The Good Neighbor Awards recognize REALTORSŪ who've made an extraordinary commitment to improving the quality of life in their communities through volunteer work. Five winners will receive $10,000 grants for their cause. The 2009 deadline will be May 22.
2008 Good Neighbor Finalists Announced
Good Neighbor Finalist Helps Tsunami Victims
Charlotte Esarey, Buck & Buck, Inc., REALTORSŪ, Jacksonville, Fla.
Charlotte Esarey took a leave of absence from her real estate career to travel to Banda Aceh, Indonesia, to help the victims of the December 26 tsunami. As a former nurse in the U.S. Navy for 16 years, Esarey had experience setting up M.A.S.H. units in Southeast Asia and knew she could help.
"When we heard about the disaster, I wasn't able to sleep or concentrate," she says. "All I could think about was the people in Indonesia. I knew in my heart that's where I needed to be."
By February 8, she was there. Her military experience enabled her to work with nurses and general contractors to set up make-shift medical clinics to treat victims of the disaster and its aftermath. She coordinated medical teams that set up mobile clinics in school buildings after the debris was removed. During her trip she contracted dengue fever, a mosquito-borne infection, which laid her up with a high temperature and body pain for days.
Each Sunday morning, Charlotte would venture out with her translator into the villages where people were beginning return to their tiny homes. She would find 10 families and bring them dishes, pots, cooking utensils, rice and other food, and toys for the children. "It is such a wonderful blessing to bring such joy to a family with nothing," she says.
Esarey prepared for a month before leaving for Indonesia, spending 10-hour days brushing up on her medical knowledge by visiting emergency rooms and reading about tropical diseases she might encounter. She even switched her sleep schedule to be ready for the time change, sleeping during the day and studying at night.
She had planned to stay for three months, but returned after two months when the Indonesian government wouldn't renew her visa.
Through her church, the Fort Caroline Christian Church, and the Jacksonville community, Esarey raised $28,000 to purchase medicine, medical equipment, and playground equipment for the children living in camps for displaced people.
She spent the month after she returned speaking about her experiences in order to raise funds for the ongoing needs of the people in Indonesia. She still does three or four presentations a month, and is continuing to raise money to help the people of one devastated village build a brick factory, restore their fisheries, and bring in topsoil so they can grow food.
She receives daily e-mail updates from relief workers who are still there, and says the recovery is slow, with 300,000 people still living in tents. Esarey says one challenge for local farmers and fishermen is navigating the red tape and paperwork necessary to apply for aid through the government and foreign aid agencies.
But she is proud that she's able to work with the villagers to help the recovery. "I've helped empower individuals to stand up for themselves and help bring their community back to life," she says.