October 2009 Trip to Haiti
On Wednesday we went to St. Pierre, a school built by the Haitian Health Foundation. This school is located in one of the poorer sections of town. We arrived around mid-morning at the time some of the younger classes are having a little snack that should be provided by the parents of the students, a mechanism that encourages parents to be engaged in the school. The snacks vary, but most are having fruits, pasta salads and other similar items. When we entered the first-grade classroom, I noticed, in the back of the room, a very small girl stood up. Her snack appeared to be crackers of some type, possibly soda crackers. As she stood, she reached her hand out to me holding a fresh cracker. What a gesture of generosity and kindness. She had very little to share, but was willing to share what she had with a complete stranger. As a lump formed in my throat, I wondered: Who is teaching whom here? Who, really, are the poor ones?
Susan Leddy, CNP
I am proud to work for an organization that is committed to global mission work. My experience included caring for Haitian people of all ages in an outpatient setting. Tropical diseases and medical conditions related to poverty were new to me. I learned that basic health care is important to all people, regardless of where they live. I strongly encourage all Avera employees to consider volunteering their time with this mission.
My trip to Haiti was an amazing experience! It was incredible to see the difference that the Haitian Health Foundation and a few strong people could make in thousands of people's lives, including mine. It was great not only to give the Haitian people medical care but also to educate them about the simple things we take for granted; like washing hands to stop the spread of diseases. My favorite part was the children. I loved getting to play with the older children and snuggle with the smaller ones. My heart broke on several occasions when God showed me some of the most destitute children I have ever seen, and I received the true honor of getting to love and hold them. The thing that really hit me was that no matter what level of education, training, experiences or gifts each person had, they were truly needed in Haiti, and everyone had a lot to give! I felt really good about everything our group accomplished, and I want to return again soon.
I feel so blessed to have been able to travel to Haiti with the Avera group. It is so great to see that with organizations like Avera and Feed My Starving Children, we are able to truly make a difference in Haiti. I came home from Haiti with such mixed emotions about the trip. The poverty is etched in my mind, and I suspect it will never go away. But, so too are the smiles of the babies as they were held, the fingernails we washed and clipped, the kids as we taught them to play Frisbee or the laughter when they looked at their pictures on my digital camera. I'm finding it difficult to describe my experience with others, but I hope that somehow I can be used as God's instrument to communicate the needs of the Haitian people to the people I come in contact with in my life. I also wish to continue to give the country of Haiti hope that our organizations and each of us as individuals care and want to continue to do our part in helping.
This was my sixth trip to Haiti. I continue to be in awe of the Haitian people and those who choose to live and work with them. Srs. Maryann and Bette have devoted their lives to improving conditions in Haiti. Marty and Sheila are long-term volunteer nurses and are such an inspiration. Each trip has been memorable. This time I had the opportunity to assist Drs. Ellenbecker and Romlyn as they treated more than one hundred dental patients. I highly recommend to others to consider these mission trips. The opportunity to serve always leaves each of us feeling that we received much more than we gave. It is life-altering. Please remember the Haitian people in your prayers.
Meghan Platek Howard
This was my third trip with Avera to visit the Haitian Health Foundation (HHF), and, once again, I stand in awe of and am even more inspired of the tremendous efforts and successes of HHF and the women who run the organization. HHF's ability to grant dignity to the men and women of the community through education and public health is incredible. What an honor to represent Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) side-by-side with doctors and nurses from Avera, who helped so many people throughout the week we were there. Serving FMSC food to children while their mothers received wonderful health care put into perspective the power of people coming together and using the gifts they have to hopefully make this world a little bit better.
Dick Ellenbecker, DDS
My mission trip to Haiti was undertaken in faith. I felt I had talent and love to share and found the people and programs at the Haitian Health Foundation afforded me an excellent opportunity to do both. I was able to perform dental care for people in the remote villages greatly in need. I very much appreciated the opportunity afforded me by Avera to go to Jérémie, Haiti, and work with the Haitian Health Foundation.
I am thankful to God and to Avera for this opportunity to serve the poorest people in the Western Hemisphere. I have been richly blessed by this experience and will continue to carry it with me. The Haitian people have little material goods, but they have their dignity and many lessons to teach me. The Haitian Health Foundation is an amazingly run organization.
Nanci Van Peursem, MD
I was given the great privilege of participating in the Haitian Health Foundation/Avera mission trip. The Haitians are a beautiful people and have a beautiful country. They are, however, significantly struggling with poverty and malnutrition. During our week-long trip I was able to care for patients with kwashiorkor, diabetes, hypertension, malaria, fungal skin infections and a variety of other illnesses. I was able to learn an immense amount. I was given the unique opportunity to deliver a baby on a bamboo mat in a mountain village! I also observed the dedication of the Haitian Health Foundation workers. They have a difficult job and are doing a great thing. The dedication of Sister MaryAnn and her staff is overwhelming. I learned that we all can make a difference in a poor situation, “one patient at a time!” Thank you to Avera for allowing me to participate in this life-changing experience.
Kathy English, RN
Although I have made many trips to Jérémie, each time I am struck by the beauty of the land contrasted with the extreme poverty and malnutrition of the people. Despite all of the hardships they are a people with amazing spirit and resilience.
When you take your first trip to Jérémie you are overwhelmed. With each return trip, however, you have hope as you see so many improvements. Bette and Sisters Mary Ann, Sheila and Marty, along with numerous long-term volunteers, are moving mountains one pebble at a time.
We went to one village that is featured in a new documentary called 4REAL and it was amazing to see how much healthier the women and children were since my last visit. On our way home a mother and her six children crawled into our truck as their Happy Home was located on the road we were traveling. We stopped, and her husband came out. He proudly showed us the small rock “patio” he had built in front of their home. The shrubs around the house were hedged with his machete. A beautiful rose colored curtain was tied in the doorway and you could see flowers on the table. The whole family had such pride in owning a Happy Home.
Dr. Lowney has said that true poverty is not lack of food or homelessness; it is lack of hope that tomorrow will be better. I'm proud to be a part of Avera and its commitment to help bring a realization of that hope to the people of Jérémie, Haiti.
As I write my reflection about our recent trip to Jérémie, I am still in awe about what a great trip it was for the Avera group and what we accomplished there
We traveled to five villages to provide dental and prenatal care clinics to the Haitians. It seems the education mothers receive at The Center of Hope is being practiced. I saw many mothers breast feeding their babies, getting commodities from the United Nations Food Bank and making sure their babies were getting the necessary postnatal medications. It was good to see the mothers loving their babies. Sadly, there still are a lot of children who have been abandoned to the orphanages or mothers who can't physically take care of their children. I truly love playing with the children and making them smile. Playing Simon Says was simply a hoot. I also enjoyed “shaking their hands” whether it was knuckle bump or the three-way shake. It's always fun at Mother Teresa's Orphanage where we help feed the children lunch and then hold the babies. When I am in Jérémie, I feel like I am serving God's people and using the gifts God has given me to use with His people. I also want to thank the group so much for sharing and giving of themselves the whole week. You are all great friends!