October 2010 Trip to Haiti
During our recent mission trip to Haiti my Avera coworkers I observed unbelievable depths of human suffering. A mere two hours from Miami, Florida entire villages deal daily with death and morbidity from diseases I had only read about.
In the midst of this darkness there shines a beacon of light-the Hatian Health Foundation. Providing 300,000 Hatians with medical care, education and shelter all in the name of Christ, HHF fills a tremendous void- and does it well. Avera's commitment to HHF and the Hatian people is to be commended.
I just returned from the October Aver Mission trip to Jeremie, Haiti. I again found myself edified be the good work the Haitian Health Foundation is doing there. I did dental extractions in five separate village posts during the week. It's an excellent opportunity to alleviate pain and suffering for people with nowhere else to turn.
What a privilege to be able to work with the Haitian Health Foundation and the Haitian people. It is an opportunity to bring some comfort and to affirm the dignity of some of the world's very poorest people.
What a privilege for me to once again travel to Jeremie, Haiti with 12 Avera volunteers. Divine intervention must have guided the selection of each as all came with open hearts and the willingness share their talents. It's exciting to see 12 individuals (13 as Kevin joined us from New Hampshire) come together and "do whatever it takes".
I think our prayer on the first evening "That you take in all that is around you, that your eyes are open to see the joy and the sadness, the courage and the suffering, the beauty and the accomplishments about you. That you exercise a 'mysticism of open eyes.' That your heart is touched these days, that you somehow, to some degree, fall in love..with the people you meet, the people you touch, the people you are traveling with. And lastly, that you can put into some kind of words and share with one another what you have seen, what has touched your heart, or in what way you have seen the Invisible One who will be all around you." was answered for each of us.
Words will never do justice to what you see in Haiti......I saw into the eyes of a young mother who brought her premature infant who was near death and in need of nutrition and fluids yet too weak to suck. Her eyes spoke volumes when after two days of intermittent tube feedings by our NICU nurse her baby was finally able to suck from a bottle. Pain was reflected in the eyes in countless people who were living with rotten, broken, and infected teeth. After waiting in long lines they were able to find relief at the hands of three dentists, two volunteers and one a newly graduated Haitian woman. Then there was the young man who was unable to walk as his feet were so crusted with athletes foot. A volunteer, an umbrella partly shielding her from the hot sun, spent hours scrubbing his feet and applying ointment and dressings. At the end of the day he hobbled off to walk up the mountain hanging onto the shoulder of his elderly mother. I saw joy in the eyes of Dr Romelin, the new Haitian dentist, when she returned to HHF after a long day in the mountains. During the day her office had been updated with new equipment and the shelves stocked with restorative supplies thanks to our Dentist volunteers. A skilled volunteer was able to install and connected the equipment as well as repair some of the existing equipment. When the remark was made to Dr Romelin that she had the best office in Jeremie, her reply was "no I have the best office in Haiti." Then there were the eyes of the Haitian Health workers thirsty to learn the sonography techniques from one of our physician volunteers.
I treasure a morning spent in Sister Maryann's office watching as she went from addressing construction issues surrounding 20 soon to be built Happy Homes, to talking with the mother of a deaf girl needing living arrangements in PAP, to arranging for arm/shoulder prosthesis for an earthquake survivor, then on to checking school bills for children on scholarship, and finally fielding Cholera questions. On the last day four of us accompanied Sister Mary Ann as she walked into a very poor neighborhood and greeted each person by name. We were going to visit with a women who, when she had flour, baked bread in a cement oven behind her home. We heard the story of the women's son, a few months from ordination, who was killed when the Cathedral collapsed in Port Au Prince. On the way back to the truck and young girl who looked to be in her early teens took Sister's hand and walked with us. Once in the truck Sister said "I must bring back some shoes". As they walked, Sister had measured the girl's feet against her own and estimated that the young girl needed size 8 1/2.
Thanks to those at Avera Health who researched the Haitian Health Foundation and worked to make the Avera Haiti mission opportunity available. I feel privileged to support the work of the Haitian Health Foundation as their model of helping the Haitians help themselves is working when little else is in Haiti.
To experience Haiti is to be forever changed...
This being my first trip to Haiti I had no idea what to expect. In one of the group e-mails sent out leading up to the trip I was told this trip would be far better than a vacation to a resort, it was true. This trip was an amazing experience. I learned a lot about the people of Haiti and about myself. It's very difficult to put into words what was experienced during the week. The people of Haiti amaze me, even though it is a struggle to survive, not always knowing where the next meal will come from, or having clean safe drinking water, they still remain strong, courageous and grateful for everything they receive. I want to thank Avera and the Haitian Health Foundation for this amazing experience. This is something I will never forget.
I think the thing that struck me the most is the fact that a country so poor can be at the door step of the richest nation in the world.
Kinda reminds me of Lazarus and the rich man (LK 16:19-31). I have known for a long time that we are blessed, to those that much is given much is expected.
