Barbara Wander safe following Haiti quake

January 15, 2010 12:45:30 PM PST
A San Rafael woman volunteering in Haiti whose friends hadn't heard from her since Tuesday's devastating earthquake is apparently safe, a college president in touch with her fellow volunteers said Thursday night.

Barbara Wander, 65, left Jan. 5 for her latest trip to Haiti, where the former schoolteacher has traveled periodically as a volunteer for about the past decade.

She was staying in Riviere Froide, a rural area on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, where she was working at a school. The school and the guest quarters collapsed in the 7.0-magnitude earthquake Tuesday evening, according to e-mailed accounts from fellow volunteers.

It remained unclear this afternoon whether Wander was at the school during the earthquake, and her family and friends were worried, especially when they heard about the damage to the buildings.

On Monday, Wander had met four students and faculty from Blue Ridge Community College in northern Virginia as they arrived in Haiti for a volunteer mission and had accompanied them from the airport to Riviere Froide.

After the earthquake struck, the Blue Ridge group's families received word via a forwarded email message that their loved ones were OK, but there was still no word on Wander.

Tonight, however, Blue Ridge Community College president John Downey made contact with Rebecca Evans, a faculty adviser in the four-person Blue Ridge group. Evans had seen Wander after the earthquake and reported that she is fine, Downey said.

The Blue Ridge group had left Haiti and was in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, tonight waiting to get on a flight back home. Wander had decided to stay in Haiti and help.

The Blue Ridge students had blogged about their trip up until the earthquake. An entry on Monday by student Megan Samples mentions Wander and the group's arrival in Riviere Froide:

"Barbara showed us around the different locations around here and explained a little about the history of the place," Samples wrote. "We ... got a chance to meet a lot of the kids, including a group of handicapped children who sometimes attend the school."

E-mailed accounts state that the school collapsed in the quake. The fate of the children was unclear, but Downey said Evans told him tonight that the aftermath of the earthquake was "horrible."