Local man makes lifelong friendship while providing relief in Haiti

Posted: Updated:

It was supposed to be a few weeks helping earthquake victims in Haiti but for two men, one from here in the valley, it turned into much more.

Among the devastation they forged a unique friendship and found a calling for life. As Paul Sebring puts it, they are the men who get things done. "We are the ones that would be going out at 1 or 2 in the morning or pulling 30-hour shifts or, you know, he'd be driving in pouring rain 60-miles-an-hour while I'm in the back of a truck with two nurses with a kid with a skull fracture and a lady with a pelvic fracture and I'm begging the kid to keep him breathing while we are transferring him to the hospital and he’s whipping through traffic trying to make sure everyone gets there alive and safe. No one else would do that. We kind of fell into that role."

A year ago Sebring say he was just another Valley man wondering how he could help after the devastating earthquake in Haiti. He says, “So (I) tried the big organizations, they just wanted money, not my time."

Some 2,400 miles away Paul Waggoner was running into the same roadblocks in Nantucket, Massachusetts, "I don't like being told ‘no’, and after being denied a few times I took it upon myself. It kind of lit a fire under me. Packed up, hit the Dominican Republic, found a way into the country."

Back in Arizona, Sebring did the same, "So I just went to the Dominican Republic, got some money together that friends donated and got out there and figured out where to go once I was there."

Not knowing what to expect they just dove in. Waggoner says there was no shortage of work. It would fall in your lap. Sebring picks up his sentence "Yeah, the minute you walked in there, everyone needed help. They gave me the hospital name, a street and the city that was it and when you walked in, it was immediate, put down your bags and get to work. There was no questions asked."

It was at that hospital that Sebring met Waggoner. "We just kind of forged our friendship up there and everyone says you are like brothers, which is true." They became known as “Big Paul, Sebring, and Little Paul, Waggoner. They also became known as the guys who get things done, whenever and however.

Sebring says that meant even in the middle of riots, "while everyone else is locked down, the UN, the U.S. embassy, nobody is leaving their compounds he is driving around medical teams that need to get to where they need to be and dodging stacks of burning tires, rioters, protestors, you know, everything."

Waggoner describes it as, "it was just like breathing to us, it came really natural and we flowed with it and we knew what needed to be done."

The two formed Materials Management Relief Corps. Sebring says their key mission is getting medical supplies and teams where they need to be, but they've built cholera clinics, played ambulance driver, paramedic and more.
"Cholera is the latest thing there right now and they would call us up and say we’ve got a helicopter and 1,200 kilos of supplies we need a four-man team. Helicopter leaves in four hours. Anyone else you’ve got to go through requests and do all this stuff. Us we are like we will be there in two. Since we've arrived on the ground we have probably directly affected the lives of 30 to 40,000 Haitians."

The men are building goodwill and a good reputation that very probably saved Little Paul months or years in prison when he was accused of kidnapping a young boy, who actually had died in the hospital. “Due to the impact we had during this time in Haiti and the people that we met and people who knew what we were doing there, it really helped out."

He still spent nearly a month in prison before being released. He and Big Paul are now back in the states raising money and getting ready to return because a year after they first showed up in Haiti on their own. Together they have found that help knows no bounds. "I think the payoff at the end of the day is knowing you were part of saving a life, impacting not only that person but their family and so many people. After that, you never really would be able to grasp how many people you have influenced," says Waggoner. Sebring adds, "We plan on doing this the rest of our lives."

If you want to help you can find out more about donating time or money at www.mmrcglobal.org.