Elia Gourgouris, who hopes to leave for Haiti on Feb. 8, poses with his wife Sona, and sons, Dimitri (front) and Nicholas at a family celebration in March 2009.
Superior Town Trustee Elia Gourgouris plans to give hands-on help in Haiti after its devastating earthquake on Jan. 12.
Gourgouris explained over the phone last week how he came to that decision. He said he felt “a prompting” to go to Haiti and donate with his expertise and training and whatever gifts God has given him “to do something really hands on.”
Gourgouris is definitely prepared in that way. He holds a doctorate in psychology and practiced privately before becoming a life coach, speaker and writer. He was certified by the American Red Cross for disaster relief in1994, and helped after an earthquake hit California that year. He helped after the Columbine shooting in 1999, and in 2007-2008, he met and trained first responders with Terry Lyles at the U.S. Space Command and several Air Force bases.
Though Gourgouris felt prompted to go, he had concerns, security there being one of them. “Sona, the kids and I prayed,” he said before he added, “That’s what God would want me to do, to go and serve the least of his own. It’s a very emotional decision actually.”
After Gourgouris made his decision to go to Haiti, he e-mailed Lyles, who had become his good friend, asking whether Lyles was going. Lyles, a pre-eminent expert in disaster relief who also holds a doctorate in psychology, worked in New York City at ground zero after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and with victims of the tsunami in Thailand and Katrina in the U.S. Lyles’ answer was he was going and could use Gourgouris’ help.
They planned for Gourgouris to fly to Miami today and join with Lyles there for a flight by military transport plane the next day into Port-au-Prince. They would distribute protein drinks that provide 50 percent of the daily protein requirements, and help particularly children and fatigued Red Cross workers.
However, their plans have been postponed. The Haitian government closed the airport to commercial flights. Despite that, they are undaunted. Gourgouris explained in a Jan. 29 e-mail they may fly into the Dominican Republic and drive into Haiti. Also, they received an additional 200 cases donated or 2,024 more drinks and lined up three orphanages to receive them.
“The delay, although frustrating is turning out to be a blessing in disguise,” Gourgouris said. He added, “I’m more excited than before because now I know people who are waiting for us to come…and I’ll get to be with kids the majority of the time, which was my biggest wish. They are the most vulnerable…”
I hope and pray Gourgouris can leave on Feb. 8, which is the new plan.