Two years have passed since a massive earthquake in Haiti claimed more than 316,000 lives and left almost 1 million homeless. And while many of us have since moved on to other concerns, Cliff Kraft is still in crisis mode.
As chairman of the Malvern-based Mid-Atlantic Division of Orphan Grain Train, Kraft continues to aid the tattered nation through the nonprofit volunteer organization, which serves the needy abroad and at home through its 20 branches around the United States. “We’d already been sending food, clothing and medical equipment to Haiti. The earthquake increased that need,” says Kraft. “We’ve shipped 40-foot containers to Kyrgyzstan, Belarus and other areas. We also truck clothing, household items, medical equipment and food to Ohio’s Appalachian region.”
Donations come from churches, thrift stores and individuals. Everything is stored in a Wilmington, Del., warehouse prior to shipment. “Apple boxes gathered from local food stores are used for the packing and shipping,” Kraft says.
Last spring, Kraft’s campaign to collect 1,000 pillowcase dresses for Haitian girls was a rousing success. “Someone we knew noticed an article about an organization called Dress a Girl Around the World,” says Kraft, explaining how the idea came about. “They had a pattern that could be used to easily make young girls’ dresses out of pillowcases.”
The process was so easy, in fact, that donations exceeded the original goal by more than 1,400 garments. Kraft received dresses from as far west as Colorado and as far south as Florida.
Meanwhile, conditions in Haiti are improving. “But ever so slowly,” says Kraft.
“Getting containers to our people can be difficult, due to the local government and their methods of operation. From what I gather, this is business as usual in Haiti.”
Such uncertainty hasn’t deterred Kraft. “We’ve now produced patterns for boys’ shorts, which can also be made out of pillowcases,” he says. “We expect to receive a number of these for our next Haiti shipment in January or February.”
In addition to nonperishable food items, the last Haiti container included more than 3,000 pairs of flip-flops. Another had a dental X-ray machine. “It was donated by a dentist who was updating his equipment,” says Kraft. “The need is there in Haiti—and will be for many years to come.”
To learn more about donating clothes, food and other supplies to Haiti and elsewhere, visit ogt.org.
See also “Maria Bello: Actress, Philanthropist, Kickboxer, Mother and More” and “Remembering Haiti Two Years After the Earthquake.”