Local response

Massachusetts groups marshal aid, relief efforts

By James F. Smith and Stephen Smith
Globe Staff / January 14, 2010

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With the eyes of the world on earthquake-stricken Haiti, Massachusetts groups and individuals are mobilizing efforts, both large and small, to aid the victims of the disaster.

Massachusetts General Hospital planned to dispatch two medical-response teams to Haiti. Partners in Health, the Boston-based group that has worked for decades on health and development in Haiti, has helped set up an emergency field hospital to treat the wounded.

From the rubble of the devastated capital, Port-au-Prince, the injured are making their way slowly to outlying hospitals and clinics run by Partners in Health, according to an agency spokesman.

“People have started to arrive,’’ Andrew Marx said. “Some of them are getting there on their own. There has been more than a trickle of people coming in.’’

At Partners’ hospital in the town of Hinche, workers loaded a truck with medical supplies and prepared to make the 2 1/2-hour journey to Port-au-Prince. The need, they learned from a colleague in the capital, is acute.

“We heard from a doctor who is in Port-au-Prince that the only thing she had for pain was aspirin,’’ Marx said. “So there’s a desperate need for pain medications and simple things like bandages.’’

Partners in Development, based in Ipswich, has a medical clinic in Port-au-Prince and is organizing a medical team to send there, said Lisa Lassey, director of program development.

The City of Boston will open an emergency response center today at SEIU Local 1199’s union headquarters at 150 Mount Vernon St. in Dorchester for those who are trying to contact relatives in Haiti. The center will have phone lines, translators, grief counselors, and computers with Internet access, said Dot Joyce, a spokeswoman for Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

In addition, Menino said the city will establish a relief fund to help support local families with relatives in Haiti and offer equipment and personnel for search-and rescue operations in the stricken country.

Superintendent Carol R. Johnson dispatched counselors to Boston schools that serve a large number of youths from Haiti or children of Haitian immigrants.

Governor Deval Patrick, touring Edwards Middle School in Charlestown yesterday with Menino, said he wanted to let Haitians in the state and around the world know that “our thoughts and prayers are with them.’’

Patrick said he had contacted all state agencies to see what type of resources they might have available to help. He also was in contact with the White House on relief efforts.

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley authorized a second collection in the parishes of the Archdiocese of Boston for earthquake relief. “Parishes may choose either this coming weekend, January 16 and 17, or the weekend of January 30 and 31 to take the collection,’’ O’Malley said in a written statement. “Funds collected will be sent to Catholic Relief Services to assist in relief efforts.’’

In Washington, D.C., Senators John F. Kerry and Paul Kirk joined 13 colleagues to urge President Obama to grant Temporary Protected Status to Haitians living in the United States. Gaining the status, which has previously been pushed by other state and local lawmakers and by groups that assist immigrants, would halt the deportations of Haitian nationals until their country can recover.

In other relief efforts, UPS will ship packages under 50 pounds free to Haiti today, and the United Way and Salvation Army are holding clothing and food drives.

In addition, American Airlines is taking doctors and nurses to Haiti at no cost.

James Vaznis, Michael Levenson, and John R. Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this report.