When Jennifer Fussell first heard about the devastation from the earthquake in Haiti, she knew her husband, Kevin, would go to help.
He left for the battered island Sunday, after gathering all the supplies he and his team would need.
Both Fussells worked as volunteers in Haiti and the Dominican Republic several times in the past, and Kevin Fussell, a pulmonary critical care specialist, knew his presence could be especially important as a board member for World Water Relief, an organization that provides water purification for parts of the world that don’t have an abundance of clean drinking water.
“He is down there with portable water systems,” said Jennifer, who was born in Macon. “It’s portable, quick and easy. They’ve given clean water to the hospital in Port-au-Prince, and they are going to give it to an orphanage there and the military bases. ... As a physician, he knows clean drinking water is the crux of the problem. If you don’t have clean water, it leads to disease. It’s his passion.”
Kevin Fussell, 38, moved to Macon when he was 16 and attended Central High School before attending Mercer University. Jennifer Fussell also graduated from Mercer after graduating from First Presbyterian Day School. The couple lives in Winston-Salem, N.C., with their 11-year-old son, Hudson.
Jennifer Fussell said her husband is staying in the Dominican Republican, about two hours away from Port-au-Prince. He was in the Dominican Republic on Thursday when a strong aftershock struck Haiti. She said she speaks to him regularly by cell phone. “When he got there on Sunday, he said it was better than he anticipated,” she said. “The bodies that had been in the streets had been moved to a mass grave. The people there are patient and respectful. They are very orderly (in receiving supplies). They get painted sometimes as barbaric because of the living conditions there, but they are just trying to survive.”
Kevin Fussell spends much of his time with World Water Relief, his wife said. This is the first time the organization is acting as a first responder to a disaster scene, she said. Kevin Fussell has been blogging about his experiences in Haiti for the organization’s Web site at www.worldwaterrelief-haiti.org. He’s expected to return stateside Sunday, Jennifer Fussell said.
Macon churches and businesses also are working on relief efforts for Haiti. Butler Toyota general manager Leven Holliman has a former high school classmate who is a relief worker there at Hope orphanage, and he is organizing money for relief funds for it, said Erin Theobald, a spokeswoman for the dealership.
“We’ve already (paid for) a medical team and 400 pounds worth of emergency supplies,” Theobald said. “The relief team flew into the Dominican Republic and had to hitchhike into Haiti, carrying the supplies on their back.”
Theobald said the orphanage is four miles from the earthquake’s epicenter. Though there were no deaths at the orphanage, the building likely will have to be razed and rebuilt, she said.
Anyone wanting to make a donation to that effort can write a check to “Butler Toyota — Haiti Relief Fund” and drop it by the business or mail it to 4580 Riverside Drive, Macon, GA 31210. Right now, Theobald said, the business is only accepting monetary donations and will probably do so through February.
Many Middle Georgia churches have ties to Haiti and have mobilized to raise money and supplies for the island. The Rev. Tommy Martin, senior minister at Mulberry Street United Methodist Church, said his denomination had an office set up down there. The person in charge of the office was killed during the first quake, he said, as well as a couple of other people in the office. He said the national United Methodist Church is in the process of sending relief funds and supplies to Haiti. The national Methodist group also is sending health kits, which include first aid supplies, soap and toothbrushes.
Martin said a local group from his church was supposed to go on a mission to the Dominican Republic in March, but that trip probably will be changed to Haiti.
Meanwhile, the Rev. Allen McDonald of St. Joseph Catholic Church on Poplar Street said his church has lost contact with its sister church in Port-au-Prince. He isn’t sure how that church, Our Lady of Perpetual Health, has been affected by the quake. He said there will be a second collection taken up Sunday that will be used as relief funds.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.