We ran a sports camp and played basketball, soccer and track with the kids," Belmont said. "When I heard about the earthquake, I was sad and prayed a lot, but the people I met there had Facebooks [sic] so I knew they were okay."
Although Gilmore was not there when the earthquake occurred, Peter, a Haitian field director, has been in Haiti since the earthquake happened and has helped to transport victims of the disaster to another city for medical help. Peter is supported by the Bridge.
"We worried and prayed a lot that [Peter] would be okay," Gilmore said. "A lot of people that we knew there were safe, and members from the church are already there to work and help."
Familiar with the poverty-stricken people and customs, Gilmore recognizes the severity of the earthquake and plans to send money as soon as possible.
On a summer missions trip, sophomore Cooper Belmont traveled to Pignon, Haiti and helped lead a sports camp with the local kids. Due to the recent disaster, Belmont plans to continue visiting the impoverished city in relief efforts.
"Earthquakes are uncommon there, so the people think that it will happen again and are scared to death to sleep," Gilmore said. "My immediate plan is to send money to them and Peter, and then head back there this summer. My mom will most likely go there in February."
Along with Gilmore, Belmont hopes to travel again to help the country in its even greater need.
"Next summer, I want to go again because I met a lot of people there that I want to see again, and there is now a lot more work to be done," Belmont said. "I feel lucky that I wasn't there when it happened."
Gilmore recognizes the importance of helping out those affected by the earthquake and encourages students to help by simply giving an online donation at Christianfriendshipministries.org.
"Here are people God created, His people, and we are His people," Gilmore said. "We should want to help and meet their needs. This is an opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus."
Despite the disaster that struck Haiti, Gilmore views it as an opportunity to further his church's ministry work.
"We are praying that it will be a revival for the country to not fear and follow Jesus," Gilmore said. "In Haiti, there is a bottomless pit of needs. When we go back, we will work not only in little villages but branch out to reach the whole community."
The Haitian earthquake can help show to others that despite how far away something is, it can also hit close to home. Whether it be family members visiting the region or friendships made with the residents, disasters far away often affect people around the world, not just in one place.
For more information on the Gilmores' trip to Haiti and their service work, go online and visit their blog. Scroll down the blog to read information on the August 2009 Haiti trip. They can also be reached through Dorina's e-mail: email@example.com.
For information on Belmont's trip to Haiti, visit the Sept. 8, 2009 article, Summer experiences expand outlooks.