A Chain of Charity

It was one of the highlights of the Oscar Bash for the Pittsburgh Film Office two weeks ago. Getting to meet two of the most remarkable young women in our area, who have grabbed both headlines and hearts since the devastating earthquake in Haiti.  Jamie and Ali McMutrie. The photo, from left to right, is Jamie’s husband, Doug Heckman, Jamie, me, Jamie’s younger sister, Ali, UPMC’s Leslie McCombs, and brilliant blogger, Virginia Montanez, a wonderful supporter of Jamie and Ali.  Their work in Haiti to rebuild the orphanage continues, but it is hampered by the dramatic drop-off in charitable interest. There seemed to be a  a spasm of compassion the week after the quake, and now donations to the region have dropped off–some say by as much as 75 percent. But the sisters, and their supporters, like Leslie,  continue to work tirelessly to find homes for orphans not yet placed, and continue orphanage work in Haiti. At the same time, there are other charitable organizations in Haiti that  have Pittsburgh connections, and are striving to cope with the long-term disaster effects on one of the poorest countries on the planet.  This is a photo from Hospital Albert Schweitzer,  founded, managed and supported by people from our area. It is 40 miles from Port-au-Prince and has become a major health care facility

in the quake’s aftermath. Just last week, they announced they have opened a long-term prosthetic and rehabilitation center in partnership with the Haitian Amputee Center. A friend of mine, Bridget Miller, is one of the many from this region who can’t imagine how hellish life there must be now. Back in 2003, she moved there to work for the hospital, leaving behind a pretty comfortable life for several years. Many of us think about going, we send our money, but it is the McMutries’ and people like Bridget, who sacrifice so much more. They contribute a part of their lives. And while I am talking about hospitals and heroes, the man in this picture is a hero to so many parents whose children suffer from cystic fibrosis, and other lung diseases.  Geoff Kurland is a pediatric pulmonologist, who has his own courageous story. His book,  My Own Medicine, chronicles his victory over cancer, over two decades ago. Geoff was diagnosed with a rare leukemia, that has a low survival rate. He fought it and won, and has been in remission for 21 years. The gorgeous woman next to him is his wife, a Teaching Professor at CMU in architecture and public policy. This was a celebration by the many fellows he has guided at Children’s Hospital through the years.

Another person whose life is a mission of charity, that has made Pittsburgh a better place.

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