Brendan Gormley, Chief Executive of the UK Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC), visited Swindon on 28 April to thank the organisers of an evening organised at short notice which brought in £5,000 to help the people of Haiti hit by the major earthquake in January.
In less than four weeks Hanif Robani and Pavinda Sandhu of West Swindon’s Bombay Lounge restaurant and Andrew Spink and his staff at the De Vere Hotel pulled together an event of good food, music, entertainment and an auction at the end of February.
Pictured right, Brendon Gormley receiving the cheque from Pavinda Sandhu, Hanif Robani and Andrew Spink
Andrew said he was more than happy to provide the venue big enough for 200 people after Hanif and Pavinda approached him. "They provided the main course and we offered the room, the serving staff and the dessert. We worked well together and it was great to see new faces from both venues, as well as people who enjoy both the Bombay Lounge and the De Vere."
Hanif added, "it was great how two local businesses came together for a very important cause. We’d all like to thank those who attended and were so generous, and all the business who helped with the auction prizes."
Mr Gormley said the spontaneous response of people across Britain in contributing to the DEC appeal and organising events such as the De Vere had resulted in just short of £100 million being raised for the earthquake appeal. "One hundred million really is a spectacular total and combined with the funding from the British government, the UK has been one of the world’s most generous contributor to the Haiti disaster relief. Given that this fundraising took place in the post-Christmas period during a recession, it is an remarkable amount."
He said the thirteen major charities who make up the DEC will be putting the money raised to good use, although the Haitian government has a huge task on its hands to provide housing for the million people made homeless, mainly around the capital Port-au-Prince. "At least people have clean water and plastic sheeting, but with the rainy season upon them which will be followed by the cyclone season, it is going to be very tough.
"The problem they have is the amount of rubble in the capital with people living under plastic in between the derelict buildings. It’s a major task of clearing it all before rebuilding can start. The other difficulty is that very large numbers of people who were squatting and have no land rights. It will be important to ensure the poorest will be rehoused safely."
Swindon born journalist Alex Ogle spent 10 days in Haiti for French news agency AFP after the earthquake struck. Click to read his reports and see his photographs.