Shortly after the devastating earthquake near Port-Au-Prince that claimed the lives of nearly 250,000 victims, photography instructor Michael Andrew felt an overwhelming sense of need to go to Haiti to help.
Without any specific plan and without any on the ground contacts, Michael flew to Orlando Florida and partnered up with one of his blog readers, Brian Owen. The two then traveled to the Dominican Republic where they found a UN sponsored bus taking aid workers to Port-Au-Prince, and teamed up with others including Matthieu Louis, a Haitian born American who was returning to determine the safety of his family.
One of the other passengers on the bus had connections to the Salvation Army, and the four found a secure place to stay under the wing of the Salvation Army’s small camp. It was there Michael became acquainted with many members of the Salvation Army's international disaster aid response team, including his mentor Damarius an SA coordinator and long time team-mate Craig Arnold, a logistics specialist employed by UPS.
Matthieu and Michael found a need in identifying and assessing orphanages in the Port-Au-Prince area and with the support of the Salvation Army team, made several deliveries to them. The entire deployment is documented in Michael’s first book, “3 Weeks in Haiti”, which has been included in suggested reading lists for Disaster Aid Preparation Classes.
Michael traveled to Sendai, Japan, this time teaming up with the Meysen English School where he served as a consultant to help distribute goods donated by Samaritains Purse, Meysen School and direct donations from those supporting the school. It was in Japan that Michael started experimenting with real time disaster aid information systems that would lead to the creation of the Red Lightning App.
You can watch a summary and overview of the teams experiences here:
Michael partnered up with the Salvation Army and his friends Damarius and Craig for a second time in Tacloban and helped deliver food those displaced after the Typhoon Yolanda. Red Lightning raised $27,000, all of which went to the purchase and delivery of food supplies, working with the Salvation Army and local LDS Churches. It was after this deployment that Michael and Craig officially trained for International Disaster Aid Services with the Salvation Army.
Craig and Michael deployed with the Salvation Army to Vanuatu, Flew from Port Villa to the island of Tanna and then hiked for many hours to reach 3 remote villages whose natural spring water supply pipeline had been destroyed by a recent cyclone. Many of the villagers were drinking brackish water (a mix of fresh and seawater). Working together with a water specialist from Samaritan’s Purse, the team secured and transported 5 Kilometers of flexible water tubing, and transported it with the help of the French Military. The fresh mountain water supply to the 1000 villagers was restored shortly thereafter. Michael was given a Chief’s Staff, a bow and arrow, and a promise of a plot of land if he ever decided to retire to Vanuatu.
Only two weeks after returning from Vanuatu, Michael deployed again with Demarius and the Salvation Army team to Nepal after a devastating earthquake. Friends notified the Salvation Army team of 8 villages high in the Himalayan Mountains whom were not getting aid support. Michael hiked with 2 Sherpas to assess the villages, and along the way arranged for the medical evacuation of 3 victims suffering from their injuries using his Sat phone. Partners with the local medical hospital and Samaritans Purse executed the evacuation.
The Salvation Army team provided many thousands of tarps and significant food supplies to the villages, much of which was delivered by helicopter to these areas over many months. Funds raised by Red Lightning went directly to purchasing solar chargers, which allowed for the coordination with locals who had lost electricity, but still had cell service. Additional funds were also used, again in partnership with the Salvation Army, to move a crippled man to a local hospital to receive the medical attention he needed.
Craig and Michael Deployed to St Thomas with the Salvation Army helping to assist with hot meal support to the community, as well as distributions to St. John, St. Croix and St. Thomas.
With Craig offering logistical and preparation support through UPS from the mainland, Michael served as the Operations Chief for the Salvation Army EDS team on Puerto Rico, planning and executing FEMA supported distributions after Hurricane Maria. Michael was responsible for the organization, safety, navigation, and on-location training for over 125 volunteers in Puerto Rico, in addition to coordinating with over a dozen other aid groups.
The Big Island, Hawaii - Michael served as a volunteer for 2 weeks with the Salvation Army supporting a feeding kitchen for 300 displaced residents.