Haiti, in their own words
Thursday, June 16, 2011
The relationship between the medical community in the Wenatchee Valley and the community of Milot, Haiti, was renewed again this spring. In April, a medical team led by Wenatchee Valley Medical Center urologists Jeff Monda and Wally Gibbons spent two weeks treating patients at Sacré Coeur Hospital.
In addition, a team of individuals from the Wenatchee Downtown Rotary joined the medical team to support the medical work and to work on economic development and health projects in the Milot area.
We invited individuals from the medical team and the Rotary team to summarize the work they accomplished and what they found in Haiti.
For more than a decade, teams of Wenatchee medical professionals have been treating patients there, in an effort pioneered by retired physician Dale Peterson. We hope you appreciate the contributions these community members made to make a desperately poor place a little bit better.
— Rufus Woods, Wenatchee World publisher
Relief effort requires lots of hands and hearts
By Dr. Jeff Monda
The Wenatchee medical team’s two-week trip to Haiti this April was a tremendous success. Our medical community continues to show amazing support for the poor people of Haiti. Twelve talented people gave their time and their hearts to a nation where 75 percent of the people get one meal or less a day.
The people of Haiti have had to move on since the devastating earthquake of last year.
The day we arrived, more than 100 patients lined up in the hot sun to be seen by Dr. Wallace Gibbons and myself. Virtually all the patients needed surgical intervention. Some of them were suffering with catheters in their bladders for years.
In this one day, we scheduled enough surgery to fill two weeks of work.
With the help of Drs. Dave Wiggum and Kathy Mattern, both anesthesiologists, we safely operated on about 75 patients. We relied heavily on the help of Fred Schuenemann, Kelly DeWolfe, Melanie Thornton and Anne Gibbons for patient care and could not do it without them. Their commitment is beyond amazing.
Dr. Kyle Bryan also joined our team and provided internal medicine care. Natalie Gibbons, a Gonzaga nursing student, also helped in many areas. George Pleitez provided excellent, and much-needed, ultrasound services to the entire hospital as well. All the surgeries were successful with the help of all involved.
This year, the Wenatchee Rotary helped support our trip by contributing funds to buy medications essential for our surgeries. The commitment to Haiti by this important group will have lasting effects.
Two special contributions for this trip were the Junior Service League’s contribution of 70 pairs of shoes. Shoes are like gold to the people of Haiti. Also, the Wenatchee High School soccer team collected donations of soccer gear and balls, which they called “Headers for Haiti.” We distributed these donations on this trip, and the children adored the shiny new soccer balls.
Our team made a trip to a child-care facility called “Children of the Promise.” This organization takes in sick and malnourished children and orphans. They operate solely on donations to feed and care for nearly 50 children who otherwise would not survive. It is truly inspiring to see the commitment of these people to the children of Haiti.
All in all, it was a very successful trip. People are always asking me how they can help. Contributions can be made to the Crudem Foundation, which runs the hospital in Milot, Haiti. Or you can donate to Children of the Promise. Their websites are: crudem.org and childrenofthepromise.org.
Dr. Jeff Monda is a urologist at Wenatchee Valley Medical Center. He has made several trips to Haiti to provide medical care at Sacre Coeur Hospital in Milot, a city in the northern part of the island.
A journey they’ll never forget
It was a privilege to be invited to join our local medical team in Haiti.
I first have to say how dedicated and caring the doctors, nurses and technicians were in handling the medical needs of the people of Milot, Haiti. These folks give up their vacation time to attend to the Haitian people and do so unselfishly.
We met with several members of the Cap Haitian Rotary Club, a strong club already using its knowledge of the Rotary matching grant process to build water wells and latrine facilities so badly needed after the earthquake. We agreed to team up and work together to rebuild their beautiful Haiti.
I was taken by the beauty of the country, the grace of the people and the willingness of most to work together for the betterment of their country.
— Sue Rose, Wenatchee Downtown Rotary member
When I come back from Haiti, people tell me what a great guy I am. I respond by saying you do not have to go to Haiti to help. You can help the person next door — neighbors in need. There are needs everywhere you turn.
— Mike Poirier, Wenatchee Downtown Rotary member
Rotary club tries four-pronged approach to aid
By Garry Arseneault
Haiti is unlike most other places in the Caribbean — it is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere with rampant poverty, disease, diarrhea, malnourishment, high infant mortality, illiteracy and, more recently, earthquakes and hurricanes.
I was most unprepared for the young children tugging on my hand saying “My parents are dead, and I’m hungry.”
My role as a member of Rotary International in Haiti was straightforward — look for ways Wenatchee Downtown Rotary could help the common Haitian citizen. We established a list of four focus areas we thought might work:
Clean water — We installed 34 water filter systems in schools serving more than 1,000 students. Another 16 went to an orphanage and feeding center with unhealthy well water.
Micro-finance loans — We made $50 loans to 10 women of Milot to assist them in their small businesses. Most of these businesses are little more than what we would think of as a street-side food vendors. Even though the financial need is far greater, we started small to test our theory and hope to expand this program in six months.
