Most people are aware of the situation in Haiti following the devastating earthquake that took place January 12. Yet not many have taken the initiative to actively assist those in Haiti while bringing closer two communities as done by Aaron Wieder, a member of the Hasidic community who is the Assistant to NY’s Village of Spring Valley mayor Noramia Jasmin, and a Board member at the East Ramapo School District in NY.
Sure, the US and world militaries, relief organizations, and volunteers have done the work that is cut out for them in response to natural disasters. They all need to get full credit for it, and the same goes to millions of people around the globe who donated money and other things to those in need. However, our hats need to be tipped one extra time for Mr. Wieder.
Despite the fact that Mr. Wieder is a public servant in a village with many factions, mainly Haitian Americans and Jewish Americans, he does not view the locals from a perspective of ‘this group’ or ‘that group.’ In his view, everyone in the Village of Spring Valley – regardless of ethnicity – wants a government that is effective and everyone – regardless which type school their children attend – wants a School District where its children get the highest education possible at the best cost-effective way.
There are situations, however, that call the attention of one group more than it does other groups, such as the heartbreaking Haiti earthquake which personally affected the Haitian community more than any other community in Spring Valley.
Hours after news of the quake broke, hundreds of local residents from Haitian descent, called into Village Hall – ran by Jasmin, a Haitian native – clamoring for information regarding their loved ones of back in Haiti, while asking how they can help get aid down to their families.
At a time when mayor Jasmin was trying her best to juggle her responsibilities as Village mayor and to get word of her husband’s whereabouts in Haiti, Mr. Wieder sprung into action:
At first, he informed the mayor that while she tries to get news from her family in Haiti, he will work the extra hours needed to focus on village work, in addition to helping the Haitian community. Mr. Wieder wrote up and went to press with an information booklet that was made available for the Haitian community, providing them with all sorts of information relevant to the quake.
Over the first weekend following the quake, a group of 15 nurses and other professionals from the Haitian community, offered to fly back to Haiti to give a helping hand. Through the work of Mr. Wieder and others, they got some space on an Air Force plane that took off from Chicago Tuesday Jan. 19, which headed directly to Haiti. The only problem was that the group didn’t have funds for tickets to Chicago and for a night at a hotel.
With Mr. Wieder in the house, there were no worries. He phoned members of the Jewish community, who full-heartedly donated enough money to fund the Chicago trip and the overnight stay for the 15 volunteers. Of course, Aaron didn’t let the group go before he handed them an expensive satellite phone which was donated by a member of the local Jewish community.
With the second week following the quake coming now to an end, Mr. Wieder still has his work cut out for him. He asked a few Jewish businessmen to donate medical supplies – they donated 2 40-ft containers full of supplies which Mr. Wieder is trying to get shipped off to Haiti at the first chance possible.
In closing, people always say that tragedies bring communities together. But in reality, communities living side-by-side are always together, yet it is just not seen by the naked eye on a day-to-day basis.