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Utahn with ties to Haitian orphanages rushes to help with rescue



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SALT LAKE CITY -- A Utah woman with strong bonds to Haiti is racing there to do what she can. The single mother has dedicated much of her life to helping Haitian orphans and now fears for their lives.

Rebecca Maesato spoke with KSL-TV as she headed to the airport in Las Vegas. She first met with KSL in 2003 when she shared her story of selfless sacrifice for countless orphans and street kids.

Today, she's very emotional and concerned for the welfare of so many children in need. She says it's unimaginable that a country with such desperate needs to begin with must now endure such devastation.

"It's really, really desperate," says Maesato. "We're all very emotional and shell-shocked."

Rebecca Maesato left a comfortable life in Cache County in 2002 and moved to Haiti with two daughters. They lived there for three years, and even adopted eight teenage boys and brought them back to Utah. Five served LDS missions; the other three got jobs.

Right now, Maesato fears for the future of so many more Haitians.

"This is beyond belief for them," she says. "They deal with hurricanes and floods and all kinds of things. An earthquake is just beyond their -- I think they're just in utter shock."

For Maesato, the devastation is very real. She still travels there regularly to work with five orphanages through her Foundation for Children in Need, now based in St. George.

The last house in which she slept in Haiti is gone, and one of her orphanages was flattened.

"My assistant who works with me when I'm down there says that people are dying around him," she says. "The stench is starting to be noticeable from the deaths. He's sleeping under a tree out in a road. He hasn't been able to find any food or water since the quake."

And there's no help in sight.

Maesato will arrive in Florida around midnight. She hopes to fly to Port-au-Prince with a medical team tomorrow morning. But, she expects she may have to wait and hopes to get to the island as soon as she can. She has arranged help with the United Nations to get to the remote orphanages with which she works.

"I want to find them, see if they're still standing, what the situation is with the kids, try to get them some food and water," she said.

Maesato plans to assess the situation, set up a temporary hospital and come back home to organize and plan. Right now she has no plane ticket home.

Amid all of the devastation in Haiti, Maesato calls the Haitians survivors. She says that in the past, they have relied on their music and humor to persevere.

E-mail: jboal@ksl.com

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Jed Boal

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