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October 2008 Trip to Haiti

The Whole GroupPatty Peters, MD

Can you imagine yourself standing on the porch of a tiny, two-room, thatched-roof home singing “How Great Thou Art” in English, with the Haitian patients singing in their language, Creole? It was such a spiritual moment! Then, together in English and Creole, we said the Lord’s Prayer.

Returning to beautiful Jeremie, Haiti for the third time felt like coming home. Sister Mary Ann and the HHF staff are so hospitable and kind – great food and a relaxing atmosphere after a day’s work in some mountain village.

I so enjoy the bumpy Toyota Land Cruiser rides with my team members. We laugh as we hang on to each other going over the rocks and though steams used by the people for washing.

My new experience was to stay two nights in the village of Dayere (die-air) with three other team members, two interpreters and two health agents. It was an amazing three days of working and living together in a little house without running water.

In the clinic I saw OB Patients, and in the evening we talked, played cards and colored with the children.

I am grateful to Avera for the opportunity to serve God’s people in Haiti and to make so many new friends.

Michael McVay, MD

Halbur, McVay

Where are you Lord?

Sitting on his mother’s lap – looking at me, his brown eyes showed such suffering. He was one year old, yet he would not walk or stand. His limbs were sticks and his chest was rocking. As I listened to him – his heart was galloping, consuming his energy, drawing his life away.A loud murmur was a clue as to where the problem might be. He needed much more than I would give.

Perhaps with grace and the guidance of others he will be brought to those who can repair his fragile heart so that someday he can run and play like other one-year-olds.

“Where are you Lord?” I ask.

“I am here – within this little one,” is the reply. “All I ask is that you open your heart and not close it. That will be enough.”

Karen ChristoffelsKaren Christoffels, RN

This trip to Haiti has broadened my worldview and taken my focus off of myself and towards others. The Haitian people are kind and hospitable even though they lack basic necessities like adequate food, work, and shelter. Every time storms/hurricanes come, the people living in the oceanfront neighborhoods need to repair or totally rebuild their homes. How blessed we are as Americans to enjoy plentiful food, work opportunities, adequate shelter, education and access to quality health care. After this experience, I hope to simplify my life, put my family first and help others who are less fortunate than I am. Thank you to the Avera Foundation for the scholarship I received to cover some of the expenses.




Carena Jarding, RN

This irreplaceable experience of going to Haiti has taught me a lot about both culture and the human spirit. The Haitian culture is one of strength, courage and persistence. The people work hard and tirelessly just to feed their families once a day and put shoes on their children’s feet so they are able to go to school. This culture is an example of the human spirit. I have learned to open my ears and eyes to new adventures and my heart to humility. The Lord gives each of us the ability to see the good in everything and everybody. So, we now just have to listen and look for that opportunity.

Tisha Hoffman, RN

Tisha Hoffman, RNThe hardest task is putting into words what was experienced in Haiti. Leaving the United States I fully intended on working hard and teaching the Haitian people all I was able in the short time we were visiting. Now as  we are leaving I find I have learned far more than I have taught. The Haitian people have taught me patience, understanding, love, and compassion far beyond what I ever knew was possible. Haitians are truly beautiful people, both inside and out. Looking at the immense poverty, I still see smiles which light up my heart. As I gaze into Haitian eyes I see spirit and gratefulness for all we do. Thank you Avera and HHF for this opportunity; it was an extremely life changing experience.

Dale Gillogly

I appreciate a great deal the opportunity Avera Health has provided me in allowing me to serve with the October 2008 mission to Jeremie, Haiti. My first and lasting impression of Haiti is that of a land of contrasts and contradictions. The physical beauty of the people and land on one hand is matched by abject poverty and extreme pollution on the other.

As the last afternoon of our trip winds down, I feel very fortunate to have shared this experience with such a great team. From watching Tisha and Cindy with the babies at the orphanage, to taking a turn with Todd on the fishing nets, to learning how seemingly small interventions will save countless lives (the use of a stop watch in diagnosing pediatric pneumonia), to the trips into the mountains to serve isolated villages, I will leave Haiti knowing that our team made a difference.

Thanks again for the changing my life.

Shari Platek, RN

Shari Platek, RN

My Haitian experience has filled my heart. It is overwhelming to compare the beauty of the people and land to the despair and object poverty we observe all around us. We bring little and return with an awareness that never leaves. I am so grateful Avera has once again blessed me with this opportunity.









Todd Balzer, Careflight Flight Paramedic

Hanging the SignFirst of all I would like to say a great big ‘thank you’ to Avera for selecting me for the Oct. 2008 Haiti Mission Trip. The mission trip was a big eye-opening and awesome experience for me. I have seen and heard about how bad things are in Haiti, but I did not believe it all to be true. After being here for the past week and seeing it first hand, it is all true. And in terms of personal safety, in no way did I ever feel unsafe while in Haiti. The people here are some of the finest and kindest you will ever meet; they take nothing for granted.

One last thing: the Avera Health family has impressed me very much with their continued support for the Haitian people and HHF, especially by continuing to support these twice- a-year mission trips and to fundraise roughly $18,000.00 to purchase 20 brand new homes for 20 families here. The village of Marie Krotte has chosen 20 families to receive these houses, and HHF has given it a special designation. I got the big honor on our third day out, when we visited that site, to put up a sign that reads:

Marie Kerotte
An Avera-Sponsored Village

Thank you, Avera Health!

