County officials and councilmembers convened on Monday at Direct Relief International’s headquarters in Goleta to hear about the aid organization’s relief efforts in Haiti. Thomas Tighe, DRI’s President and Chief Executive Officer, announced that $20 million worth of essential medical supplies have been shipped to Haiti in the last couple of weeks. This equates to around 30 tons of material — mainly prescription drugs that are intended to help heal the thousands of physical injuries resulting from the magnitude 7.0 earthquake on January 12 and its 56 aftershocks. Direct Relief said it aims to be as “efficient and transparent with the aid as possible,” and gave officials a tour of the warehouse. DRI has a 70,000-square-foot warehouse at its disposal, but says it needs more space in order to facilitate all of the medical supplies that will be sent to Haiti.
Congresswoman Louis Capps, County Supervisor Doreen Farr, Goleta Mayor Eric Onnen, Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, Santa Barbara City Councilmember Das Williams and other officials attended the meeting. Schneider presented DRI with a certificate of recognition for its extremely significant relief efforts “on behalf of the cities of Goleta and Santa Barbara.” Schneider called DRI the “quintessential organization for thinking globally and acting locally.” Capps praised DRI, commenting that “we have a jewel in our community,” and emphasized that DRI does not just fly into disaster areas like other nonprofits that often set up their own infrastructures, but instead partners with local organizations that are already in place and require assistance.
Tom Tighe and John Romos explained how funds are distributed and went over the details of what their response teams are doing in Haiti. (To see firsthand how funds and supplies are allocated, check Chris Meagher’s on-scene account of DRI’s relief efforts in Haiti here). Romos commented that there has been an unprecedented response from the world around this natural disaster, and said he is thankful and impressed at the local businesses and schools that have been raising and donating money in the last few weeks.
DRI is a very unique organization because it is the only non-governmental organization (NGO) in the country that is licensed as a wholesale pharmacy. This enables it to receive and send out prescriptions that will help medical facilities and hospitals perform surgical procedures and safe amputations as well as allow people to fight infections that result from open wounds; helping people survive their injuries is DRI’s first priority. The nonprofit’s secondary response team is in Haiti right now, working to establish a warehouse facility in Port Au Prince that will allow DRI to supply medical essentials as needed to different hospitals and medical centers.
DRI has been helping and sending aid and money to Haiti since 1964. The local community can be assured that their efforts will not be short-lived. Romos emphasized to county officials that “our commitment is absolute,” and Mayor Schneider praised DRI for committing to Haiti for the long haul. Romos encouraged local community members who want to get involved in relief efforts to volunteer for the Medical Reserve Corps or go to directrelief.org and look into the volunteer opportunities that DRI has available.