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From Canyon To Cove: Global ambassadors of hope

Locals are reaching out to some of the most needy regions around the globe, including Nepal, Afghanistan and Haiti.

To find out about Rosalind Russell, the “goat lady,” and her multiple missions to Nepal, and Sadiq Tawfiq’s efforts to build a modern hospital in war-torn Afghanistan, look no further than these pages.

A new and possibly more urgent effort to help Haiti took place after the Jan. 12 earthquake that flattened much of Haiti’s capital, disabled the government and claimed thousands of lives.

It all began with a call to Laguna gallerist and photographer Charles Michael Murray from one of his six brothers, Mark. Murray’s nephew, Cameron, who lives with his family on a 56-foot sailboat, the Tranquility, in the Caribbean, wanted to do something to help Haiti. But what? The idea was to bring food and life-saving equipment such as generators to the country, along with food and clothing.

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Murray is good friends with Joanne Tawfilis, whose Art Miles Mural Project teaches kids about global environmental awareness. Tawfilis also organizes “Shoes of Hope,” where people get together to paint colorful shoes to distribute in various distressed regions around the globe, with messages of love and encouragement.

The extended family and friends came up with “Sail Aid to Haiti,” a joint effort that drew on the expertise of mariners and philanthropists from Key West, Fla., and Miami, to Hawaii, New York, San Diego and Laguna.

The thought was to bring a fleet of boats to Haiti, Murray said, with the Tranquility as the main cargo boat.

They needed to bring the cargo in quickly, before the hurricane season set in.

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The group decided to bring four tons of cargo to the “forgotten” island of Gonave, just off of the mainland city of Port Au Prince, where the quake struck hardest. While the island was relatively unscathed, it was rapidly becoming a refugee camp for people fleeing the chaos of the devastated mainland. With a limited economy even in good times, the island was unprepared to take on thousands of quake refugees and supplies were desperately needed.

The cargo included everything from medical supplies to canned beans, powdered milk and baby formula; generators and children’s clothing; and some 1,900 pairs of hand-painted “Shoes of Hope.”

So far, so good.

As the aid effort was under way, however, the group began to fear for the safety of the sailors. Cameron and his wife, with their two young children, were on board, with three helpers.

All are able sailors, but the worry was that pirates, which are common in that part of the Atlantic, could target the ship and its valuable cargo.

Another problem was how and where to land in the chaotic post-quake environment.

“It was an adventure getting down to Haiti,” Murray said. “They were pulled over by the Coast Guard going around Cuba. Then there are pirates on the ocean, and the Haitians will raid ships that dock there. Cam was very concerned about his family.”

To avoid the dangers of landing at Port Au Prince, Gonave was chosen as an alternative, which proved to be an excellent choice. The rescuers were greeted by local officials who assured them that the supplies would be going into good hands.

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The 1,900 pairs of shoes were handed out to grateful children.

The sailors were greeted as heroes and ambassadors, and given tours of the island’s three schools, which are in need of everything from desks to books.

“It was a lifetime experience for all of them,” Murray said.

While he wasn’t on board, Murray’s Endangered Planet Foundation flag was among those flying on the mast of the Tranquility.

The adventure wasn’t over for the big sailboat, which had to pull in at Key West when the automatic navigation system broke down.

Now the Murrays and their supporters are trying to raise $5,000 to $6,000 to cover the costs of the emergency aid run. A second run is being planned after hurricane season, in the fall.

To donate, call Murray at (949) 497-5690.


CINDY FRAZIER is city editor of the Coastline Pilot. She can be contacted at (949) 380-4321 or cindy.frazier@latimes.com.

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