Things were desperate on La Gonâve. No food. No Drinking water. No real medical treatment for the thousands of earthquake survivors coming to the Island from Port-Au-Prince in small wooden boats. The island depended on shipments from Port-Au-Prince to survive. The earthquake cut off that lifeline. Father Lerieche Roosevelt, Pastor of the St. Louis at Point-a-Raquette shared the dire situation on the island with Maureen Townsend, a coordinator with a Haiti Outreach program for Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Even though she was thousands of miles away Townsend knew she had to help.
"I thought, I can't do this anymore, I have to do something." said Townsend who couldn't bear the thought of what Father Roosevelt had told her. People were starving and dying with no help in sight. She asked a friend who happened to be a retired Navy Officer for advice. He told her to be creative and to google USS CARL VINSON to find an email address. "Every email address I could find I e-mailed." said Townsend who worked late into the night trying to make contact. " I emailed and emailed and emailed."
Her persistence paid off. The messages sent to USS VINSON, a San Diego based aircraft carrier playing a major role in the Haiti humanitarian aid effort, were quickly passed along the chain of command. USS BUNKER HILL was delivering food, water, and medical supplies to La Gonâve by Wednesday.
"They'd been watching ships go by for days," said USS Bunker Hill Captain Dominic DeScisciolo. "They were wondering if the world had passed them by." The population of the small town of Pointe-a-Raquette nearly doubled in just a few days, taxing a system that DeScisciolo said was already at it's limit.
"It is extremely primitive in this town. There are more donkeys than cars that's for sure," he said.
Getting the injured out and fresh water in were top priorities for the Bunker Hill crew when they arrived in Pointe-a-Raquette.
"We're making a difference one village at a time here," DeScisciolo said as he shared success stories.
Chief Corpsman Carletuf Patrick is being credited with treating more than 100 patients.
Two people were airlifted to USS CARL VINSON for treatment.
Electrician First Mate Omar Gonzalez and Lt. Junior First Grade Ernie Thompson fixed the town's long broken water pump, giving residents access to their own fresh water supply for the first time anyone can remember.
USS BUNKER HILL crew members have provided more than 1,100 meals and more than 2,200 gallons of water.
Captain DeScisciolo is extremely proud of his crew and he hopes their families in San Diego are too.
"Their loved ones are contributing mightily to this mission. We're giving people hope for a new day," he said.
Maureen Townsend is relieved the Navy is answering her prayers and that of the Pastor who visits her church every fall. "I can't tell them thanks enough for everything they are doing for the people of La Gonâve. said Townsend. "It looks like a lot of little angels were working on this one."