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Lenexa Nonprofit Sends Team To Earthquake-Ravaged Ecuador

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HHI
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Heart to Heart has frequently worked in international disaster zones, including last year in Nepal.

A three-member team from Lenexa-based medical nonprofit Heart to Heart International arrived in Ecuador Sunday night, less than 24 hours after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of the Central American nation.

As of Monday morning, international news organizations were reporting at least 272 people had died and more than 2,500 had been injured. 

Heart to Heart CEO Jim Mitchum says the team will be busy Monday meeting with government officials and representatives of the World Health Organization, trying to assess where to put its resources. He says Heart to Heart has contacts with faith-based groups and other charitable organizations in the region. 

"They'll be connecting up with the functional parts of the government, reaching out to survivors they are aware of," Mitchum says. "We have contacts in the region who will be very useful to us, and we will follow up those connections to identify those places that have people in need not being taken care of." 

Heart to Heart deploys frequently to disaster zones both within the United States and internationally. The group sent crisis response teams to Nepal last year after a devastating earthquake killed more than 8,000. It has also been working in Haiti for the past five years as the impoverished country struggles to recover from a 2010 earthquake. 

Mitchum says Heart to Heart is "not a hospital". Instead, he says they look to provide medical care for people who might not be the most severely injured but are also not getting prompt attention. 

"We fix broken bones, look  for people who have puncture wounds and head injuries. Those people may also be experiencing dehydration and infections."

Mitchum says he has been in regular contact with the "advance team" via email. They also have satellite phones by which to communicate. These may become necessary, Mitchum says, because they are likely to be drawn to remote, rural areas of Ecuador outside the capitol Quito. The hardest hit areas were more far-flung coastal regions, though damage is being reported as widespread. 

"[The team] will be bringing in tents and have the ability to work remotely days at a time. They must have clean water, too," he says. 

Mitchum says once Heart to Heart gets an assessment from the advance team, the organization will send more specialists to Ecuador. He also encourages donations through their website.

Kyle Palmer is KCUR's morning newscaster and a reporter. You can follow him on Twitter @kcurkyle

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