EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

January 21, 2010

Haverhill man helps ship medical supplies to Haiti

Haverhill man helps ship medical supplies to Haiti

HAVERHILL — When disasters strike in Latin America, Orlando Vargas can call upon a network of resources to get help for the stricken.

Vargas, 46, founded the Dominican Organization of International Resources in Haverhill in 2003 to send medical equipment and supplies to needy communities in the Dominican Republic.

He also is employed as the project coordinator of Por Cristo, a member of the Caritas Christi Health Care System. The charitable medical service organization has been involved in health care work in Latin America, with its primary focus on Ecuador, since 1979.

"I feel we don't need a disaster to be ready, we have to be prepared at all times," he said.

So when the 7.0-magnitude earthquake shook Haiti last week, he immediately called the International Medical Equipment Collaborative, a nonprofit organization with which he has worked for nine years.

The collaborative, based in North Andover, is helping Vargas fill four, 40-foot ship containers. The first two will carry medical equipment, beds and supplies for hospitals in the Dominican towns of Jimani and Barahona, near the Haitian border. The other two containers will have emergency medical supplies and equipment for hospitals in Belladere and Port-au-Prince in Haiti.

"We feel blessed to be here and work with organizations like his," said Thomas Keefe, a former hospital administrator for 20 years before starting IMEC in 1995.

"He's a very kind, tireless man whose actions are quiet, but he gets the job done," Keefe said of Vargas.

Helping the needy seems to have come naturally for Vargas.

Raised in Bonao in the Dominican Republic, he was 17 when he started a program to help drug addicts. He also was active in his church's youth group.

Vargas came to the United States in 1986, settling in Haverhill.

"When I came here, I wanted to continue the work I was doing," he said.

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