Friday, April 23, 2010

Robert Altman's charity to Haiti

Former assistant Treasury Secretary Robert Altman was so moved by the plight of Haiti that he moved his own money and his own plane into action. Altman has purchased many tents and medical supplies for Haitians, filling up his private place with the supplies and having it flown to Port-au-Prince. Altman says he is most struck by the contrast of this poor nation being surrounded by 5-star luxury resorts in neighboring Caribbean islands.

From the New York Times, writer Sam Roberts tells us more about Mr. Altman's story.

Twice, Mr. Altman has flown to Florida, bought about $140,000 worth of medical supplies and tents, had them loaded onto his private jet and, with his wife, Jurate Kazickas, a journalist who has been active in refugee efforts elsewhere, delivered them to a Catholic relief group in Port-au-Prince.

Mr. Altman said he hoped to make a third trip. Though his wife had traveled on aid missions to other countries, including Afghanistan, Bosnia and Rwanda, neither had ever been to Haiti. Nothing he had read or seen, Mr. Altman said, prepared him “to fully grasp the scale of despair and poverty.”

Mr. Altman said he was particularly struck by conditions in the tent cities that had sprouted to house people displaced by the quake.

“I’ve never seen anything like the density in these locations,” he wrote to friends last month. “There is no electricity, running water or waste disposal system amidst these masses of tents. The tents also are boiling hot, now that even warmer weather is here. Nor is there any evident security in these places.”

For her part, Ms. Kazickas is using the Web video service Skype and a Web cam to teach English and history five days a week to Haitian children through She is in New York; the children gather around a computer in a refugee tent.

“Here is a simple way to engage these children in scholastic endeavors and keep them productively occupied,” Ms. Kazickas said.

In Haiti, Mr. Altman and Ms. Kazickas visited the tent classroom where the children, he said, were “beautiful in appearance and spirit” and “gave every sign of being hungry to learn.”


vanessa said...

On the subject of Haiti, a new nonprofit called Professors Beyond Borders has been launched with plans to rebuild schools in Haiti. There's more information here...

Anonymous said...

The name is Roger C. Altman, who is not only a humble man but a most generous one.