MAGTF-8, Food For the Poor partnership changes lives

8 Jun 2004 | Cpl. Mike Escobar

Marine Col. Mark Gurganus, Marine Air-Ground Task Force-8’s commander, presented the director of Food For the Poor’s Haiti office a certificate of appreciation June 8.
Gurganus presented Madame Raymonde Pun with a letter thanking her agency for assisting the Marines in improving the lives of those in need.
“Although our organizations differ greatly, each offering unique capabilities, we share many of the same goals,” Gurganus stated.  “And that is improving the (living) conditions of the people of Haiti.”
Together, Food For the Poor and MAGTF-8 have helped improve Cite Soleil, one of Port-au-Prince’s poorest districts, Gurganus continued. 
Where once was a stagnant, manmade river of black filth, unable to flow out to sea because sun-baked heaps of refuse impeded its movement, now tractors, dump trucks and Haitian laborers toil to clear the stoppages and rake up the muck. 
Gurganus said MAGTF-8 provided Food For the Poor with shovels and wheelbarrows to distribute to the community, and the agency hired a “shovel brigade” of approximately 100 locals to reopen the drainage canal in Cite Soleil.
In addition to clean-up projects, Pun said her organization feeds approximately 700 families, Monday through Saturday, in Cite Soleil.  The Marines’ intensive patrolling helped establish security in the region so Food For the Poor could continue serving the community, she added.
Also, Combat Service Support Detachment-20 installed additional stoves for the Food for the Poor kitchen in Cite Soleil.
“It’s definitely been easier to work in Cite Soleil thanks to the military,” Pun continued.  “It’s been an honor for me to work with them.”
Pun also said the military helped her organization distribute food and medical supplies to the community.  MAGTF-8 transported two truckloads of medical supplies to a hospital in the district of Carrefour. 
“The military has assisted Food for the Poor, but it’s definitely a partnership,” said Sgt. 1st Class William I. Butler, Combined Joint Task Force-Haiti Civil Affairs team sergeant.  “Ms. Pun would tell our guys what areas needed help, so we could get help to where it was needed.”
“Food for the Poor has been instrumental in distributing much needed resources to the destitute people of Haiti,” Gurganus added agreeing. 
Pun’s guidance allowed him to direct his unit’s resources to have the maximum beneficial impact on Cite Soleil, he continued.
“Overall, it’s just been a great experience working with Ms. Pun,” Butler said.  “If we needed something, she’d be happy to help us.  If she needed something, we’d do it for her.”
“Our goal to improve the quality of life (of the Haitian people) is a simple, but large undertaking,” Gurganus stated.  “It would not be possible without the support of Madame Pun and Food for the Poor.”