Houses crowd a hillside in Haiti

On a Mission

Security industry non-profit raises awareness for communities in crisis.

Though the recession taught many Americans a hard-fought lesson on what's truly important, unfortunately things could always get worse. For example, less than 1,000 miles south of Miami, one of the United States' most vibrant and affluent cities, lies Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.

Although the country has struggled for decades, Haiti's humanitarian crisis hit an even greater low in September 2008, when the country was ravaged by four severe storms in a row.

A Country Torn Apart

Following the storms, homes, roads, bridges, crops and livelihoods were completely destroyed by massive fl ooding. Nearly 800 people died, and months later, hundreds of thousands were still homeless and on the verge of famine.

A New York Times article described the devastation in heart-breaking detail a few months after the storm: "Three-quarters of the population makes less than $2 a day and one in five children is chronically malnourished ... The one business booming amid all the gloom is the selling of patties made of mud, oil and sugar, typically consumed only by the most destitute.

"'It's salty and it has butter, and you don't know you are eating dirt,' said Olwich Louis Jeune, 24, who has taken to eating them more often in recent months. 'It makes your stomach quiet down.'"

Reaching Out

That was where Operation Hope for Haiti came in. The project, part of World Vision, a leading international humanitarian organization, helped the City of Miami to provide critical emergency relief and aid to the devastated nation. And now, Mission 500 is helping take the aid even further.

The group, a non-profit initiate that focuses its efforts on the security industry, works to help children and communities in crisis. Mission 500's goal is to sponsor 500 needy children through World Vision's child sponsorship program. The project is a volunteer-driven initiative, and 100 percent of the funds raised are channeled directly to World Vision, which provides food, clothing and education to those in need.

To raise awareness of Operation Hope in Haiti, Mission 500 will have a team of runners in the ING Marathon in Miami on Jan. 31. George Fletcher, a volunteer and advisory council member for Mission 500, said as of November more than 30 professionals within the security industry had signed up for the cause.

Fletcher said Mission 500 began focusing on Haiti because the conditions have become so severe. The group claims that "Haiti calls for a unified response from our community to assist the country to rebuild and move toward self-sufficiency. We must be the voice of the voiceless, making every effort to bring resources from the richest nation on earth to the desperate people who are suffering in silence at the doorstep of America."

How to Help

For security professionals interested in helping Mission 500's efforts in Haiti, there are a variety of volunteer and donation options. If you're in the Miami area (or even if you're not), you can join the group's marathon team up until the day of the race. And because Mission 500 has no administrative costs, each runner's sponsor funds go directly to Operation Hope for Haiti.

If you're across the country—or just don't feel up to running or walking a marathon—you can follow in the footsteps of companies like Altronix, HID Global, SAMSUNG / GVI Security and Security Products and become a corporate sponsor or donor. Or, sponsor an individual runner to show your support. Visit www.mission500.com for more information on contributions or sponsorships.

Fletcher said Mission 500 also encourages businesses and individuals to help Operation Hope for Haiti by sponsoring a child in need within Haiti, advocating on behalf of the organization to raise awareness or raising money in your organization through events, employee giving programs, employer matching gifts or corporate sponsorships. More information is available at www.worldvision.org/operationhopeforhaiti. com.Click on How I Can Help to get started.

About the Author

Megan Weadock is a communications specialist at Monitronics.

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