Wenatchee’s Haiti contingent keeps getting bigger
Originally published April 5, 2012 at 10:24 a.m., updated April 5, 2012 at 1:56 p.m.
WENATCHEE — When nearly two dozen people from Wenatchee travel to Haiti on Friday to provide medical and humanitarian aide for two weeks, they will continue a tradition that a Wenatchee urologist started 26 years ago.
This week, the 14 doctors and other medical staff will be joined by 11 Rotary Club members from around the region and a crew of two Wenatchee documentary filmmakers on this annual trek to Milot, Haiti.
The medical team — including doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists and physician assistants from the Wenatchee Valley Medical Center and Central Washington Hospital — will work at Hopital Sacré Coeur, a 73-bed hospital that serves a large area in northern Haiti.
The Rotarians — including club members from Canada and financial support from throughout the district — will distribute water filters, provide medical supplies, expand a small revolving loan program for single-person businesses, and start a scholarship program for nurses.
And the video crew — which consists of producer Jeff Ostensen and creative director Oly Mingo from Wenatchee’s North 40 Productions — will document their work.
For Rotary Club projects:
Write a check to Wenatchee Rotary Foundation, Haiti project
Send it to:
Wenatchee Rotary Club
P.O. Box 1723
Wenatchee, WA 98807
For medical team support:
Visit the Hopital Sacré Coeur site:
“Our goal is to tell a story about this group from Wenatchee, and how they are affecting people in Haiti,” said Ostensen. He said he’ll produce daily videos while he’s there, which can be viewed on The Wenatchee World’s website. When they return, they’ll produce a documentary to tell the story of how Dr. Dale Peterson, urologist from Wenatchee Valley Medical Center who first went to Haiti in 1986, started a tradition that evolved into an annual journey with more than 20 Wenatchee area residents that now touches hundreds of Haitian lives.
Ostensen said after traveling to Haiti for several years by himself, Peterson, in the mid- to late-1990s, began inviting other staff to join him. Then, after a massive earthquake struck the island in 2010, the Wenatchee Downtown Rotary Club got involved.
“The story is about our community, and what our community did to help other people,” he said.
To the people leading the medical and Rotary Club teams, the story is about a Third World country where the need is so great, it’s nearly unfathomable for anyone who hasn’t seen it first-hand.
Dr. Jeff Monda, Medical Center urologist who has made the trip for several years, said two years after the earthquake, donations to Haiti have slowed to a simmer, despite the continuing need. “You hear in the media a lot how nothing has been done, but that’s not true,” he said.
Monda said from a medical perspective, the need will never be met.
“We’ll get down there on Saturday, and go right to the clinic, and there will be 100 people there waiting in the hot sun. Some have come from the farthest reaches of the country,” he said. “You never get through all the patients. They’ll keep lining up and lining up, and they will always be there.”
Monda said the lack of clean water is one of the most fundamental problems the country faces.
“There are parts of Haiti that were severely affected by the earthquake, and parts that were untouched. But they all have bad water,” he said.
Cholera is a huge problem, he said. The World Health Organization reported 179,379 cases in 2010.
Because of the bad water, “Little babies still die in Haiti because they have diarrhea,” Monda said.
It ties with pneumonia as the second leading cause of death in children under five years old, according to the World Health Organization. It’s a country where 87 children out of every 1,000 die in their first five years, compared with 8 per 1,000 in the United States.
Monda said the Rotary Club’s efforts are helping to prevent some of the medical problems.
Last year, the Rotary brought 30 water purification systems to the country, and gave them to orphanages and schools, said Garry Arseneault, chairman of the Downtown Wenatchee Rotary’s world community service committee.
This year, they’ve purchased 100, and hope to distribute a few more complex purification systems that sterilize water to clinics and medical centers, and one, larger purification system to a community of about 2,000 people who use a single hand-pump well.
The Rotary is also providing $1,000 to the medical team so it can bring supplies that often aren’t available in Haiti. Last year, the medical team used part of the money to buy devices that can revive someone who is dying from dehydration, a common result of diarrhea from drinking impure water.
The Rotary also started a micro-financing loan program, which offers loans of up to $50 to women who make greeting cards and selling other goods on the street. Arseneault said the women use the loans to buy materials. He said they’d like to expand that program.
Finally, the Rotary hopes to start a new scholarship program for nursing students. Arseneault said people can sponsor a nurse for $2,000 a year, which includes tuition, books, room and board.
Arseneault said the problems in Haiti seem so overwhelming, his group wasn’t sure how it could help at first. “One of the focuses of Rotary is, we do not throw money at it and walk away. We will not get involved in a project unless we can truly help. Rotary is about boots on the ground,” he said.
But after exploring the problems, he said, they decided that clean water could help improve living conditions on a number of levels.
“We’ve got a chance to make some meaningful changes in Haiti,” he added.
K.C. Mehaffey: 997-2512
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