State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, joined nonprofit officials and members of the local Haitian community at an event today in San Francisco’s Mission District to call on Bay Area residents to provide assistance to victims of Tuesday’s earthquake in Haiti.

Members of the American Red Cross, Haiti Emergency Relief Fund, Partners in Health, California Nurses Association, other aid organizations and several members of the Bay Area’s Haitian community were in attendance at the event.

A 7.0-magnitude earthquake rocked Haiti Tuesday night, collapsing numerous buildings and leaving hundreds of thousands of people dead, hurt or missing in the capital of Port-au-Prince and elsewhere in the country.

“When you get to understand how large this situation is, and how desperate of a position Haiti is in, you begin to understand, all of us, regardless of whether or not we have any connection whatsoever with Haiti, we all have to do something as human beings,” Yee said.

Ifonia Gelin, a Haitian community member, said her younger brother died in the earthquake.

“It’s hard, and I’m hanging in,” Gelin said. “But the most important thing right now is that people are dying, and we need help.”

Fredy Dorsainvil, another community member, said “we have been sitting on the edge of tears as we watch the world that we once knew in Port-au-Prince disappear.”

The community members urged people not to forget the plight of Haitians a week or a month from now after the disaster begins to fade from the public spotlight.

“Haiti’s going to need us to support them for a long time to come,” Gelin said.

Pierre Labossiere, an organizer of the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund, said there had been a tremendous outpouring of support from people in the Bay Area, but hoped people will contribute more to local aid organizations.

Many of those organizations were represented at today’s event, located at the headquarters of Dolores Street Community Services in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Gregory Smith of American Red Cross said his organization is working with many international partners and is “providing as much aid as we quickly possibly can.”

Smith said the American Red Cross has collected nearly $35 million dollars for the relief effort, and has so far released $10 million of that money for the earthquake victims.

An issue hindering relief efforts is that airport at Port-au-Prince is backed up with search and rescue and relief missions arriving from all over the world.

Smith said the organization is analyzing how to best get people and supplies to the island.

Zenei Cortez with the Oakland-based California Nurses Association said more than 7,000 nurses have volunteered to travel to Haiti to assist in relief efforts, but the bottleneck at the airport, as well as possible security issues on the island, could delay the organization’s response.

Cortez said the first group of nurses could leave from the Bay Area as soon as Sunday. They would fly to Miami and await clearance to fly into Haiti, she said.

Many speakers at the event emphasized that Haiti was already struggling prior to the earthquake.

Haiti’s gross domestic product was $7 billion in 2009, compared to nearly $300 billion for San Francisco alone in the same year, according to Yee’s office.

“Haiti’s going to need us to support them for a long time to come,” Gelin said.

Yee donated $1,000 to the relief effort, and encouraged Bay Area citizens to do the same.

“I urge everyone in the Bay Area to give what they can, even if that is $5 to help save lives.”

To donate to the American Red Cross, visit www.redcrossbayarea.org. Information on the California Nurses Association is available at www.calnurses.org.

To donate to the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund, visit www.haitiaction.net. To donate to Partners in Health, visit www.pih.org.

To donate to Direct Relief International, a Santa Barbara-based organization that gives medical supplies to disaster victims, visit www.directrelief.org.

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