Andrew Buckley (BBA 02, MBA 05) is one of those rare people doesn’t pass up an opportunity to help others. An email in January from his friend Kasey Towson gave him one of those opportunities.
A few weeks later, he found himself on an airplane bound for the Dominican Republic, en route to earthquake-ravaged Haiti.
Towson had previously served on a missionary trip to Uganda with Helping Hands Foreign Missions, a Gainesville, Ga-based missionary organization. After the January earthquake in Haiti, she forwarded a Helping Hands volunteer solicitation email to Buckley. Though he had no medical training, he joined a group of seven people that made a one-week trip into the heart of the damaged island country to provide medical treatment and other support.
Towson and Buckley
The weeklong trip provided crucial care to people in dire need, and provided Buckley with the experience of a lifetime that nourished him as well.
In an effort to channel the bulk of their resources directly to medicine and equipment, Helping Hands requires that volunteers such as Buckley raise funds to offset the expenses of their trip. When Buckley learned he was on the team, he immediately sent out an email to friends and colleagues. In two days, he’d raised $4,000, more than enough to cover his airfare and ground transportation on the island of Hispaniola, which comprises both Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Additionally, the donations helped him to purchase camping equipment and paid for the shipping of two large containers filled with medical supplies.
Less than a week after learning he was going, he was on a plane. “I found out that I was on the team on a Wednesday,” Buckley said. “On Friday I got six shots, on Monday we flew out.”
|Andrew Buckley with Helping Hands founders Brenda and Richard Kowalske|
The next day, the group headed further into the city, near the presidential palace. Directly across from their encampment was a massive, sprawling tent city, and earthquake victims began lining up for care even before they knew what care was being offered.
“I had no idea what to expect,” said Buckley. “I was imagining complete chaos, riots, unlawfulness and having no protection. It was unnerving to think what I’d got myself into. But when we got there, while it was a complete wreck and there was rubble everywhere, the worst of it had passed.”
Helping people heal their wounds and acquire necessary medications was a rewarding experience. But Buckley was most struck by the stories he heard. “There were people who lost their entire families,” Buckley said. “Because generations of families all lived in one house together, when the house fell, generations of the same family perished. It was the same story over and over with multiple families.”
After just three days in the field, it was time to take a bus ride back to Santo Domingo and fly back to Atlanta. Buckley’s one regret is that his seven-day trip was occupied with four days of travel. Since that time, however, the Port Au Prince airport has reopened, allowing volunteers more actual time in the field.
Upon leaving Haiti, Buckley donated all of his camping equipment, along with his remaining cash reserves from his collected donations, to a local orphanage. Helping Hands continues to rotate teams in and out of Haiti in the ongoing relief efforts. While Buckley says he would like to return someday and help out again, he’d have to wait for more vacation time to take off. After all, he’s already taken his vacation this year—a week in Haiti.
Back home in Atlanta, Buckley is back to work in the Real Estate Capital Markets Group at Regions Bank. He’s also been instrumental in the efforts to bring an Ole Miss affinity license plate to the state of Georgia. Those efforts have consisted of a two-year -long process that has included filing the longstanding Atlanta Ole Miss Club as an official non-profit group and getting approval from the state. As it stands, the group has collected about 280 of the needed 1,000 applications. The cost per application is $25, meaning the effort is still $18,000 short of the amount needed to make the Ole Miss affinity tag a reality. Buckley hopes that more alumni and friends in Georgia will sign on to bring it to fruition.
“It’s just something we need,” he said. “Other SEC schools have them. They’re basically miniature, moving billboards. They’re a great way to market ourselves both academically and athletically in Georgia. “
While obviously preferring to reach the $25,000 goal required for the state to begin manufacturing the plates sooner than later, Buckley does note that there is a buyout clause. If after two years the required number of applications has not been received, the group can pay off the balance of the requirement.