May 2009 Trip to Haiti
Patricia Wirtz, MD
"My personal goal was to leave the place a little better than it was when I arrived. I feel the Avera team did this with a smile, a willing hand to do any job and by making small improvements. Most of all, I would praise all that has been accomplished."
Margo Gab, RN
"How humbling it was to be part of a Haitian community for the week. All the preparations involved with collecting donations and transporting them, and the things I did while I was there, were nothing in comparison to what I gained. The priceless highlight was visiting the Avera sponsored village, Marie Kerotte, and hanging signs on the new Happy Homes there. The people were so grateful for what they had been given. I am proud to be a part of Avera, which sponsors the Haitian Health Foundation."
"As I reflect on my first international trip, to Jeremie, Haiti, on May 16, 2009, I'm mindful of how blessed I am. I'm so appreciative to be part of Avera, which sponsors the Haitian Health Foundation. We experienced the sincere meaning of "team;" I would definitely recommend this opportunity to others. I also appreciated the opportunity to bring oxygen to the people of Jeremie at the Center of Hope. Teaching the people through songs, skits and interpreters was so rewarding! They were my sunshine! I will continue to spread the word about Haiti and to hear the cry of the poor."
"One of the many things that is memorable for me is the Haitian people's strong faith in God. They openly sing his praise and give thanks to God for what they have in life. Many of us forget to do that, and our lives are much easier. The Haitian people work hard every day just to survive, yet they still praise God for His love and blessings. It is inspirational to see that love and faith, and although I give thanks daily to God, it will now have a deeper meaning for me."
"I feel so blessed to have come to Haiti and to be part of our group. I am so struck by the contrasts and contradictions-such beauty in nature and such extreme poverty. The commitment of the Haitian Health Foundation to teach the Haitian people how to improve living conditions and health habits is amazing. The very basics make such an impact. Overall the experience has been very humbling and very centering. I truly experienced the face of Jesus in many of the Haitian people, the people of the Haitian Health Foundation and all of the members of our group. Thank you Avera! Thank you Bob! This has been a humbling experience and will continue to be a life changing experience. I will pray for the children of Haiti and those who support them."
"This was my second trip to Haiti. I am always amazed at the strong women of Haiti. They walk for hours to be seen by a doctor or to have a check-up; in some cases they will walk six hours one way. One incentive is food. After they keep their appointment, they get a pillowcase full of food and a gallon of oil. Then they head home with the pillowcases on their heads, oil in one arm and usually a child in the other arm. That vivid image is what reminds me of Haiti.
Also I am so happy to be able to help at the Haitian Health Foundation. They have come so far in helping the people of Haiti, and to be a part of that is truly a blessing. Since my last trip in 2007 there has been great progress in Jeremie. There are several new "Happy Homes," both in Jeremie and the surrounding villages. The poor part of Haiti is cleaner and the houses are painted. It was great to come back and see the progress. I am proud to be a part of Avera and to be able to go on such an amazing mission trip."
"Meu Rele, Dan Larson. ("My name is Dan Larson" in Creole)
This was truly a great life experience and a unique opportunity to get a glimpse of the Haitian culture. We saw the Haitian Health Foundation's approach to serving the many health care needs. What we saw and experienced in one week will have an impact for a lifetime as we relive and process the week's journey. It was a great week, and I would encourage everyone to move beyond their personal comfort zones and consider this trip. You won't regret it."
"Out of walking among those in the despair of hunger and poverty came the strength of several individuals to build the Haitian Health Foundation. It is a mission of hope, love and unconditional acceptance of each Haitian. I met a core group of individuals who accept what they have, but seek more for those they serve. They have built an infrastructure of community health that embraces each member's needs, from education, school, infant care and birthing care, to developing special plants to help with malnutrition. These strong women-Sister Maryann, Bette, Marty, and Sheila-are role models for all of us. They can see beyond each face and each struggle. They see a world that desperately needs their hands and hearts, and they freely engage in giving. It was a wonderfully renewing week-witnessing how material things have little or no value compared to genuine love, compared to the ministry of reaching into dust and despair to offer hope and to plant growth in fertile hearts. I am grateful to Avera and to Bob Voglewede for having the courage and strength of heart to make this journey so many times in an effort to broaden so many people's perspective and to offer this opportunity to grow and witness God's love in action."
"Placing the plaques on the "Happy Homes" was my point of change and reflection. The people were so thankful and happy for what we have provided for them. One woman expressed her excitement with a dance and another with food that she could not really spare. I felt almost ashamed for taking anything, but it made the people feel better. These homes mean so much to them. They are the place where the family comes together when it rains, and they will be dry. As it is in America, those who are poor tend to give so much to others who have less than they do. I will be forever changed from my experience in Haiti. Only God and the people who were with me really know how this has changed us spiritually and emotionally."
"What a great mission for Avera! Our trip to the village to see the Avera Happy Homes was truly amazing. To witness the gratitude of the families and know their lives are better cannot be adequately addressed. The work of the Haitian Health Foundation is a true ministry of the Lord. I left Haiti with far more than I offered; it brought an awareness that hopefully will make me a better person."
"Imagine living on a dollar a day.
Imagine feeding your family on less than a dollar a day.
Imagine no electricity.
Imagine no water.
Imagine no air conditioning.
Imagine no job.
Imagine no government.
Imagine no health care.
Imagine poverty at its highest level.
Imagine thankful people.
Imagine helping these people in any way!"
"Contrary to what you may think, I did not come back from Haiti a liberal "lefty." I am still a fiscal conservative who believes in small government and a strong sense of personal responsibility. However, I saw firsthand that the work performed by Haitian Health Foundation meshes well with what I value. Services were provided to needy Haitians, but along with that charitable work, the people listened to important education and learned more healthy behaviors. In essence, it was wonderful, charitable work, but also it asked for something from the people in return, something which they readily agreed to. Most importantly, this experience provided a way for me to share my God-given gifts, blessings, and resources with others."
"I had the honor of helping place a sign on a Happy House donated by Avera McGreevy Clinic located in the Avera Village. When I stepped onto the porch, the mother came out with a big smile on her face and then pushed her children inside with what s ounded like orders to get cleaned up as she had seen the cameras. While visiting she told me that she has five children. That is the same size as our family, but our lives are so different. Her daily struggles are unimaginable. After many pictures we hugged and parted. She then came off the porch and ran after me with a gift of six eggs. Knowing this was several meals for the family, my immediate thought was that I needed to get her to keep the eggs. Curt who had been playing with the children in the outdoor kitchen was next to me and said, "You must take her gift." Thanks Curt. I know how important was for her to be able to give a gift. On the way back to Jeremie, eggs in hand, all I could think of was those kids and if there was anything for their dinner that night."
"I write at 5:30 a.m. on Friday, the last full day of our visit. My heart is sad knowing I probably won't be back. The other Avera people on this trip have been so gracious and generous. Having helped them make the journey down, I've tried to get out of their way once we arrived and they have done such helpful things for Sr. Maryann and the Haitian Health Foundation. I have been so blessed in having these responsibilities. It is time for younger people with new ideas to take hold and lead into new vistas for Avera and the Haitian Health Foundation. I am very grateful to God and Avera for having gifted me in this way these past seven years!"