1199 SEIU members celebrate life in Haiti

1199 SEIU members celebrate life in Haiti|1199 SEIU members celebrate life in Haiti
The new Haitian Consul Forbin Charles Atoine speaks with award recepient Wyclef Jean.
Photos by Tequila Minsky

Many events in the New York area marking the second anniversary of the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti took place last week.

Haitians and Friends of Haiti of 1199SEIU gathered at the 1199SEIU building on W. 42nd St. to commemorate the date and formally acknowledge those who pitched in during Haiti’s greatest need. The earthquake took almost 300,000 lives and devastated thousands more. Two years later more than 500,000 are still living in tents and thousands of others have moved back into damaged homes.

Additionally, the evening of Remembrance Celebration of Life was billed as the 1st Annual “We Care for Haiti Gala,” promoting the Survival Kit Drive for the Women of Haiti.

Following the earthquake in the spring of 2010, the Kit Drive was developed to provide women and girls in Haiti urgent and essential toiletry items – items often overlooked in crisis relief drives. The SEIU199 community joined UNICEF and established the “We Care for Haiti Campaign.”

Schools and colleges, religious and professional organizations and others have supplied kit items. Efforts from SEIU1199 members, staff from the union and Family of Funds, retirees and the community continue their support for women and girls in Haiti.

A kit contains underwear, sanitary napkins, liners, soap, washcloth, a toothbrush, toothpaste, hand sanitizer, lotion, deodorant, and a comb packaged in a 1-gallon plastic bag.

A silent auction took place to help raise funds for more Survival Kits.

Minister of Haitians Living Abroad Daniel Supplice traveled to New York from Haiti specifically for this event and presided over the awards presentation. Along with public figure dignitaries like New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Councilman Mathieu Eugene and those known in the celebrity world like Wyclef Jean and Marc Baptiste, long-time activists 1199SEIU VP Estella Vasquez and Secretary Maria Castaneda and Links members including Hazel Dukes of the NAACP and Merriette Pollard from the Brooklyn Chapter were recognized.

This was also a chance for members of the community to meet the new Haitian Consul, Forbin Charles Antoine.

Award recipient Rocky Robinson, retired Captain FDNY EMS of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corporation, gave one of the most moving responses on receipt of his award. He told of how days after the earthquake, he wrote on the Internet that he wanted to go to Haiti to help and Yele responded, helping to send him. Post-earthquake, Robinson returned many times to Haiti many times to help.

Vicki Sylvain of the 1199SEIU/Employer Child Care Corporation is the project coordinator of the Survival Kit Drive. The Kit Drive continues with a goal of 50,000 kits. (If you want to help, contact: 646-473-8371, email [email protected] or [email protected]).

Links members Merriette Pollard and Hazel Dukes were recognized for their contribution to Haiti.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

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