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Wed, Jan 27, 2010

Operation Phenomenon Takes Off From Tampa

John Travolta Pilots Late Night Flight To Take Doctors, Medical Supplies To Haiti

In continuing efforts to send aid to Haiti, a late night flight piloted by Hollywood celebrity John Travolta took off from Tampa carrying 50 doctors and over 7,000 pounds of medical supplies, the Embassy of Haiti and the Greater Washington Haiti Relief Committee announced Tuesday. On the return trip, Travolta brought Haitian-Americans home to the United States to reunite them with their families.

John Travolta File Photo

"I would like to thank Mr. John Travolta for the compassion he and his wife are showing to the people of Haiti at this time of great need," said Haitian Ambassador to the U.S. Raymond Joseph. "The donation of his time and skills to pilot the relief supply plane to Haiti was greatly needed, and it is a true example of an individual's willingness to reconnect families which is very honorable and humbling."

Travolta, a well-known pilot, offered the services of his own plane and provided the fuel to fly a supply plane down to Haiti to aid relief efforts following the 7.0 earthquake that struck the island on January 12, 2010. The plane carried 7,000 pounds of medical supplies, all of which were purchased with funds provided by Travolta as a donation to the relief efforts. The plane also carried much needed food and water including 4,500 meals-ready-to-eat. Also onboard were 50 doctors, including surgeons, plastic surgeons, trauma specialists, and cardiologists.

Felix Roger Romane was on the return flight back to Miami. Romane, an 88-year-old with advanced glaucoma and intestinal cancer, was born in Haiti in 1921 but immigrated to the United States more than three decades ago in search of better opportunities for his children. Romane later returned to live in his native land of Haiti to retire.

On January 12 the earthquake created deep cracks in his Port-au-Prince home, and fearing it would collapse, Romane spent the days following the earthquake in the yard outside his home in Port-au-Prince with the rest of his family. Romane's eldest son, a U.S. Army veteran, walked the streets in search of much needed food, water, and medicine. Food was scarce and the threat of hunger was ever-present, but Romane kept his family together until he could secure passage back to the United States. Romane was joined on the return flight by his wife, sons, daughter, granddaughter, and in-laws. When they landed in Miami, his family was there to welcome them.

Devastated homes in a Port-au-Prince neighborhood,
photo by MAF mechanic Todd Edgerton

The Church of Scientology organized the flight with the assistance of the Embassy of Haiti and the Greater Washington Haiti Relief Committee (GWHRC). Volunteers from the Church of Scientology have been assisting the Embassy and GWHRC every day since the earthquake providing logistical support, grief counseling, and general volunteer services such as answering the phones.

The Greater Washington Haiti Relief Committee is continuing to organize events and volunteers to assist the massive relief effort currently underway in Haiti, including coordinating with the Embassy of Haiti to ship already donated supplies to the island. GWHRC, with the assistance of the Embassy of Haiti, is expecting to send more medical professionals to Haiti as soon as planes are available.

The Greater Washington Haiti Relief Committee is a coalition of local and international organizations developed with the support of the Haitian Embassy in Washington D.C. to streamline efforts during disaster relief. GWHRC was first convened in 2008 to respond to the series of Hurricanes that hit Haiti that year.

FMI: www.gwhrc.org

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