Aspen couple struggles to save lives of Haitians
While international peace keepers struggle to restore stability in Haiti, Aspenites Susie and Joe Krabacher are on an equally desperate mission to prevent 2,000 kids in the country from starving to death.
The Krabachers’ Mercy and Sharing Foundation lost “tens of thousands of dollars” in food and medical supplies last month when near anarchy erupted in Haiti. Their warehouse was looted and burned by supporters of then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Aristide fled the country and international peace keepers landed on Feb. 29 to try to stop Haitians from killing one another, and the situation there has stabilized somewhat. But getting enough food to the six schools and three orphanages run by the foundation has proved difficult, said Susie Krabacher, who was in Haiti helping oversee the foundation’s operations at the time Aristide fled.
“We still are in survival mode,” said Krabacher, who returned to Aspen last week. “We still are at one meal per day.”
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Krabacher said it is almost impossible to convey conditions in Haiti in terms that people living in Aspen, one of the wealthiest towns in the world, can fathom. For example, the schools and orphanages go through about 6,000 disposable diapers per month. But the diapers disappeared in the ransacking of the warehouse. The staff members tear up towels and use them for makeshift diapers that have to be hand-washed.
“You can imagine the sanitary conditions we’re going through right now,” Krabacher said.
She said is was almost unreal last week revisiting the beauty and affluence of Aspen after leaving Haiti, “where you can smell the poverty in the air after landing at the airport.”
“People don’t really get that this is apocalyptic poverty so close to us,” she said. Haiti is the poorest nation in the Americas.
The foundation is concentrating on restocking its new warehouse space in Port-au-Prince. It needs money to buy rice, beans, diapers and prescription drugs for terminally ill children in its care.
The money is used to ship a container of supplies from Miami at a cost of $3,000. Sometimes the food and materials can be purchased in the Dominican Republican and driven into Haiti.
The foundation’s facilities go through 11,000 pounds of rice and 7,000 pounds of beans per month.
The charisma of Krabacher, a former Playboy model, and interest in her front-line philanthropy is creating several opportunities for her to speak in the United States about the plight of Haiti.
Krabacher and the Mercy and Sharing Foundation were featured in a front-page article in the Wall Street Journal when turmoil over Aristide’s departure was highest. She was interviewed on ABC’s “Good Morning America” a week later when she returned to the United States after 2 1/2 weeks in Haiti.
She recently accepted an invitation to speak to the National Press Corps in Washington, D.C., on April 2. Her presentation will be shown on C-SPAN at 8 a.m. MST.
There is no doubt in Krabacher’s mind that Haiti is better off without Aristide. “President Aristide was a terrorist,” she said.
She has hopes that the country will do better under interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, who is backed by the United States. But, realistically, it will take a long, long time for Haiti to heal.
“It’s going to take years, decades, for the economy to turn around,” she said.
Meanwhile, she will do what she can to help the 2,000 children in the care of her foundation survive. Krabacher plans to return to Haiti later this month.
When asked if she fears for her life there, she replied, “Oh, yeah, but it’s nothing new.”
She said she has “an assignment, a mandate in my life.” She is confident her life won’t be taken by “an armed bandit” while she still has that assignment to complete.
More information about the Mercy and Sharing Foundation can be found at its Web site ” haitichildren.org. There is a link on the site where people can contribute. All donations go directly to aiding the children. Administrative costs are covered by the founders.
[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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