You are currently browsing the monthly archive for February 2010.

Almost two weeks without internet connection has left me with a lot of catching up to do!  Cherlie and I were in Port-au-Prince again from February 6-17 registering with the UN, gathering supplies from various organizations and suppliers, packing up some of our personal belongings from Cherlie’s house and getting the big truck ready for the road trip to Jérémie.  Relief International is going to continue to use Cherlie’s house as a base camp for their clinic operations in the Carrefour area (epicenter of the earthquake) and we wanted to clear out as much extraneous “stuff” as we could.  It was a challenge, since they were acquiring medications and supplies of their own, stacking them on every available shelf and piece of furniture in the house.  So, it took some doing to dig through their things to clear out ours.  We finally got everything sorted and packed and made an uneventful 11-hour trip out to Jérémie on Wednesday, the 17th.  The road from Port-au-Prince to Les Cayes had recently been paved, but the earthquake caused large fissures and areas of buckling in the pavement.  We saw first-hand the destruction of buildings in the hard-hit areas of Gressier and Leogane, towns located to the southwest of Port-au-Prince on the road to the southern peninsula.  From Ti Goave on to Les Cayes, however, there were very few buildings down and little evidence of the forceful earthquake that left so many families shattered and homeless.  Life in the country seemed pretty normal, at least on the surface.  When we spoke with people on our way, however, we realized that the devastation was not just physical – almost every family and every life had been touched by death and loss.  It was sobering to realize how interconnected the country is and how widespread the impact of the events of January 12, 2010.

February 12, 13 and 14 were declared as Haitian national days of mourning one month after the tragic earthquake.  Prayer services were held throughout the country and people raised their voices in praise and prayer for comfort and healing.  Businesses were closed and the streets were quiet, in eerie contrast to the normal hustle and bustle of life in the capital city.  It was good to take some time to reflect on the enormity of the disaster and to think about the role that the Lord wants each one of us to play in sustaining and rebuilding this country.  It is very evident that it will take a massive international effort to support the life and health of the Haitian people in the months to come and to begin to clear the debris and rebuild lives, livelihoods and homes here.  Hopefully, in the long run, the rebuilding will be done appropriately and the country will be better off than before.  But, it will be a long, difficult process.  There’s a Creole expression here similar to the “many hands make light work” proverb.  There will definitely need to be many hands here!

In the past few weeks we’ve heard many stories of miraculous rescues that have taken place long after the earthquake hit.  I do not vouch for their accuracy, but here are a few of them:

  • A group of 14 students were rescued from the rubble of a multi-story school that had collapsed.  A bulldozer was beginning to clear away rubble when the driver heard distant voices.  He began digging in the area of the voices and rescued the students who had been in the school’s cafeteria at the time of the earthquake.  They had survived by eating food and water that they found in the cafeteria.
  • A man was in a food store when the earthquake hit and was buried under the rubble of the building for more than two weeks.  He survived by drinking Coke and beer that was in the store aisle where he lay.
  • A five year-old boy was pulled from the rubble of a building 3 weeks after the earthquake.  He said that even though there were dead people around him, an old man with a long white beard held him in his lap and brought him food and water every day.  He felt comforted and well taken care of.

Does anyone believe in angels???

Did you know that you can claim donations made for Haiti earthquake relief on your 2009 taxes?  Donations made after Jan. 11 and before March 1, 2010 can be claimed.  See this link for more information.  Twelve days left to make your donation and claim it on your 2009 taxes!

If you’re in southeastern Wisconsin, join the Mission River Band at Sportzone Grill and Bar in Germantown on Friday, February 19th at 8 p.m.

From their website:

The Mission River Band plays the great music from the “golden age of rock” – The Beatles, The Stones, Clapton, The Eagles, Van Morrison, Led Zeppelin, the Allman Brothers, Santana, Neil Young, To…m Petty, and some interesting “deep cuts” as well a few classic R&B favorites.

MRB is unique in that the band’s inspiration and motivation comes from performing in support of causes that are important to the group’s members. MRB has performed in support of fundraising events for organizations including Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Lumen Christi Parish School, the Boerner Botanical Gardens, Guitars for Veterans (G4V), Special Olympics, and the Retinal Research Foundation.

Come on out and join The Mission River Band in a celebration of the music we love, in support of causes we believe in. What’s better than Classic Rock, except Rock for a Reason?

New post-quake photos from Port-au-Prince posted on our website.  View them here.

