Gay couple runs emergency supplies to Haiti
by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Staff Writer
Luke Montgomery and Nate Gudias are a Gay couple who have been running emergency medicine, food and tents into Haiti by boat, and are now taking their mission online at CauseCommandos.com to rally support from the Gay community. The site allows supporters to watch video of the duo in action and contribute directly to buy emergency supplies.
When disaster struck the impoverished island nation of Haiti, it also struck close to the hearts of Luke and Nate. Luke had lived in Haiti for nearly two years, where he founded an AIDS orphanage in the coastal town of Jacmel. Luke told SGN that 48 hours passed after the earthquake without any word of survivors from the orphanage. That's when the couple sprang into action. The two men raised over $10,000 from family and friends in the Gay community and boarded a plane bound for the Dominican Republic, which borders Haiti.
"Haiti was a place that had urgent needs long before the earthquake put it on TV 24/7," Luke told SGN in an interview from the Dominican Republic. "When a country as poor as Haiti is hit by a disaster, no amount of aid is really enough. Having lived there for the better part of two years, I've seen a lot."
Luke said that even before the earthquake, he witnessed piles of dead children who died of starvation, and people with AIDS with no medical treatment or hope, living on the streets.
"But in Haiti, you also have some great examples of people helping each other in real ways that make a big difference," he continued. "The people of Haiti need help now and that's what were trying to do with CauseCommandos.com."
Eventually, Luke says, news reached them that children from the AIDS orphanage were unhurt, but a Jacmel hospital had collapsed on its patients. According to Luke, that is when the couple was "turned into cause commandos with a mission to get medicine and medical supplies to survivors."
"We are on a mission to help as many people as we can with medicine, food and tents for shelter. We're buying the supplies across the border in the Dominican Republic and running them, by boat, into the parts of Haiti that aid has been slow to get to," Luke told SGN. "So we are stepping up to the plate and hoping that the Gay community will join us."
"We are not disaster aid professionals, but felt we had to take action," said Nate. "After landing in the Dominican Republic, we went to local medical supply stores and pharmacies and loaded up on antibiotics, prescription painkillers and other essentials, from bandages to baby formula, IV fluids to injection syringes. We crammed every inch of our rented SUV full with supplies. We then drove all through the night to the Haitian border."
At the border, the two men hooked up with the Dominican Navy. "We loaded all of our supplies onto a relief ship and set sail for Haiti," Nate continued, "and have been running back and forth ever since."
Luke told SGN that working with the Dominican Navy "has been awesome." He says the sailors have been super helpful and essential to getting aid into Haiti. "The crews of the ships we have been on really look out for us and the other aid workers," said Luke. "They live and work on these ships, so it's like they've invited us into their home."
Armed with a digital camera, two laptops and the hope that if they could get their message out on the internet others would join their effort, the pair created the website, complete with videos made while at sea, on the decks of relief ships, and in the disaster zone itself.
"There are still families and handicapped people sleeping on the streets who need tents," said Luke. "There are still thousands of hungry children who have no food. There are still injured people with no medicine."
Luke says that the work he and Nate are doing could greatly be increased if the Gay community spreads the word about CauseCommandos.com and donates, if they can.
"Our costs are covered," he said, "so 100% goes to supplies for survivors."
The events that have unfolded over the past few weeks have changed the two men's lives forever, Luke said. "The earthquake has changed me in that it really reminded me of why I came to this desperate country to start an AIDS orphanage. My boyfriend and I started CauseCommandos.com because we were moved to lend a hand when people needed it most. We know that others out there care and support our work. So, now we've come up with a way for them to directly do something to change people's lives for the better. It's a partnership between us, our donors, and our supporters."
Working to better the lives of those in need has brought Luke and Nate closer together as a couple. "Being in tense situations where seconds count and being surrounded by devastation can be very stressful," explained Luke. "We've had our share of little fights, for sure. But the best part of those tense times is when we kiss and make up. We know that what we are doing is important."
The couple hopes to not only inspire support for their cause, but also show that ordinary people can make a difference - even in the face of extraordinary disaster.
"We are not some big aid organization," Nate told SGN. "We're just two Gay dudes on a mission, and love that we have the chance to help others at the same time."
"We are going to be leading 'mission' trips to Haiti, taking groups of LGBT people to Haiti to build homes for people with AIDS," said Luke. "We are not missionaries. We are going to make it so anybody can be a cause commando, roll up their sleeves, and change some lives for the better."
For more information about the mission or to view videos, photos, and updates, visit Luke and Nate online at www.CauseCommandos.com. If you are interested in joining the cause, e-mail the couple at email@example.com.
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