I recently had the opportunity to go on a volunteer medical mission to Haiti with the nonprofit organization Hands Up For Haiti. This trip gave me the opportunity to combine my 25 years’ experience as a Registered Nurse with my role as Executive Director of the nonprofit organization Positive Legacy in an incredibly meaningful way.
I traveled with a team of doctors and nurses from the USA to deliver a week of direct patient care in northern Haiti. We were based at the Haiti Village Health clinic in the rural Bas Limbe region, one of two established clinics supported by Hands Up for Haiti. The Haiti Village Health clinic, originally opened in 2008, serves 30,000+ people, half of whom are children, living in 16 villages located within a 10-mile radius.
While at HVH, we held pediatric outreach clinics together with a team of Haitian health care workers in several remote villages.
Our team spent our last clinic day at the second HUFH supported clinic located in Shada. The community of Shada, home to about 25,000 Haitians, is the city of Cap Haitien’s most impoverished area.
The nonprofit organization I work for, Positive Legacy, has provided $27,500 to Hands Up for Haiti and Haiti Village Health through a series of two grants in 2012 and 2015. Prior to the first grant this clinic did not have running water, adequate sanitation or reliable electricity. Positive Legacy provided $9,000 to the clinic in 2012 for the installation of a plumbing and septic system, flushing toilets and handwashing stations.
It’s hard to imagine that this clinic treated over 10,000 people during the cholera outbreak in 2010 without running water. Last year we were able to assist the clinic again with an $18,500 grant for the installation of a solar electric system. The clinic now has reliable electricity 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, allowing them to provide care with adequate lighting at any time of the day or the night.
The impact: The medical staff is now able to see patients, perform life-saving surgeries and deliver babies with adequate light even at night. For me personally, to be able to visit HVH and see the lives that we touched through Positive Legacy’s donations to HUFH, and to visit the clinic at Shada and see the care the staff delivered to those who might not otherwise ever get medical attention, reinforced for me the belief that we can make a difference, one person at a time.
Some staggering statistics about Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, where the population is approximately 10 million:
- 59% of the population lives on less than US$2 per day
- Life expectancy is 57 years
- Infant mortality: 55 per 1000 births, compared to 6 per 1000 in the USA
- 59 per 1,000 born in Haiti die before reaching their first birthday
- An estimated 1 in 285 births will result in a woman’s death, a ratio about 16 times higher than in the United States
- Prevalence of malnutrition (moderate to severe) is 22%
- Only one-fourth of the population has access to safe water
- In short, the overwhelming majority of the Haitian population is living in deplorable conditions of extreme poverty.
Over the course of the medical mission we provided care to hundreds of men, women and children. The most common problems we encountered were skin diseases, gastrointestinal illness, malnutrition, malaria and an array of other conditions.
The needs in Haiti are vast, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed when you are looking at mountains beyond mountains. The power is in knowing you can touch one life at a time, and that being human and open is all it takes to make a difference in the lives of others. Our grants have made a vast and positive difference in the lives of so many Haitian men, women and children. After witnessing personally the direct care that Hands Up for Haiti delivers in Haiti, the teaching that it accomplishes and the support that it gives the Haitian medical community, Positive Legacy has awarded additional grants to Hands Up for Haiti for work at Shada, Bas Limbe and elsewhere.
Hands Up for Haiti welcomes volunteers for their service trips to Haiti, and you don’t have to have a medical background to join them on a mission. Everyone has something unique and valuable to offer. I strongly encourage anyone that’s interested in giving a week of their time to the people in Haiti to consider this opportunity. You can check out Hands Up for Haiti at http://www.handsupforhaiti.org/
For more information on Positive Legacy, please visit our website at http://positivelegacy.com/