MIDTOWN’S SEAN Shelton was in Haiti performing what are now routine security duties. He was posted at a camp he refers to as “tent city” as the United Nations World Food Programme distributed meals.
The order in which people are asked to line up is as follows: kids, teenagers, women and men. On this particular day, Shelton says he noticed a small child, about four or five years old, who was standing in line.
“He was kind of getting pushed around by the bigger kids who were trying to push their way towards the front,” he says.
So six-foot-eight Shelton scooped the little boy up out of the crowd and moved him straight to the front of the line.
The Toronto native has been in Haiti since Jan. 14, serving as a rifleman with the Disaster Assistance Response Team, (known as DART).
He is responsible for maintaining order and security as plans to aid Haitians are implemented.
Shelton says it’s rewarding to be able to be on the ground in Haiti and help with the relief effort.
“You can walk down some streets and it looks like a completely normal city,” he says.
“And then would you go down other streets and every single house on that street would be completely demolished.”
Initially, he was stationed at a hospital in Port-au-Prince but has since moved to Jacmel where DART’s medical clinic is located.
One of his most gratifying experiences to date was a 12-hour trip he made into the mountains from Jacmel to Belle Anse to deliver food, he says. His team strapped 16 tonnes of rice onto a flatbed truck and made the perilous journey up into the clouds and over to the other side of the mountain.
“If you go a metre or two off the road, it’s a straight drop off the mountain,” says Shelton. But it’s the only way to get to Belle Anse from Jacmel.
On another occasion, he surveyed villages in the mountains via helicopter, checking up on their food and water, as well as their medical, supplies.
Apart from special assignments, Shelton rotates between different locations, always providing some form of security whether it’s at a camp or hospital or elsewhere. He often helps to facilitate the safe and equitable distribution of food to the thousands of hungry people.
“The hardest part is seeing the kids that don’t have any home, don’t have food, don’t have water. They’re living under tarps in the mud,” he says.
The mission is imporant to Shelton because there are so many hungry and sick people who require the assistance right now, says the 24-year-old.
“The initial chaos of the earthquake is starting to die down now,” he says — and it hasn’t all been bad news either.
In his second week in Haiti, Shelton says he was at a makeshift hospital when a newborn baby that had been rescued from the rubble was brought in. Miraculously, after being trapped for 14 days, the infant was found alive and was reunited with its mother.
The mission has marked a change of pace for Shelton. Prior to this assignment, he spent seven months in Afghanistan with the Canadian Forces.
There, Shelton says, the military had to take a more aggressive approach.
“In Haiti, we’re talking with the locals every day and working side by side with them,” he says.
When Shelton is relieved from duty in Haiti, he plans to leave the military. Now that he has accomplished his goal of serving his country overseas in Afghanistan, he has set his sights on becoming a firefighter.
“I’d like to move back to Toronto and serve my home community,” says Shelton.