Our hometown hero in Haiti

Here’s an update on Vanessa “Mama V” Carpenter, the Roanoke County missionary who has “a whole country to mother” in Haiti: She flew to Port-au-Prince on Jan. 18 and has since then been helping the USNS Comfort coordinate surgeries. Judging from her frenetic blog postings, she’s on a souped-up version of her usual overdrive — too busy to document what she sees around her, but eager for people to know all the needs.

Rescue workers are sending the worst cases to the Comfort, a Naval ship Mama V has long been affiliated with. Its commanding officer told me last spring that she was “like some character out of a movie,” able to navigate the bureaucracy in Haiti while bridging the cultural gap between the Haitians and the Americans who man the boat.

But as Mama V posted on her blog last week: “Working in Haiti was hard before the devastation. Now it is next to impossible.”

“I know you are seeing bad things on the news and reports of looting. We are seeing none of this. Just adults and children in shock,” she added.

Mama V’s helpers in Roanoke are busy trying to find host families who are willing to temporarily foster a child when Angel Missions resumes flying them back to Roanoke for surgeries too complex to perform on the ship — missions she’s been coordinating for several years now, as documented in my Mother’s Day story last year. For more information on that, or to donate to Angel Missions, check out her blog.

There’s also a great tale about Vanessa’s efforts to work with American Airlines flight attendants who fly in and out of Haiti, resulting in another project to help the devastated country. This, from a woman who once talked a stranger sitting next to her on the airplane to Port-au-Prince to fund a clinic there.

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