On February 2, the Institution Recycling Network (IRN) shipped its first container of relief supplies to Haiti. The 15,000 pound load included 120 mattresses from Brown University, medical supplies from New England Baptist Hospital, and more than 2,500 liters of bottled water from Max’s Blues Café in Brockton, MA. The supplies were shipped from IRN’s Everett, MA warehouse through the Port of Newark, NJ, and will arrive in Haiti by February 12.
IRN helped these contributors navigate the complicated logistics of moving supplies through the relief pipeline. IRN has long standing relationships with several of the most active relief organizations in Haiti’s recovery, and is able to match contributed furnishings and supplies with agencies that can place them immediately where they are desperately needed. In this case, the shipment is being handled by longtime IRN partner Food for the Poor, which has been on the ground in Haiti for many years.
With port facilities damaged and dozens of organizations competing for limited transportation resources, making this match is the most crucial challenge in Haiti’s recovery effort.
There’s a pattern to recovery initiatives, according to Mark Berry, IRN’s Surplus Program Manager. “In the first weeks the recovery focuses on supplies for survival and stabilization: food, water, shelter, medicine, and medical supplies. Then gradually there will be a shift to supplies for reconstruction, including building materials, furnishings, school and medical equipment. IRN’s role is to help both contributors and our relief partners match the flow into Haiti with the immediate needs on the ground.”
IRN is able to match large and small quantities of surplus. The February 2 load was made up of materials from three different contributors. That’s typical for loads shipped from IRN’s Everett warehouse, where IRN collects small quantities of usable surplus from generators throughout New England. When it has enough to fill one or more containers, IRN reaches out to a network of nonprofit partners, who slot the materials into their relief needs.
Larger quantities of surplus, one or more full containers, are loaded directly from the contributor’s site. IRN arranges labor or works with the generator’s staff to assure that containers are packed full and tight to maximize value and minimize damage in transit. IRN matches the surplus with the most appropriate recipients, and handles the paperwork and connections to get the loads overseas.
“The Haiti earthquake puts a spotlight on the relief community,” says IRN’s Berry. “The fact is that the need for surplus relief supplies is permanent and overwhelming. Even now we can’t promise that every load will go to Haiti. What we can promise is that every load will go where it’s needed desperately by some of the world’s most disadvantaged people.”