Matrix CEO knows well the challenges of providing aid in Haiti

//January 19, 2010//

Matrix CEO knows well the challenges of providing aid in Haiti

//January 19, 2010//

Listen to this article

As chair of charity group focused on nation, Joseph Taylor is intimately familiar with difficulties rescuers are facing.On a good day, Haiti is an extraordinarily difficult country in which to organize the distribution of food and services, if you ask Joseph Taylor, president and chief executive of real estate firm Matrix Development Cos., in Cranbury.

Taylor knows the fundamentals of distribution and logistics well — his company builds distribution centers for a living — but he also knows about giving back, something he’s pursued since visiting Africa as a 17-year-old volunteer. And he has an intimate familiarity with Haiti, having visited the small Caribbean nation two or three times per year over the past few decades.

Taylor is chair of Hands Together, a charitable organization in Springfield, Mass., that has been helping build schools, health care facilities, drinking water wells and farming cooperatives in the country.

“There are no police, no fire engines, no emergency medical services, no basic principles of a functioning support for the critically needy,” said Taylor, who usually stays in the quake-rocked capital of Port-au-Prince. “The roads are very poor; those that go out of the city are not paved; at the best of times there are very significantly long periods of blackouts.”

Taylor is anxiously awaiting word from Father Tom Hagan, the founder of Hands Together, and Doug Campbell, its executive director, about the fate of some 200 staffers that work in their schools, health care facilities and feeding centers that provide food to between 7,000 and 8,000 people daily. Hagan is stationed in Haiti; Campbell flew in on the afternoon before the earthquake — both are safe, Taylor said he learned Thursday.

Hands Together’s offices and related buildings in Haiti are destroyed, Taylor said, adding that the prime task ahead was to rebuild communications and assess the safety of the staff on the ground. They will coordinate supply of food, medicines and other critical supplies in the meantime through international relief agencies, he said.

Efforts to get in relief planes to the country’s makeshift airport haven’t succeeded, Taylor said, though the U.S. military is operating flights. Matrix Development contributes to projects in Haiti through an annual golf outing; last year, it raised about $130,000, he said.

E-mail Shankar P. at [email protected]