Haiti: Régine Zamor on Do-It-Yourself Volunteering

(Cross-posted at Global Voices and at Conversations for a Better World.) 

[Traduction Française sur Global Voices en Français.]

PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI, 30 January, 2010

Régine Zamor is a Haitian-American based in New Rochelle, New York, but raised in Brooklyn. Her Haitian family is from Martissant. She decided to come to Haiti after the 12 January earthquake and volunteer on her own, without signing up with a major NGO. She had contacts in Haiti and the Dominican Republic before arriving, having volunteered with Haitian indentured laborers in Batey Ocho, Barahona, in the Dominican Republic last summer. Her family and friends in the United States were supportive of her decision.

Régine is a film producer and writer who just finished a documentary film on street children in Cap Haïtien, titled Bagay Dwòl. She has been blogging about the film and about her first-response volunteering at her blog, Bagay Dwol Journal.

When she initially arrived in Haiti, a couple of days after the quake, she researched where her help was needed and wound up volunteering in food distribution, information sharing — both in person and through her blog — and in medical supplies distribution through various contacts at smaller NGOs such as SOIL, Wynn Farm, and COHEF.

Georgia Popplewell and I met with her at the Hotel Oloffson a couple of afternoons ago.

“I didn't want to wait”

When I told other Haitians living in the United States that I was traveling to Haiti with Global Voices, many who were on waiting lists with large well-known NGOs and US government agencies expressed dismay. For example, my friend Alex — who holds a masters degree in public health administration and has been working in the healthcare industry in the United States for years — was itching to be picked from a volunteer list. When Régine explained to Georgia and me how she made it to Haiti shortly after the quake, I immediately thought of Alex and all the others waiting in the U.S.

Régine decided not to wait, and in this video she explains how she connected with the work she wound up doing:

(A version of this video with French subtitles is also available on dotSUB.)

Régine and other first-responders took food distribution in their own hands and at their own cost

I have only spotted one UN-run food distribution line since my arrival here a week ago. It was near the National Palace, and proved so chaotic that either tear gas or pepper spray was allegedly used on the crowd. A handful of UN officers seemed to be handling a crowd of thousands. A system for the distribution of the global influx of aid by either the UN or the Haitian government has yet to materialize. But in speaking to Régine, it became clear that many Haitians and others willing to help took matters into their own hands during the first-response period.

Here Régine explains how she coordinated with an NGO contact in the Dominican Republic to buy food, have it sent to Port-au-Prince, and distribute it to Orphelinat l'Amour du Bon Berger.

Volunteering with the Parc Antoine Izméry Clinic in Delmas 33

When we met Régine at the Oloffson, an American buddy from her hometown of New Rochelle, NY, interrupted our meeting to introduce some doctors to her. Régine left Georgia and me to go and meet them, and eventually introduced us to one of them, an American doctor who has served Haitian patients in the Bahamas for the past 11 years. She turned to us and said: “He just agreed to come to the Sité Solèy Clinic with me tomorrow morning.”

That is precisely what Régine means by her role in “information sharing”. Via word of mouth and using all means available, she has connected tens of people to whatever service needs she has identified or become aware of.

Here Régine shares a bit about the work she has been doing at the medical clinic at Park Antoine Izméry in Delmas 33:

On her blog, she explains how she delivered needed medical supplies to Kenscoff.

Régine's journey is far from over. Like many of the Haitian-Americans I have met in Port-au-Prince, she is planning on installing herself permanently here in the next few weeks. Here are her “Helpful Resources for Volunteering in NYC.”

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