Linda Hansen, CNP

Linda Hansen, CNP

Coming to Haiti for the fourth time, I’ve finally come to grips with what drives me to return, and especially to a small village called Dayere. God is so close, and I am able to let go of some ego and become more of the kind person I believe God wants me to be. Up in the Dayere satellite clinic my only mission for those three days is to serve God and his people, and in return, I receive his gift of peace of mind and wholeness. Indeed, God always felt so close at hand and almost touchable as I worked with the people. I am truly blessed with the experience of Haiti and especially my days and nights in Dayere. Thanks to God and Avera Health for this opportunity.






Cindy Halbur, RDCS, RVT

Cinday Halbur, RDCS, RVT

If I had to describe my journey this week, I would use words like poverty, sickness, patience, beautiful, overwhelmed and sad at times. Happy is another word I could use to describe these people. It’s amazing to me that under these conditions and circumstances, the people seem happy. Even with one little gesture, the people are so appreciative. I will walk away with many lessons, and I hope I’ll be a much better person for it.

Thank you God for shining your face down on us, keeping us safe and bringing me peace. Thank you, People of Haiti, for showing me how you can appreciate the things you have and persevere under such terrible conditions. May God bless the people of Haiti.

Jessica Johnson, AS in RT

Jessica Johnson

I find myself in a quandary writing this essay. How do I define something I do not yet fully understand the gravity of? I leave Haiti a different person from when I arrived. This week in Haiti has been one of the most profound experiences of my life. I cannot comprehend the plight of the Haitians, yet strangely I do not feel pity for them. The beauty of Haiti lies not only in its land but also in its people. Haitians struggle to survive, yet they remain dignified and gracious. I found that being in the midst these beautiful people opened my heart, changed my mind and brought a purpose to my soul. It is clear as we prepare to leave that I must leave a piece of me behind, for now I carry a piece of Haiti with me always to pass on.





Bob Wenger, MD

This was my second trip to Haiti and my 2nd three-day stay in Dayere, a remote village two hours from Jeremie. Doing general health care in the countryside, which is my favorite activity, is very enjoyable to me. The rural scenery and the people must be easier for me to take than the filth and living conditions in the city. Another plus is spending more time with HHF translators and health care workers. Even though they have plenty of their own problems, they are very accommodating to the needs of both the patients and the doctors. I would not hesitate to come again.

Kristi Hough, Pharm D

Kristi Hough, Pharm D

What an excellent ‘wake up’ call the roosters and dogs of Jeremie provide here! What a wake up call HHF has provided to me for how a single person can do her/his own part to make a difference.

I am anxious to go home and return to my family. However, the pace of the Haitian day will be missed as I return to my daily grind. The beautiful, friendly people here with their few possessions and small shacks have shown me how living simpler can be done. It will be hard to return home where I have decent shelter and never starve. I will remember the people of Jeremie sleeping in make-shift beds or on floors, and sucking on rock salt to ease the pains of hunger.

I am beginning to sponsor a save-a-family and have contributed some supplies and gifts to the HHF. It is a start. This trip has shown me much and inspired me to do more for others.

When I return, I will share the HHF story with family, friends, co-workers and community members. I have much faith that the mission work here will continue to grow. Even if people become givers to other charities, my story will still have helped make a difference some how.

When all may seem hopeless, there is still hope. I would love to return here someday. Thank you for the opportunity to have been a part of this group.

Bob Voglewede

Bob Voglewede

This probably being my second-to-last trip to Jeremie, I found myself, early on, praying that I would see and feel what God wanted me to see and feel during the week. When I’ll no longer be a part of the Avera groups, I don’t want to forget the people, the conditions, the needs.
What do I especially remember from this trip? I remember…

  • Loving to hear Sheila, the volunteer OR nurse supervisor from New Hampshire who has been working with HHF for the past couple of years, tell such entertaining stories at dinner. She has a wonderful sense of humor, and is so sensitive to the mothers and babies she works with at the Center of Hope.
  • Slowly rocking McDonald Abraham, a delightful, inquisitive ten-month old child staying at the Center with his mother while Sheila and the Haitian nurses worked to heal his sister who is suffering from Kwashiorkor malnutrition.
  • Being spiritually fed at night as we would go around the circle and everyone would tell something from the day that had touched them – a true experience of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes as I would leave each gathering feeling full and nourished.
  • Walking through the huge, open-air Wednesday market in one of the mountain villages where thousands of people were buying and selling everything from beans and corn to bananas and avocados to sugar cane and squawking chickens.
  • Seeing the 9-month old blind child with a damaged spinal cord whose head would flop over when his mother would carefully reach down and pick him up. She is hoping HHF can help him.
  • Visiting the village of Marie Krotte and seeing the hovels that the families currently live in who will soon be living in an Avera-sponsored Happy House as a result of the Avera McKennan clinics’ fund-raising efforts in May. It’s incredible what families of eight, nine or ten people presently live in!
  • Pascal, a Haitian friend of many Averans, playing guitar and singing songs for us in Creole, French, English and Spanish on the porch our last night in Jeremie.