Portland’s sister city of Cap Haitien was spared the worst of the earthquake that all but destroyed Haiti’s capital a year ago.

But in the past year, the situation has deteriorated in Cap Haitien. The population has swollen with people who were displaced by the earthquake, and a cholera epidemic has overwhelmed medical services.

Mainers stepped up to help Friday night as WGME-TV, Channel 13, held a telethon to raise money for Konbit Sante, the Portland-based nonprofit that is helping to strengthen Cap Haitien’s health care system.

The telethon raised $7,000, organizers said.

“I’m glad the state is so compassionate toward people who are in need,” said Portland Mayor Nicholas Mavodones during a break in the broadcast, while other volunteers answered pledge calls. “People tend to forget those images they saw a year ago.”

The telethon, “From Maine to Haiti, One Year Later,” served as an important and effective reminder, supporters said.

Such events “remind us that every day there are many people in Haiti living in circumstances we would find unbearable,” said Wendy Taylor, vice president of Konbit Sante’s board of directors. “I think they bring the community together. We do support each other here.”

Konbit Sante is a small group in relation to the overall Haitian relief effort, but donors can be confident that any contributions will go directly to helping the people of Cap Haitien, said Portland City Councilor Jill Duson, another telethon volunteer.

WGME hosted a 12-hour telethon in the days after the earthquake of Jan. 12, 2010, and raised $66,000. Duson, who participated in a service project in Cap Haitien a few years ago, said the city has a bond with the people there because of the sister-city relationship.

“I really do feel like it’s extended family, and we want to check in on them once in a while,” she said.

Duson said the night’s first call was from a woman in Sanford who had been unable to afford a donation a year ago but pledged $20 Friday.

It’s money that will go long way, said Hugh Tozer, president of Konbit Sante’s board of directors and an engineer who works in water treatment.

The organization tries to maximize its impact by hiring and training local people to go into neighborhoods to teach people how to properly treat drinking water so it is safe.

Haiti’s cholera epidemic has been fueled by contaminated water and the country’s lack of sanitation facilities.

“They’re responsible for their own water treatment, unlike us that depend on the Portland Water District,” Tozer said.

“We work with the local organizations and local government and the ministry of health,” he said. “We want to create the health care capacity.”

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

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