Haiti Hits Home

For many Westporters, the news from Haiti is devastating, despondent — and distant.

For Wilgins Altera, it’s immediate, visceral, and all too real.

Wilgins Altera (Photo by Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com)

Born in Brooklyn to Haitian immigrants, at age 7 he moved with his family to Providence, Rhode Island.  He graduated from Southern Connecticut State University in 2007 with a degree in criminal justice, psychology and accounting.

Last February 2 — almost exactly a year ago — he was sworn in as an officer of the Westport Police Department.

Over 30 members of his extended family live in Port-au-Prince, or nearby.  All are accounted for — but 2 died in the earthquake’s rubble.

Many of his fellow officers did not know of Wilgins’ Haitian background.  As soon as they heard, they rushed to help.

“Everyone has been very concerned and supportive,” he said.  “They ask all the time how my family is doing.  They really care.”

A captain discussed the possibility of sending Wilgins to Haiti, to help.

The Police Benevolent Association raised funds for relief.  Many members donated generously.

Of course, help — through organizations like Save the Children and the Red Cross — is still needed.

“Every day there, people still need food and medicine,” Wilgins said.  “It’s great to see so many people involved.  And it’s not just Westport, but around the nation and the world.”

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