Zev Beitchman, a Miami Beach psychologist, was moved by the picture of a young Haitian boy covered with flies awaiting care in a hospital that appeared on the front page of The Herald in February.
He felt compelled to help.
So he called a few of his friends and created Haitimitzvah — a medical supplies, clothes and food drive at his synagogue, Temple Beth Sholom.
After almost two months of collecting supplies, Beitchman decided it was time to ship the items, so he approached an old Haitian friend, Elou Fleurine.
Fleurine has been running Masalag, a nonprofit group he started in 1999 to help the people of La Gonave, Haiti, an island about 13 miles from the mainland with a population of about 100,000. The two groups are now sending biweekly shipments to the island and hoping to collect more in an effort to ease the harsh conditions there.
”The suffering, pain and great need that I saw struck me, and I felt we should help,” said Beitchman, who accompanied Fleurine on a trip to Haiti last month. “It’s also part of our religion to repair the world and [Haiti] is a place that needs ongoing repair.”
Beitchman, 50, said they decided to name the project Haitimitzvah because mitzvah means good deeds in Hebrew.
So far, the two groups have sent about 15 boxes filled with supplies and are collecting more for a shipment they hope to send in July, in part to honor Beitchman’s mother, Kala Beitchman, who used to knit blankets for islanders. Kala Beitchman died Monday morning of heart failure. She was 92.
The groups aim to send about three shipments a month, Fleurine said.
”The average yearly income in La Gonave is equal to about 30 U.S. dollars, yet a sack of rice goes for about $45,” he said. “Hospitals don’t have beds, and homeless people are waiting to die. We need as much help as we can get.”