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GMHS Grad Aids Effort to Rebuild Haiti

Haiti2With his recent deployment to Haiti, Richard Condit has seen his share of emergency efforts as a member of one of the U.S. Coast Guard’s emergency response teams.

The Class of ’84 George Mason High graduate has deployed with the Coast Guard in cooperation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for Hurricanes Ike and Gustav – and recently for two weeks in late January, in the devastated capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince.

 

Haiti2

Rich Condit, Coast Guard officer and response team member in Haiti. (Photos: Courtesy Condit)

With his recent deployment to Haiti, Richard Condit has seen his share of emergency efforts as a member of one of the U.S. Coast Guard’s emergency response teams.

The Class of ’84 George Mason High graduate has deployed with the Coast Guard in cooperation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for Hurricanes Ike and Gustav – and recently for two weeks in late January, in the devastated capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince.

Condit’s “Go Team” emergency response crew of 20 Coast Guard specialists was shipped by FEMA to Haiti on Jan. 13, the day after a 7.0-magnitude quake leveled much of Port-au-Prince and the surrounding urban landscape, killing nearly 230,000, injuring 300,000 and leaving more than a million homeless.

“An international assignment was an incredibly eye-opening experience,” Condit told the News-Press in a recent interview. “We’ve dealt with hurricane relief before, but never with the total destruction that we saw in Port-au-Prince.”

The team’s primary mission was to cooperate with FEMA and the U.S. State Department to evaluate the situation for damage control and assess areas that were falling behind in terms of food, water and medicine.

“We arrived when it was basically just a military relief mission, and we were charged with determining which agency or organization would be the most appropriate for that function,” Condit said.

The mission broke down into four parts: to assess damage and reopen the port; to ensure food, water and medicine made it to the right places; assist the U.S. Embassy with processing 12,000 U.S. citizens for evacuation at the airport and to rebuild the Haitian National Police’s communications system.

“I was amazed at the resiliency of the Haitian people,” Condit said. “They had very little before the earthquake, had even less afterwards, but they were doing the best with what they had.”

As the team penetrated the neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, Condit saw civilians using what remained of the infrastructure as tools of survival. “I saw the shell of a schoolbus with the chassis removed that had become home to a family,” he said.

Condit said the expedition went off without any major problems, and the Haitian people accommodated the foreign service groups. “Whether you were from America, France, Qatar, Argentina or any of the dozens of countries that had visible teams on the ground, you could tell you were appreciated.”

What was most striking for Condit was the effectiveness of mostly volunteer, non-profit Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) in aiding the relief operation.

“The NGOs hailed from all over the world – some were individual groups, some part of larger international efforts – but they were all there doing good work, and many of them were complete volunteers,” he said, noting, “They are the true humanitarian warriors and have been in this effort for a long time. They were there long before the earthquake and were there to stay after it to help lift up the Haitian people.”

Following his two-week assignment’s completion, Condit said he was willing to return to Haiti if FEMA ordered them.

Condit shared with the NewsPress photos from his mission, including a photograph of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s arrival shortly after the earthquake.

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