We were given the opportunity to go to the orphanage run by the Missionaries of Charity Sisters. I had the opportunity to hold and feed a little girl about 2 years old there. I marveled at the patience she had in my feeding her. I felt the food was to hot to give her right away and she just patiently sat on my lap and waited until I presented the food to her. She enjoyed the food and ate well. When it was time to go I left a little of my heart with her.
I would like to thank and praise Avera and thank all who gave me the opportunity to go. I also would like to thank all the dedicated people that I went with also, for all the dedicated people down there working daily to make things better for the Haitians.
Shari Platek, RN
My only regret is I am unable to express what my trip to Haiti means to me. The beauty of the people and land fill my heart. We touch a few lives but we are forever changed. I am so grateful Avera has once again blessed me with this experience. Anyone considering traveling to Haiti should know they can make a difference. They can discover a premature, malnourished baby and teach mom how to feed her child. They can find an ill little girl and discover she has been blind for weeks and may respond to treatment. They can relieve the misery of an aching, infected tooth from hundreds of people. They can teach sonography to midwives and save the lives of mothers and newborns. They can set up a computer program to track HIV+ patients.
Mother Theresa once said: God doesn't require us to succeed; He only requires that you try.
Thank you again for this amazing opportunity.
Barb Pratt, RN
This was my first opportunity to travel to Haiti with the Avera Missions team. I was amazed that it seemed God had chosen each member of the team specifically to fill a need. The Center of Hope had a need for someone who could do ultrasounds for the mothers. God provided a physician who could perform the ultrasounds and also teach the nurses at the Center to do them after he returned home. There was a premature girl who was brought to the Center by her worried mother because she was dehydrated and too weak to suckle. God provided nurses who could tube feed the baby and assist the mother to express her breast milk for future feedings. They were also able to demonstrate the techniques for feeding preemies to the Haitian staff. The HHF Clinic needed updated dental equiment and God provided dentists who brought these items with them and a handyman to help make it all functional. These are only a few of the opportunities that were met with specific expertise. We serve an awesome God!
My life has been blessed by the smiles and hugs from people I met during my stay - especially the children at the Center of Hope and Sisters of Charity Home. My heart has been broken for the children who suffer from malnutrition and for their mothers, who struggle daily with the inability to provide basic necessities for their children. I am so thankful to have met Sister Maryann who taught me that charity should be tempered with dignity. I learned that the Haitian Health Foundation is providing resources that give hope and a future to the Haitian people, through education, health care and work opportunities. I went with the aspiration that I could make a small difference for someone else, but it was I who came away educated and profoundly changed.
Thank you for the opportunity.
This trip was my 3rd opportunity to go to Haiti with the Avera group. I am always proud to say that Avera sponsors HHF and all the great things they are doing. It is always fun to see the progress that is being made with each trip. I know that what I do does not always make a difference in the lives of the Haitians, but if I can make one child smile, it is worth it. It also brings greater awareness to others when they hear about the previous trips. The dental clinics were amazing with Dr Dick, the Haitian dentist and occasionally, Dr Kevin. The Haitians whom we served were very grateful. The group that we traveled with were awesome and a special bond is always formed with these people. It was fun to hear the stories of those who went to the mountain village of Dayere. It brought back fond memories of my trip there a couple of years ago. The hospitality of Sister Mary Ann and Marty is always welcoming and almost like "returning home". The trip was completed with a brief tour of the devastated areas of Port au Prince. Seeing the tent cities was incredible. The Haitian people have struggled through so many hardships, that it makes me wonder what their future holds for them. Hopefully the upcoming election will bring about a change that they so desperately need. Thank you Avera, for allowing me this opportunity.
We were in Jeremie for such a short time. How could we have any positive impact on the overwhelming issues facing these people? I left Sioux Falls with feelings of dread and hopelessness, sensing that I would have nothing useful to offer our hosts. The massive amount of supplies and the airport hassles had me counting the days til we returned home to our families.
By weeks end I found myself wishing for just a few more days, maybe another week, in Haiti. We were making real progress on my assigned project. There is a role for a family medicine educator in Haiti. I would miss the wonderful dedicated people I had met and worked with at the foundation clinic and the Center of Hope. I would miss the patients, the stoic, ones and most of all the smiling ones, who are making the most of unimaginably difficult lives.
Although I am back in the home routine now, news of the cholera epidemic and Hurricane Tomas has our Haitian friends in my thoughts and prayers daily. I hope I can contribute in some small way to the foundations fine work, and I look forward to reliving experiences with my travel companions.
Shannon Wright - Avera McKennan RN
Mother Teresa said, "We cannot do great things on the Earth, only small things with great love." After participating in the October 2010 Avera Haiti Mission Trip I witnessed many small acts done with great love! Traveling to Haiti was my first time out of the United States and it was eye opening to say the least. The most rewarding experience was traveling to the mountain village of Dayere. It was amazing to care for people who had traveled hours just to see4 a nurse or doctor. Since my return from Haiti my nursing practice and overall outlook on life has evolved. I am so very thankful for the experience! Thank you Avera!