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Haitian Community in Florida Sending Aid Back Home

Relief supplies are being gathered by non-profit organizations in the U.S. to send to survivors in Haiti
Relief supplies are being gathered by non-profit organizations in the U.S. to send to survivors in Haiti

Members of Haitian communities across the globe are trying to reach their loved ones in the wake of Tuesday's earthquake. One of the largest communities of Haitians outside of the country itself is in Central Florida.

Staff at an aid agency in Orlando sort through food, clothes and other items donated by members of the public. Harvest Time International sends thousands of kilos of aid to countries around the world. Special bins are for contributions for the people of Haiti.

The organization's Lena Smolensky says many Americans want to help in the wake of the disaster. "We've got so many calls today, it's unbelievable. It's really great to see that so many people care in the community and they really want to help," she tells us.

Bottles of water and boxes of other goods are destined for Haiti as soon as relief agencies can arrange for them to be transported to the country. Officials here also expect Haitians to need clothes and medical supplies.

Florida businessman Michel Dorcean heads Orlando's Haitian American Chamber of Commerce. He is one of nearly 200,000 Haitians in Florida. Dorcean says Haitians around the world feel they need to contribute resources to help those back in their homeland. He said, "There is more than four to five million people throughout the world in the Diaspora, and that is a very strong number. And this Diaspora - it is time for them to get together and pick up the plate and help out."

Recovery from the earthquake will be a long slow road. Helping coordinate the response of Haitians in Florida, the closest U.S. state to Haiti, is Laurent Prosper, the Chief of Mission at Haiti's consulate in Orlando. "This is a time that we need all the help from the friends of Haiti to come together - the communities to come together and assist us, because this is going to take a very long time."

Communications between Florida and Haiti have been nearly impossible since the earthquake struck. Carol Grosshans is the principal of the First Academy, a Christian school in Orlando. Her 15-year-old daughter is trapped in Haiti with a small group of missionaries from the school. "We've not heard directly from her, so as a mom, your heart kind of goes, 'I'd like to hear her voice.' But we've heard from others there that she is safe."

For the time being, staff at aid agencies such as Harvest Time International continue to take calls from Americans offering cash and supplies for Haiti.