Almost every Hands Up for Haiti volunteer who has traveled to northern Haiti has been welcomed at Open Door in Bois de Lance. In fact, this clinic was the site of the very first medical mission in 2010 when the founding team went to Haiti after the devastating earthquake. They were welcomed at that time by Pastor Wiljean Compere and his wife Jannine, an amazing cook, known to all as MaPas. Over the past four years, the Open Door community and the Wiljean family, have hosted multiple Hands Up for Haiti teams as they worked in collaboration with the Haitian medical staff to support and expand the medical clinic, provide health care to the children at the Open Door Orphanage, hold health education workshops for the school age children and teens, and donate books and computers to the school library.
This August it was our turn to welcome Pastor Wiljean Compere and his family as they traveled to the United States for a visit. Pastor, MaPas and their two teenagers, Jennie and Jerry, came to New York after traveling to Orlando and visiting Disneyworld. Dr. Jill Ratner, President of Hands Up for Haiti, and her husband Joel Rosenberg hosted the Compere family at their home, where they were reunited with Samson Desamour, who was excited to see his Pastor and show him where he has been living while going to school here in the United States.
First stop was Mt Kisco Medical Group, to meet and thank all the staff, especially at the pediatric practice where Dr. Jill, Dr. Allison Platt, and nurse Judy McAvoy, who have helped Hands Up for Haiti support Open Door throughout the years. It was an opportunity for staff members who have heard so much about our Haitian friends to actually meet them. For others, such as RN Kathy Lee and Alicia Benton who will be traveling to Haiti in November with Hands Up for Haiti it was an exciting chance to make connections.
A special moment was meeting Dr. Kevin Riley, OB-GYN, who although he has never traveled to Haiti, has helped save lives by donating the ultrasound machine used at Open Door to help women have safer pregnancies. Dr. Steven Maruliese who hopes to travel to Haiti in 2015 was instrumental in the Compere’s medical care, as well Dr. Oren Kahn, who, like many of the physicians and staff at the Mount Kisco Medical Group has supported HUFH over the last four years. Dr. Warren Bromberg was reunited with the Compere’s in the office as well. Ms. Doreen Semel, patient coordinator, and Sonia Young, public relations for MKMG was able to meet the Comperes and coordinated the appointments.
That evening Dr. Ratner and her husband held a potluck dinner for the Hands Up for Haiti community to celebrate the Pastor and his family. They were overwhelmed by the joyous welcome they received from countless volunteers who came from New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey to see the Pastor and his family. Board member, Amy Parkin, observed to MaPas, “Almost every person here tonight has been a guest in your home.”
For some volunteers, like Judy McAvoy, it was a chance to introduce family members to the Pastor. When she introduced her husband Jim, MaPas hugged him like family. Joel Rosenberg, Dr. Jill’s husband and major supporter of Hands Up for Haiti, has heard about the Pastor for years, “It really was wonderful to be able to finally meet.” Others, like pediatrician and frequent trip leader, Dr. Allison Platt, brought their children who hung around the piano as Samson, Jerry and Jennie sang Gospel songs from their church.
Guests included Joel Seligman, CEO of Northern Westchester Hospital, and his wife Joyce. Mr. Seligman traveled to Haiti with Hands Up for Haiti last year and spent time at Open Door working side by side with the doctors and nurses caring for the hundreds of children who come for medical care. During his visit, he formed a special bond with the Pastor after learning of all the needs for the people in his community.
Joining in conversations over dessert, Ophthalmologist Dr. Beth Bromberg and her husband, Urologist Dr. Warren Bromberg, were both happy to catch up with the Pastor. Dr. Beth and her eye team, including Dr. Mitch Stein, have made arrangements for ongoing ophthalmology care for patients from the Bois de Lance community with the help of Pastor Wiljean.
It was a beautiful evening and a wonderful summer celebration for the volunteers of Hands Up for Haiti and a chance to welcome a very special family to the United States.
Dr. Ratner said, “ It is like a collision of two worlds, a world in Haiti and a world at home and how these two worlds meet is a beautiful thing. It makes the universe feel a little smaller. “