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As some of you may know, last spring we sent out an appeal to the churches in the New Brunswick, NJ Presbytery for used clothes and shoes to be sent to Haiti.  We were packing up some drums with backpacks that had been donated by high school students in Wisconsin and wanted some clothes to pack along with the backpacks.  Well, the response was overwhelming and Kingston Presbyterian Church (my home church) was filled with so many wonderful items that we had to buy extra drums to accommodate them all.  They were shipped from NY to Port-au-Prince and were brought out to Jérémie during the summer.  We have been gradually sorting through them and giving some to needy patients and members of the communities around the clinic.  Many of these people still have Port-au-Prince earthquake survivors with them and their resources have been stretched to the limit.  So, this is a small way that we can help ease their burdens.

We recently decided to borrow an idea from churches and Emergency Departments in which I’ve previously worked and that is to create a CLOTHING BOX for the clinic.  It’s filled with clothing of all sizes, infant caps, afghans and quilts made by the Presbyterian Women in New Jersey, shoes, socks and underwear.  We’ll be using the items to give to those patients we feel are most in need, especially the newborn infants and malnourished children whose parents are the poorest of the poor.  Below is a photo of the box filled with wonderful treasures, as well as a photo of a premature newborn who we saw three days after her birth.  Her mother is 16 years old and we’ve been seeing the baby, mother and grandmother each week for several weeks, giving them infant caps, blankets and clothes for the little one.  Many, many thanks to those who contributed clothing and shoes in our efforts to relieve some of the physical needs of the Haitian people.

The Clothing Box

Tiny Recipient of NJ Gifts

 

 

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This update refers to my previous blog from December 9th.  Yesterday we met with the local government leader who works in the area where the three murders occurred.  He said that Thursday night, he was called to investigate the situation and he interviewed several people and summoned the commissioner, or highest government lawyer in Jeremie, to investigate.  It seems that the deaths were a payback to the witchdoctor for previous wrongs and the ones involved in his death used the poison story as an excuse for murder.  Several people heard Pierre admit to having poison powder in his possession, however, and it is unlikely that there will be any charges made.  So, it is now in the hands of the local authorities

Today was a day I’ll not forget for a long time – a day where rumor became reality and justice seems like a nonexistent dream.  Let me first give you some background.

Over the past two weeks, there have been reports of cholera cases here in the Jeremie area, but it has been difficult to get an estimate of how widespread the disease actually is.  Fear of the disease is rampant, however, due to lack of knowledge regarding transmission and prevention and, more significantly, due to the deep-seated suspicions of people whose lives are lived in fear of the supernatural (i.e. Voudou).  There have been concerns among the local people that malevolent individuals are trying to poison local water sources as a means of making people sick and blaming it on cholera.  Just last week, according to local rumors, in a town near our home in Jeremie, there were two young men who were inquiring about the location of the local water source.  After talking with the men for a while, some of the local villagers felt that the men were intending to poison the water source, so they killed them on the spot – no police, no trial, no judge – a case of vigilante justice.  There were rumors at the time that local witch doctors were responsible for the cholera deaths, which were actually poisonings as a means of fulfilling curses on the individuals involved.  This led to some of the local witch doctors leaving the area out of fear for their lives.

Today, when we were up in our clinic, we heard that there were many cases of cholera in a town up the mountain from us called Previle.  Many people had already died, including two members of a family who died this morning as some of our patients were passing through the town.  There is a small government clinic in Previle and they, with the assistance of Medecins du Monde (Doctors of the World) have set up a cholera treatment center where they are treating and hospitalizing infected individuals.  Local individuals felt that the source of the cholera was a nearby river that has become contaminated.  But, there are also concerns that the local witch doctors were poisoning the river and other water sources.

One of the most powerful witch doctors in our area was a man named Pierre.  We had interviewed him during our initial community assessment and had seen him several times in our clinic.  We actually waved to him this morning as we passed him on the side of the road outside his house.  This afternoon he was questioned by some local individuals who heard that he had poisonous powder in his possession and was intending to poison one of the local water sources with it.  When he got up to go into his house to presumably retrieve the powder, they stabbed him with machetes until he died.  They then killed two other men who admitted to working with him.  We heard about the deaths as we were closing up our clinic, but the news took on a deadly reality as we drove past their bodies lying along the road on our way down the mountain, blood scattered on the dirt around them.  No one else was in sight – just the bodies lying in the darkness – no police, no UN, no neighbors.  Suddenly vigilante justice became very real.

All I can think of as I write this evening, is to ask for prayer for this country and its people, the majority of whom are law-abiding, non-violent, wonderful, hard-working individuals.  Unfortunately, it is the violent ones who are shown on the news and are responsible for the deadly acts such as that which we witnessed today.  Pray for our work here, which is known as a Christian evangelical endeavor, to not only improve the health of those we care for, but change their hearts as well, removing their fears and giving them power over the evil in their world.  Pray!

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