Well, Cherlie and I are on the move again, back to Santo Domingo today and, hopefully, on to Port-au-Prince soon after that.  We spent the past few days in Florida, catching up on correspondence and paperwork, gathering meds and supplies and packing up to go back home to Jérémie.  First, we’ll be checking in with the Relief International team in Port-au-Prince.  They’ve been busy since we left, and have had several people leave and others come to take their places.  They continue to provide valuable medical care to those injured in the earthquake, as well as those who have become ill in its aftermath.  Many people who have chronic medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, are unable to go to their regular physicians.  So, organizations like RI are providing valuable services to these people, in treating their underlying medical problems, as well as acute illnesses and injuries.

We are anxious to get back to our home in Jérémie and to our patients in Gatineau.  We’ve been in touch by telephone with several of our patients and they understand why we aren’t there with them, but they’re anxious to have us back again.  We will try to obtain some medications and supplies from the UN and other organizations in Port-au-Prince, so that we can better meet the increased patient load we expect to find.  It is predicted that an additional 30,000 people will make their way to the Jérémie area and settle in with extended family living in the rural areas around town.  So, the burden on health care organizations, such as Friends for Health in Haiti, will be significant.  One of the ways we hope to meet these increased needs is to start work as soon as possible on construction of a permanent clinic building.  This will provide jobs for many local people, both during construction and after we are fully functioning, and it will allow us to expand our hours and the services we provide.

Cherlie and I have been asked many times for our reaction to the devastation and injuries we witnessed in Haiti after the earthquake.  The only word that comes to mind is “overwhelming” – overwhelming destruction and loss of life and an overwhelming task ahead to clean up and rebuild homes, businesses, government and lives.  Friends for Health in Haiti is in this for the long haul and we’ll do whatever we can to meet physical, spiritual and medical needs of the people we serve.  We appreciate your prayers for safety and wisdom in the days ahead and your support for our ministry to thousands in need.

After a whirlwind 12 days in Port-au-Prince, Cherlie and I arrived back in Florida on Friday morning, having “hitch-hiked” on another helicopter from Port-au-Prince to Santo Domingo and then getting a plane flight to Miami.  We felt a mixture of sadness and relief as we left the country we now call home – a country that had very little infrastructure one month ago, and now has none, a country where almost every person’s life has been recently touched by death.  The major structures of government lie in a shambles, piles of rubble where once were offices and computers and records.  The gleaming white palace is now lopsided, walls caved in, windows broken and roofs lying at awkward angles.  State university buildings are demolished and schools across the country have closed, causing students to lose a precious year of their education.  One of the few functioning departments is the National Police Department, and even their employees don’t know if they will ever get paid.

The streets of Port-au-Prince are more congested than ever, but rather than colorful tap-taps and taxis, the cars and trucks wear the decals of the UN and NGO’s – all there to help Haiti through this time of suffering and destruction.  In every open area and park throughout the city are “displaced persons”, those without homes, living in temporary shelters made from bed sheets held up by wooden poles.  And in the residential areas, even when homes are standing, no one is sleeping inside them.  At night, whole neighborhoods spread out their sheets and mattresses along the side of the road to sleep.  They live in fear of another earthquake, made more real by the frequent aftershocks and smaller quakes that continue to shake the ground under them.  These rumblings have been felt by all of us, and make us wary of standing or driving on narrow streets where buildings could crash down on us at any time.  Palpitations and anxiety are common among the patients we saw, and we could only say “I know what you’re feeling, because I feel it too.”

A lot has been written and said about the delay in supplies and medical care reaching the people of Port-au-Prince.  I can only say that the logistics of this relief operation are massive.  The streets of Port-au-Prince were poor to begin with and now many are blocked by rubble, making access very difficult.  There appeared to have been massive rescue operations in areas where large buildings collapsed and people were known to have been inside.  Many, many people were pulled out of the rubble by family members and friends, some of them several days after the initial earthquake.  We saw several areas where food and water were being distributed, always accompanied by armed UN troops to maintain order.  Security is a huge issue for medical relief groups, since any type of mobile clinic needs to be set up in such a way as to insure that masses of people seeking care can be controlled.

If there was one thing that impressed me during our time in Port-au-Prince, it was the normalcy of life there.  On our initial survey trip throughout the city, exactly one week after the earthquake, people were walking along the streets as always, buying food in their local open-air markets, talking and arguing as they always do.  The only thing that seemed out of place were the masks that many wore, to protect from the stench of dead bodies that were buried in the piles of rubble.

Haitians are a resilient people; they have proven this throughout history.  They will rebuild from this disaster and, hopefully, with the help of others, will become a better country for it.  Their grieving is over, they’ve picked up the pieces and their lives go on, no matter how difficult they are.  And, in a few days, we’ll be back there beside them, helping them through the long process of reconstruction.  Thousands of people have fled from Port-au-Prince to their homes in the Jeremie area and we will soon be taking care of their medical and health needs.  We are anxious to get started on construction of a permanent clinic building so we can expand our services to those in need.  We thank our generous donors for their assistance in making this construction a reality.