Luke Montgomery admits there wasn't really a plan when he and Nate
Gudias headed down to Haiti. But less than two days after the January
12 earthquake devastated the island nation, the couple was on a plane.
"We didn't know exactly what we were going to do," says
Montgomery. "We just wanted to help out as best we could."
Montgomery, a longtime gay activist, had a personal connection to
the island. Four years ago, he helped to found an orphanage for
children with AIDS in Jacmel, a town of roughly 40,000 people on the
island's southern coast. When there was no word about whether it had
survived the quake, the Flagstaff, Arizona, resident decided to see for
Raising more than $10,000 from friends and family members,
Montgomery and Gudias booked a flight to Santo Domingo, capital of the
neighboring Dominican Republic. Once on the ground, they began buying
bandages, disinfectants, antibiotics and other medical supplies they
knew would be in short supply in Jacmel.
"We crammed every inch of our big rented SUV full of supplies,"
said Gudias. "Every bag we had was overflowing."
They drove all night to the Haitian border, where they planned to
hire a fishing boat to take them to Jacmel. But a local government
official convinced the crew of a naval ship to accept them and their
supplies. Since then, they have made six trips back and forth across
The couple found the orphanage had been damaged in the
earthquake, and two of the 13 children living there had been injured.
None were seriously hurt, however. But the surrounding neighborhood was
"Thousands of people were living on the street," Montgomery tells
Guide magazine. "The house where I lived when we were setting up the
orphanage was a pile of rubble. I couldn't believe it."
Although they had planned to focus on the orphanage, Montgomery
and Gudias realized the local hospital was in worse shape. Most of the
facility, including its AIDS ward, had been destroyed.
"We switched gears and put our resources into bringing in
supplies for the hospital," Montgomery says. "Whatever they needed, we
With the rainy season just weeks away, Montgomery and Gudias are
changing their focus yet again, this time to purchasing tents for
families still without roofs over their heads. They have arranged for
50 family-sized tents to be shipped from Pakistan to the Dominican
Republic. From there, they will shuttle them across the border as
quickly as possible.
The couple plans to head back home sometime in March. But they
intend to return to Haiti within the next few months with other gay
people who have expressed an interest in helping them with the relief
"We aren't missionaries; we're just queers on a mission," says
Montgomery. "Lots of people have told us that they want to get
involved. They want to roll up their sleeves and make a difference."
A marketing consultant, Montgomery knows how to get the word out
about his work. Armed with a digital camera and two laptop computers,
he and Gudias put together a website called Cause Commandos
(causecommandos.com) that documents their journey so far and solicits
donations for their ongoing work. They say their own costs have been
taken care of, so 100 percent of donations go to relief efforts.
Montgomery, remembered by many as the activist who shouted down
President Bill Clinton during a speech on World AIDS Day in 1993, says
this kind of work isn't as daunting as it might seem.
"If you had asked six weeks ago, it never would have occurred to
me that I would be doing something like this," he says. "But it isn't
hard. Just buy an airplane ticket and do it. It's amazing that just by
being there you can get things done."
|Author Profile: Mark Sullivan
Mark Sullivan is the managing editor
of Guide magazine. He can be contacted
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