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Compassion workers in Haiti: one dramatic rescue, one still missing

January 15, 2010
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One Compassion International worker from Colorado Springs was rescued Friday from rubble in Haiti and is doing fine, said Compassion CEO and president Wess Stafford. The other is still missing.

Dan Woolley, a Web site specialist, spent 60 hours trapped in the rubble of the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince. David Hames, a contract worker for Compassion, is missing.

Having returned to their hotel on Tuesday from a video shoot for Compassion, Woolley and Hames were in the hotel lobby together when the earthquake hit, according to reports the Hames family has received from a social worker in Haiti who talked to Woolley after his rescue. A wall fell on both men, but Woolley managed to jump into the elevator shaft where he was later discovered. Woolley’s glasses were knocked off, and when he turned around again, he did not see Hames.

Woolley suffered only minor scrapes despite being trapped beneath the rubble, his wife Christy Woolley said, and on Friday he was safe at the American Embassy in Port-au-Prince.

“I didn’t think he’d survive being buried in the rubble,” Christy Woolley said. “I had lost hope last night. But he’s alive, praise God.”

Christy said she spoke with Woolley by cell phone 20 minutes before the quake struck, and that he sounded tired as he returned from the video shoot. Woolley and Hames were roommates at the hotel.

Christy was flying Friday to Miami, to be reunited with her husband.

“I think I’ll just cry on his shoulder,” she said.

As Christy prepared to leave her home Friday to catch her Miami flight, she said she hadn’t told the couple’s sons, 6-year-old Josh and 3-year-old Nathan, what was going on. “I just said I was going to meet your daddy,” she said.

As she left, her mother, Marti Schroeder, dropped to her knees on the cul-de-sac outside the Woolleys’ home to pray and praise God.

The Hames family is still waiting for good news. A family friend said Hames’ wife is in seclusion while she endures the anxious hours.

Hames’ whereabouts were still unknown late Friday, Compassion spokeswoman Angie Lathrop said. “But we continue to pray and hold out hope,” she said.

Hames, 40, owns Red Balloon, a local video-production company with clients such as Compassion International and Focus on the Family. He attends Vanguard Church in Colorado Springs with his wife Renee and children, who are 3 and 5.

For months Hames had put his video-production business on hold to develop a Christian-themed preschool show called “Cranium’s Ark.” “I believe I was led by God to start the children’s project,” Hames told The Gazette in December.

Matti Botero, Hames’ publicist for the “Cranium’s Ark” video series, spoke Friday of Hames’s love for his family and aspirations for his new project.

“He has such a huge heart, and he’s dedicated to his family,” she said. “He started the video series because he wanted to create faith-based children’s entertainment.” 

Schroeder said she and the Woolleys remain hopeful that Hames is all right.

“We love David,” she said. “We are praying for him.”

Armed with the knowledge Woolley gave them, rescuers know where to look for Hames and a team is searching for him specifically, said Hames family friend Melanie Dobson. The family released this statement Friday evening: “We would like everyone to continue praying for a miracle, that God would release David from this debris, like he did Paul and Silas from their jail cell.”

Compassion International is sending about 70 staffers in the Dominican Republic, which borders Haiti, into the ravaged country with food, medical supplies and communication tools, Stafford said.

Forty of 75 Compassion staff members and contract workers in Haiti have been located, Stafford said, though he didn’t know details of their injuries, if any.

Headquartered in Colorado Springs, Compassion is a faith-based child development agency with 2,500 employees worldwide. It has 537,000 sponsors who financially support tens of thousands of children.

In Haiti, the organization has 237 child development centers that serve more than 64,000 children. Stafford said most of the injuries to children will probably be found among the 6,400 in Port-au-Prince.

Call the writer at 636-0367.

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