I wish I could say that a deep calling to make a difference in the world is what propelled me to make the decision to join her on her most recent trip, but it was not. It was the mama bear in me. Although I was extremely intrigued by the idea of going and I did want to make an impact on others, I would always tell myself “one of these days”. One of these days came in the form of my daughter announcing that she needed a passport because she was going to Haiti with Aunt Amy. Ummm, not without your mama! And that was that. The decision to go to Haiti for a week on a mission trip was made. And I couldn’t be more grateful to Amy and Catie for pushing me outside my comfort zone and giving me the experience of a lifetime.
Catie and I joined Amy’s medical team, who is sponsored through Blacksburg Presbyterian Church and coordinate their mission work through Haiti Outreach Ministries (HOM). The work of Haiti Outreach Ministries (HOM) is done at three mission sites. Each site is anchored with the sound foundation of a church whose congregants worship regularly. Each church campus supports a school, clean water program and medical care to help meet the needs of the people. Mission trip opportunities include: Construction, Education, Teacher Training and Religious Instruction, Medical, and Long Term Volunteer Opportunities. As I said before, we went as a Medical Mission team with the idea Catie and I would spend a couple of days in the medical clinic and a couple of days in the elementary school. I do not hesitate to say that we were not only blessed with this trip, but blessed to go with some of the most compassionate, kind, and fun people I have ever met. Catie and I were privileged to share this adventure with 11 other amazing human beings. My sister in law, Amy, who is an Assistant CNO at a hospital in our area and frankly, our hero. Evelyn and Christy are very talented and empathetic Physicians. Frank is a Psychiatrist with such strong faith and his beautiful new wife Jennifer is a Nurse Practitioner practicing in the mental health field. Karen (our fearless and FUN leader!) is also a Nurse Practitioner working in Oncology and Marcia is an RN who treated every patient as if they were family. Kerry is a conscientious, caring (and very popular!) Pharmacist and Mike is a General Surgeon with the kindest heart I've ever met. Rounding out our group was Diron, a very genuine guy (and comedian in disguise!) who just happens to be an Information Technology Director that also works at a hospital, and Austin, Mike’s 23 year old sweet son who braved Haiti for 2 weeks with his dad for his first mission trip!
Before I get ahead of myself, let me tell you a little about Haiti. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Haiti makes up the western one-third of the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean. The eastern two-thirds of the island is the Dominican Republic. Haiti is slightly smaller than the state of Maryland with close to 10 million residents (if you are wondering like I was, Maryland has a population of close to 6 million). More than two thirds of the population is unemployed. Roughly 80 percent of Haitians are Roman Catholic, while fewer than one in five claims to be Protestant. Roughly 95 percent of Haitians – regardless of religious affiliation – hold at least some Voodoo beliefs or superstitions.
As described by Chelsea Evans on http://borgenproject.org/top-five-facts-about-poverty-in-haiti/, in 2010 Haiti was struck by what has been called the strongest earthquake since 1770. The 7.0 mW quake with aftershocks ranging from 4.2 to 5.9 affected at least 3 million people (over 220,000 killed) and left them in need of emergency aid. But in the last three years, the world at large has turned away from the struggle of the Haitian people to focus on newer problems. The fact remains, though, that aid is still needed. Here are the top 5 facts you should know about Haiti’s poverty.
- Even before the earthquake hit, 1.9 million people were in need of food assistance. Around 60 percent of the population lives on less than $1.00 a day. As a result, malnutrition and anemia run rampant. Haiti is the third hungriest country in the world.
- Only 50 percent of the people have access to an improved water source, such as a hand pump or a well. This means that most of the population depends on lakes, streams and rivers for their water, regardless of the cleanliness. Even if some people can get to better water than others, a total of 80 percent do not have adequate sanitation available. So even if they run less risk of becoming ill from bad water, they are unable to clean themselves and are susceptible to disease and infection.
- Only fifty percent of children living in Haiti are able to go to school, while 30 percent of those only progress to the fifth grade. As a result, half of Haitians are illiterate. Without a proper education, the people are unable to break free of the cycle of poverty.
- Haiti is the poorest country in the world with a poverty rate of 77 percent, closely followed by Guinea with a 76.7 percent poverty rate. The World Bank estimates that the earthquake caused about $8 million in damage, or 120 percent of the GDP.
- There is a large population of orphaned children in Haiti, many of whom are living on the streets. There were an estimated 380,000 prior to the earthquake and untold thousands added to that number after it. There are also about 250,000 restaveks, or children working as servants and often treated as slaves.
The statistics are staggering and heartbreaking, but not as much as seeing it in person. And that's just what we are about to do...see Haiti through my eyes! I hope you will follow along with me on this journey!
Next Blog Post: Haiti...Prepare and Take Off!!