Torontonians reach out to help quake victims

By Leslie Ferenc

Whatever it takes.

Savinder Pandher, 47, wearing a white turban, helps dispense meals from a mobile kitchen set up by United Sikhs volunteers from Toronto who are now in Haiti. - Photo provided by Ramandeep Kaur

That’s the unofficial rally call of Torontonians mobilizing in droves to support victims of the Haiti earthquake.

Scores, possibly hundreds of grassroots organizations and countless thousands of individuals across the GTA are pitching in to help, selflessly donating time and money.

Wednesday, students at public schools across the city are taking part in a PJ Day, donating what they can to wear their fuzzy slippers and fleece to classes in support of the Red Cross or Free the Children.

Within 48 hours of the earthquake, “United Sikhs were in Haiti, where volunteers set up a set up a base camp and community kitchen in Port-au-Prince,” said Ramandeep Kaur. A group from Toronto, including her father, Sarvinder Singh Pandher, landed Saturday and are distributing food, water, and blankets and medical help. They’re manning a traditional Sikh langgar, or community kitchen, set up to feed more than 5,000 people a day.

The volunteers paid their own way, bringing with them pots, pans and utensils donated by Brampton’s Jot Prakash Gurdwara, as well as tents and storage units from Brar Tent House. American Airlines waived baggage weight restrictions, Kaur said, underscoring that it takes all members of a community to help the helpless. After flying into the neighbouring Dominican Republic, the Sikh volunteers brought everything into Port-au-Prince on rented trucks and purchased more food en route. A fourth team is heading to Haiti Wednesday, bringing clothing, shoes and more food.

Kaur admits her family is worried, “especially because there was another 4.0 earthquake in Haiti on Sunday afternoon,” she said. “In terms of medical safety, we’ve supplied him with loads of hand sanitizer and hope that he is using it often, since the risk for disease and infection continues to spread. My dad told us about the dead bodies that he see’s lying on the side of the road and this concerns us because this increases the chances of infection.

“Aside from these concerns … I am proud of what (he) and his friends are doing. I am also thankful to organizations like United Sikhs who are able to mobilize and gather supplies and products to give support to people in Haiti.”

In addition to cash donations, Mennonite Central Committee Ontario is appealing for 10,000 bed sheets and supplies for 20,000 relief kits containing basic sanitary supplies needed by Haitians surviving on the street, such as soap and bandages, said communications co-ordinator Anne Brubacher. For a list of items needed to fill a kit, visit the MCC website at www.mcc.org/kits, or call 800-313-6226.

Kits as well as new light-coloured flat sheets (double to king size, at least 300-thread count) can be dropped off at Toronto United Mennonite Church, 1774 Queen St. E., 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday; at  Tyndale University College and Seminary, 25 Ballyconnor Court; or at the Care and Share MCC Thrift Shop, 6240 Main St., Stouffville. Cash donations may also be dropped off at Ten Thousand Villages stores.

The organization is also airlifting 31,750 kg of canned meat and 1,000 water filters, with a similar shipment going by sea, and purchasing thousands of tents and tarps, which will be distributed in Haiti by full-time and additional staff on the ground.

Here’s what some other groups are doing:

   Many grocery and retail chains are asking shoppers to add a little more to their bill and support the cause.

  Another medical aid team from United Jewish Appeal landed in Haiti Saturday. So far, $515,000 has been raised by the UJA of Greater Toronto’s Hope for Haiti Disaster Relief Fund. Donate at www.ujadonations.com/haiti or call 416-631-5705.

  Members of Core Yoga and Pilates Studio on Queen St. W., donated more than $1,000 in three hours during Saturday’s classes dedicated to Haiti relief.

  Proceeds from the Feb. 5 GenYTO get-together will support disaster relief efforts. The group, according to its website, “brings together some of the smartest and most innovative minds from the Toronto startup, tech and marketing community to network, enjoy a good time in a casual setting and raise money for charities.” The location is to be confirmed.

  A Twitter group is organizing the Haiti Earthquake Relief event HaiHaiTo. Go to http://HaiHaiTO.com for details.

Relief kits

What’s needed to fill a kit:

4 large bars bath soap (leave in wrapping)

1 plastic bottle shampoo (380-710ml; place bottle in a resealable plastic bag)

4 large bars of laundry soap (if available)

1 squeeze-tube toothpaste (minimum 130ml; leave in box)

4 adult-size toothbrushes (leave in packaging)

4 new bath towels (medium weight, dark or bright colors)

2 wide-tooth combs (15 to 20cm)

1 fingernail clipper

1 box adhesive bandages (minimum 40, assorted)

1 package sanitary pads (18-24 thin maxi)

Place contents in a box or bag to be dropped off. The contents will later be repacked in a new 5-gallon plastic pail with lid.

Link to original publication: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/755735–torontonians-reach-out-to-help-quake-victims

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