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'Extreme situation' in Haiti spurs Scarborough man, local companies to continue relief efforts

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'Extreme situation' in Haiti spurs Scarborough man, local companies to continue relief efforts

SCARBOROUGH — Darcy Pierce is a veteran of large-scale disasters.

He traveled to Thailand after the tsunami in 2004 and Indonesia after the earthquake in 2009. But after a trip to Haiti last week, the ongoing devastation there surprised him.

"It's an extreme situation. I think we're going to see this come back in the news. After the earthquake it was images of the structures. This time, it will be the human tragedy," said Pierce, who is a senior partner with Envoy, a Maine-based firm that focuses on connecting the business world with the developing world.

After the Jan. 12 earthquake, non-governmental organizations flooded into Port au Prince, Haiti's largest city, to help provide food, shelter and immediate medical services. Now, Pierce said, many of the NGOs are trying to build more permanent structures and help rebuild hospitals and schools.

That is where MaineLine comes in.

MaineLine is a coalition of 36 Maine businesses that have pooled their resources to provide funds to specific NGOs working in relief aid to disaster-stricken areas of the world. The organization's first project is Haiti, and its board of directors hired Pierce's company to be the bridge between those working in Haiti and the donors back in Maine.

"Often, corporations and NGOs don't speak the same language. I almost feel like a translator between the two," Pierce said.

Pierce was not always a business-to-NGO translator. For years he worked as an American Airlines pilot, until a heart condition forced him to retire. He began volunteering with non-profits, sat on several different boards, and then became a first responder after earthquakes and tsunamis ravaged areas of the developing world.

"I've done stuff from the bottom to the top. It's been a great mix," he said.

However, with that experience comes the knowledge that what he saw in Haiti last week is a situation becoming more dire every moment. Already in the midst of the rainy season, the region will enter the hurricane season on May 1. With cities of flimsy tents, little sanitation and a severe lack of medical facilities to treat the sick and injured, Pierce knows the efforts must be simultaneously long-term and immediate.

"I've been working with these same NGOs for more than a decade, and they're all saying this is the most complex situation they've ever come across," he said.

He said the NGOs tend to work in clusters to pool their resources, and that MaineLine will likely connect with a shelter cluster to focus on building long-term structures for the area. Pierce's job will be to travel back and forth between Maine and Haiti, taking videos and photos of the work being done to show the donors in Maine that their money is being used wisely. He'll create progress reports and help the NGOs focus their efforts on helping the Haitians rather than interacting with donors.

MaineLine will host a golf tournament in the fall at Nonesuch River Golf Course to raise money for what will likely be an effort already underway to rebuild. The organization, which includes Preti Flaherty, UNUM, he Portland Sea Dogs and Reed & Reed, remains open to other companies looking to join in the relief efforts.

"We're seeing progress down there," Pierce said. "There are things that are happening, but they're happening very slowly."

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net