The Missing Americans Project crossed the 100-members mark this weekend - a bittersweet accomplishment. So much of our new membership and visits have come from Missouri, the home state of Leo Finley, who disappeared in Roatan, Honduras, Christmas morning. I feel a special connection with the Finleys, as my brother Joe disappeared from Roatan under similar circumstances on Mother's Day 2009.
It's sad to know that our organization grows and will continue to grow primarily through people's losses and frustrations with governments that seem unwilling or unable to to help. At the same time, I continue to be pleasantly shocked by the number of people who have joined withOUT having lost anyone - who simply want to help. Many of these people travel a lot or have family members who do and want to know how to be better-informed travelers. We've gained at least three journalists among our members -- this is encouraging, because the media (especially the national media) seem woefully uninterested in these stories. We can't seem to get a real rise out of any major news organization. Any help from you in rattling the cages of our government or our news media would be hugely appreciated.
Also appreciated would be any particular regional or technical expertise. We are trying to identify and, where necessary, create search/rescue and investigative capabilities in Central America and the Caribbean, the geographies where the biggest problems seem to be. Governments are too slow to act, so we must be able to bypass them with a phone call to well-connected local resources in these countries. We have access to helicopter pilots in Belize and Guatemala, airplanes in Honduras, and are gradually building a network of associations in these countries, as well as in Costa Rica, Mexico, and Panama -- wherever we can. We need everything from fishermen to ham radio operators to lawyers. Connections in the maritime industry and the tourism world would be huge, as communications in the region tend to be spotty at best.
Also needed are contacts with organizations who are doing related work. We've been working with, among others The Down East Emergency Medicine Institute and Volunteer Image Analysts for Search & Rescue. We also have as members Dave Holloway (the Natalee Holloway Foundation) and Kym Pasqualini (National Center for Missing Adults). We need as many partners as we can get with as many and as varied resources at their disposal. We need intense information sharing and collaboration. Building and acting upon these relationship will be a major project priority in 2010. We also need to establish ourselves as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization to facilitate fundraising in the United States.
We've spent the past four months growing this community of interest and support. Now we are ready to move to the next level - action. Anyone with relevant experience, expertise, or contacts in these areas and would be willing to help should contact me directly through the MAP community and I will put them in touch with the relevant MAP officer.
On behalf of the rest of the Missing Americans Project, I thank you for your support.