Education — We sought scholarship opportunities in the fields of nursing, arts and vocations like welding. For $2,000, we are able to sponsor a student nurse for a year through the Hôpital Sacré Coeur in Milot, Haiti.
Medical team — We provided the team of Wenatchee doctors funding for medical supplies and devices, some of which are nonexistent or in short supply in Haiti. One of these was a rehydration device which ended up being used to save a child’s life at the orphanage where we supplied the Sawyer water filters.
Haiti’s living standards will not be quick or easy to improve, but as my uncle used to say, “every journey begins with the first step.” We are proud to lend a hand up to those in Haiti who would better their own lives.
My time in Haiti left a deep impression of a country and a people that time forgot — like an expendable society that quickly fades from the media limelight when the next world crisis happens. If Haiti is to improve the living standards of its people, the people of Haiti will have to lead the charge. All problems in Haiti revolve around lack of education, but first they must be free from disease and dehydration; they must have adequate nourishment to fuel the brain.
Garry Arseneault is a financial adviser in Wenatchee and a Rotary member.
Headers for Haiti scores big
By Dr. Dave Wiggum
Headers for a Haiti was a program developed by Megan Wade, junior goal keeper for the Wenatchee High School girls soccer team. Her intent was to provide an opportunity for local soccer players to donate quality, used soccer equipment to children in Haiti.
She collected more than 100 pounds of gear, including 16 pairs of shoes, 12 sets of shin guards, 22 pieces of clothing and 91 balls. She also collected $150 in donations. We transported the equipment in apple boxes packed by Megan and her family. Megan is the daughter of Mike and Karen Wade of East Wenatchee.
Soccer is the most popular sport in Haiti. While we were there, we saw children of all ages playing on dirt and rock fields that varied from full size to about the size of a large living room. The goals were commonly a couple of rocks stacked on each other. The balls ranged from wads of tape and string to coconuts or rocks. Only occasionally would there be a scuffed, well-worn soccer ball.
It is an understatement to say the donations were well-received by the Haitian children. It is difficult to describe the excitement, wild surprise and crazy happiness these kids showed when handed a new soccer ball or a pair of soccer shoes. Distributing the equipment was one of the real joys many of us had while in Haiti.
We presented equipment locally to children whose stories ranged from a young man orphaned by the earthquake who suffered burns over 35 percent of his body from a kerosene fire, to a child whose mother died of cardiac arrest on the steps of the hospital. Other recipients included an aspiring young artist and kids playing with a rock on a dusty piece of roadway.
The “Headers” program was a joy for us to facilitate. The cementing of relationships with other organizations working to help the Haitian community was an unanticipated bonus.
The real payoff was the screams of joy and wild jumping around by beautiful kids with big smiles. That memory was given to us and brought home in our hearts.
Dave Wiggum has been an anesthesiologist in Wenatchee for 25 years. Wiggum said he and his wife Karen “were attracted by the unique combination of a sophisticated, organized medical community in a relatively small town.”
Poverty is not the measure of a man
By Melanie Thornton
Haiti is a land of contrast — forested green hills and open sewers, personal poverty and great dignity.
These differences are all the more acute because they are seen side by side. A walk down the street not only shows us pigs eating garbage and human waste in the sewers, but also the huge effort that women go through just to clean their laundry. Clothes are washed in the river or the well and stretched out on foliage to dry, then pressed with an iron filled with hot coals. Many of the people were immaculately dressed: men with pressed shirts and ties, little girls with matching socks and hair ribbons, and women in fitted dresses and skirts.
People wait with great patience to receive medical care (sometimes saving for a year in order to pay for a surgery), yet will storm a bus to get the last ride to their village.
Despite the lack of privacy in the recovery room (and my futile attempts to provide it), there was no shame displayed by any individuals, only laughter and smiles at my stumbling French.
The Haitians are stoic people, grateful for the attention they received. When it came to working alongside the Haitian nurses, my greatest observation was that we, as Westerners, have our own agenda of efficiency and speed. However, we must respect their slow and methodical approach to their life and to their work.
In a country that has had earthquakes, hurricanes and political turmoil, perhaps this methodical response is a grasp for dignity and survival, as one can only chip away at life’s huge problems one rock at a time. I learned that poverty and problems are not the measure of a man.
Melanie Thornton has been a Registered Nurse at Wenatchee Valley Medical Center for 10 years, following a move from Houston, Texas. She’s an avid hiker and enjoys the outdoor activities that the Wenatchee Valley has to offer.
MORE LIKE THIS
Sunday, May 19
Wenatchee Women's Show
Performing Arts Center of Wenatchee, 1 p.m.
Sunday, May 19
Local Author H.S. Clark is Signing His New Thriller at Hastings in Wenatchee
Hastings Entertainment, 315 9th St., Wenatchee, WA, 1 p.m.
Monday, May 20
Conquer Your Fear of Public Speaking - Toastmasters Meeting
First United Methodist Church, 5:30 p.m.
Monday, May 20
Wenatchee Fire FC Tryouts
Sunnyslope Elementary School, 5:30 p.m.