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Huffman man leads global humanitarian

Volunteers from the international humanitarian organization Global Peace Initiative (GPI), based in Huffman, recently sent one wave of relief workers and supplies to tsunami victims and are preparing to send more.

Equipped with a refurbished Boeing 747-SP, GPI is recruiting volunteers and money to fly supplies and medical workers directly to the affected areas. The first of what GPI hopes will be many flights is already on the ground with Houstonians on board.

According to Paul B. Joseph, GPI’s National Coordinator, GPI is the only non-profit with its own Boeing 747. Joseph said that initially some relief organizations were sending supplies by paying airline companies that could get the supplies only so close. That is why GPI offered the use of their plane for free.

The Global Peace One 747-SP can get closer to the affected areas because it has the ability to land on shorter runways than larger cargo or passenger jets. “We have the tool, the Boeing 747, but it costs money to go from the United States to Southeast Asia. Dr. Paul is always saying, ‘We have the airplane. That’s a gift.That’s a blessing. But it does no good on the ground. We want it in the air,'” Joseph said. It costs $200,000 to purchase the 156,000 gallons need per round trip.

GPI is now working with aid organizations to fill the plane with supplies and trying to raise funds to cover the fuel costs. The group is fundraising in the local area of its home office as well as around the country. “We know that Houston has always come to the front of being compassionate in critical situations,” Joseph said.

GPI would like to see their plane being used for trips every few days with a minimum of 20 flights over ninety days. Flights originate out of Houston’s Hobby Airport loaded with 76,000 pounds of critical material.

The next flight will include inflatable boats and 90 specialized relief workers. The18 flotilla boat relief teams can bypass washed out roads and bridges and will help the most remote places that have not been receiving the materials and medical support they need. GPI Houston teams will establish relief camps for subsequent supply shipments of food and medicine.

For future flights, GPI is gathering cookware. Their team on the ground in northern Sri Lanka – the first relief team to reach some of the hospitals in the rebel-controlled area – are indicating that food and medicine is being dropped in sufficient quantities. However, all of their pots and pans were washed out to sea in the tsunami, and the need is critical for utensils in which to cook the food. According to GPI, the people are so desperate that many are trying to eat the rice uncooked, which is creating a whole new set of health problems.