As Hurricane Tomas pummels Haiti, B’nai B’rith International is continuing its program of relief to residents of the beleaguered nation.
Its partner, The Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid (IsraAID), an Israeli relief organization team already stationed in Port-au-Prince, Leogane, and Jacmel, has quickly mobilized to lend assistance to refugees overwhelmed by flooding and mud slides.
IsraAID, of which B’nai B’rith is a founding partner, has been rendering assistance to thousands of refugees since January’s earthquake.
The hurricane has gained momentum in recent days at sea, bringing strong winds and heavy rains to the already devastated island nation.
B’nai B’rith World Center Director Alan Schneider, B’nai B’rith’s representative to IsraAID, is in Haiti as part of a previously scheduled visit to assist in long-term relief efforts.
He said, “Disturbances broke out in a number of refugee camps housing thousands of displaced people from the January earthquake. The refugees were fearful that they would be left with no shelter and refuge at all.”
Where possible, children were transported from IsraAID-operated community centers and schools to safe areas. The Israeli team is working with other international aid agencies to coordinate relief efforts to transport handicapped refugees, who could not be moved safely, to centers and schools in the relatively safe Leogane area.
The B’nai B’rith Disaster Relief Fund has raised $250,000 for relief.
Among the cleaners were students, soldiers, and members of various youth groups. Several companies got their employees involved as well.
In the north, soldiers worked side by side with special needs students to clean the Lotem reserve. In the Samaria city of Ariel, 500 schoolchildren cleaned while facing challenges and riddles relating to environmental issues.
“We in the Jewish National Fund took responsibility for coordinating our country's Clean-Up Day ten years ago,” said JNF director Efi Stenzler. “It started out small, and now it has swept the entire country.”
Each year has seen more and more volunteers turn out to help, and this year's clean-up was the largest yet, he added. The day is used not only to clean Israel's forests, but also to educate youth about the environmental protection and the harm that litter does to animals, people, and the natural world.