Busan school's donations to Haiti have taken the long route
After almost a year of frustration, a school in Busan is finally sending donations to victims of the earthquake in Haiti last August.
The items donated by students at the Samsung Girl's High School, along with churches, businesses and other people in Busan, are worth 120 million won ($91,790) and include new clothing and shoes.)
The donations were collected after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti last Aug. 14, killing 2,248 people and displacing tens of thousands.
But the Covid-19 pandemic caused logistics costs to spike, and Samsung Girl's High School couldn't afford to send its donations.
Posco Flow, a logistics subsidiary of Posco, recently, agreed to pay the transport costs of more than 100 million won.
Students at the Samsung Girl's High School, Samsung Middle School and a local church worked to gather donations and ended up with 50,000 items of clothing, 30,000 pairs of shoes, several bicycles and three pianos. The items have been stored in four TEU, or twenty-foot equivalent unit, shipping containers on Samsung Girl's High School's football field.
After hearing about the earthquake last year, students at Samsung Girl's High School appealed for donations.
Won Seung-jae, the 75-year-old pastor of a church in Busan, lent a hand.
Pastor Won has experience in Haiiti. He visited the country over 30 times after a 2010 earthquake and established a technical school in the capital of Port-au-Prince. Last year, Won got permission from the Busan city government to collect up to 300 million won of relief items for Haiti, in accordance with the law.
"We expected it would cost some 20 million won for transport costs to Haiti," Won said, "but that soared to 100 million won due to the Covid-19 pandemic."
Lee Seo-young, a senior at Samsung Girls' High School, wrote a letter to President Yoon Suk-yeol in June asking for help to get the donations to Haiti.
The Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded that according to the Act on Collection and Use of Donations, it would not be possible for the government to accept the donations and deliver them to Haiti.
Time was running out because the Busan city permit allowing the collection of relief goods would expire on Oct. 7. After that, the donations would have to be returned to their donors.
Executives at Posco Flow, a company launched in April to integrate the logistics branches of the Posco Group, read the a JoongAng Ilbo article on July 12 on the school's plight and proposed a solution.
It turns out there were a family of problems.
"The port functions at Port-au-Prince damaged in the aftermath of last year's earthquake, has not been restored," said Kim Ki-hyung, a team manager at Posco Flow.
The company found a way to transport the containers by a feeder ship, or medium-sized freight vessels used for transportation of containers between large and small ports, from a nearby port in Panama.
"If the ship departs from Busan in the middle of this month," Kim added, "it is expected that it will take about 35 days to reach Haiti. Although it has been nearly a year, we confirmed that all of the relief items are new and are in good storage condition."
"Every time I saw the relief items on the field, I was worried," recalled Yim Yoo-ha, another senior at Samsung Girls' High School who participated in the donation campaign. "I am eager to say goodbye when the containers finally leave our football field."
Some students wrote letters to thank Posco Flow.
Posco Flow CEO Kim Kwang-soo said, "I am very happy that Posco Flow can play a role in delivering the relief items at this time."
BY SARAH KIM, KIM MIN-JU [email@example.com]