North Adams Transcript
ADAMS -- While the world attempts to aid the nation of Haiti over a month after a massive earthquake left the country in shambles, one local man had decided to do what he can to assist the impoverished nation.
Rich Girard, a 63-year old building contractor from Adams has decided to join a group of Church of Scientology volunteers traveling to Haiti on Monday. Girard said he had been mulling the idea of traveling to Haiti since he first heard about the disaster.
"I decided to go after I realized that going was a good way to do something more that what I would normally be doing," he said. "It's also a more direct way of helping than sending money."
As a member of the Church of Scientology, Girard will be leaving for the church's Boston headquarters on Saturday and from there going to their staging area in Miami on Monday. From there, he said, he will receive inoculation shots before traveling to Haiti, possibly on one of the planes donated to the effort by Scientologist and actor John Travolta.
"The church has been sending down crews since the beginning," Girard said. "They have hundreds of people down there helping and I realized that this is the slow season where I don't have much work so I figured I should join them to see what I could do."
Girard said he hopes to use his experience as a building contractor to help with construction efforts in the country. He said he recently spoke to a church member that had just returned form a three-week trip to the county who said that solid buildings are in high demand because Haiti's rainy season is about to start and the tent cities they people have been staying in will not hold up.
"She said that as you leave the major city, all the buildings that are still standing are so rickety you can't even risk being in them." Girard said.
In addition to using his talents as a builder, Girard said the Church of Scientology has plans for the volunteers to assist the expert relief crews already on the ground.
"We'll go out with the doctors and aid workers and assist them hauling gear or supplies, handing out food or medicine," Girard said. "Plus, as a member of the church, I'm trained in helping with dealing with trauma and injury recovery."
Girard thanked several people and businesses in Adams for sponsoring him and his trip, including Ron Duda of Greylock Repair, Eugene Michalenko of Specialty Printing, Roy and Jim Hoellerich of Aryhill Farms and Dr. Peter May.
While he said he is both nervous and excited at the prospect of going to a disaster zone, Girard said he is prepared for the reality of living in a tent and working 16 to 18 hour days for at least the next four weeks.
"I'm a bit of both. I'm a little older than some of the other volunteers going down so I'm nervous to see if I can keep up."
Girard is also bringing with him a half dozen soccer balls as a personal gift to the Haitians he meets as a way of helping to relieve the stress, strain and grief of the disaster.
"Playing a game isn't going to be the cure to all the problems," Girard said. "But when you're playing a little soccer, maybe it'll help take your mind off of it for at least a little while."