The world watched in bewilderment and disbelief as a series of unfortunate events descended on Haiti in 2010, topped by the devastating earthquake of January 12.
But, a group of professionals, organized by the Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College Past Students Association and led by chairperson of its central executive branch, Carol Grant-Gordon, were not satisfied being mere onlookers.
Plans were finalized for a six-day mission and, on October 18, the team of 25, including medical doctors, physician assistants, registered nurses, dentists and dental assistants, ministers and educators and an emergency medical technician travelled to Haiti seeking to positively impact on the broken lives.
Two persons from Granville, St. James joined past students from various parts of the United States at the Reagan National Airport in Washington D.C. From this central point they flew to Haiti, armed with brave hearts, medication and related other supplies, donations, some 150 packets of school supplies for students and a few items of food and clothing, as well as their prayers that the mission would be a great success.
“On our arrival in Haiti, we were joined by a team of some 24 Haitians, who gave us tremendous assistance by working tirelessly and efficiently as interpreters, ensuring that the needs of each patient was understood, to procure the right treatment,” Mrs. Grant-Gordon told JIS News.
They were amazed and touched by the warm welcome they received from the Haitians, who awaited them in an unfinished church building where the clinics were set up.
“They were singing and praising and thanking God for sending us, and for our safe arrival. We were genuinely shocked and amazed at the awesome sight and the warm and receptive attitude of these people,” Mrs. Grant-Gordon told JIS News.
There were banners stretched across the streets and posters welcoming the ‘Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College Past Students!’
“We were truly humbled and overwhelmed that, with the scant resources available to them, they were able to put so much effort into making us feel welcome in their country,” she added.
She observed that tents were quickly set up for the clinics and a pharmacy, and treatment commenced immediately.
“Each day the crowd increased in number, as the word spread like wild fire that help was available. One day we faced the inevitable challenge of too many patients awaiting treatment. They started fainting, due to hunger and/or thirst. Tragedy was, however, averted as those affected were treated with glucose and water, so they could regain their strength,” she related.
During three days of hard work in the heat, and some days in which the mission team had to go without food, they were able to attend to over 650 patients and provide follow-up care, before they ran out of medication.
Registered Nurse and member of the Mission team, Linda Coy, told JIS News that whatever success they experienced, was due mainly to the patience and camaraderie and the ‘unbreakable bond of unity’ demonstrated by members of the ‘dream team’.
“What an amazing week we had! I had an excellent time working with 24 of my colleagues during the six days of the mission,” Ms. Coy told JIS News.
Some of the illnesses they treated included high blood pressure, nasal allergies, fungal infections, gynecological concerns, diabetes, skin rashes, arthritis and worms.
She described Haiti then, as a hopeless country with the most hopeful people.
“I now have a renewed appreciation for the things I am blessed with. I have a new appreciation for that adage ‘one day at a time’, since to do anything else in the face of that overwhelming loss is fruitless. Our hearts were very heavy with what we saw, but also warm with the love and appreciation of these hardworking people,” Ms. Coy told JIS News.
Another member of the mission, Kenrick Samuels, recounted that when they surveyed sections of Haiti, ravaged by earthquake, poverty and turmoil, they could not help feeling compassion for the people.
“From the time we arrived at the airport in Port-Au-Prince, the desperation was evident. People were almost fighting to push our luggage, with the hope of getting a few dollars. We had to work with one group for our safety and comfort, and so were quickly on our journey to the compound. Even then, folks were running after the truck, kids were begging for anything we could give to them,” he recalled.
“The night of our arrival found a group of us waiting in line to use the one bathroom facility shared for some 15 people. The water pressure was low and trickled at best. Getting into the shower, literally, took hours,” Mr. Samuels told JIS News.
He reminisced on the spectacle of the people who were singing and praising God in the half-finished church, when the medical and educational team arrived early that first morning.
“The Bible tells us that God always have a remnant; a people who will not bow to the adverse circumstances around them. Strikingly obvious to us, was the fact that even though there was so much destruction, the people of Haiti found enough pride to have their shoes cleaned and polished daily,” Mr. Samuels told JIS News.
“The ailments were endless, but their hope and faith were equally matching. We toiled all day without breaks or even food, as we truly loved what we were doing. On the final day, we were all armed with renewed zest and a mind to work, but faced the reality that our medical and other supplies were all but used up, due to the great need,” he went on.
“We felt we could have done more, if only we were not limited. Everyone felt touched by the value and virtue that came from giving of one’s self. The unity of our medical and educational team was quite obvious. It was as if you could feel everyone’s desire to do more. We were satisfied that we did the best we could, in our small corner,” he concluded.
“It is extremely wonderful to report that we have completed a very successful, rewarding and essential medical and education mission to Haiti, a country still reeling from great tragedy and unspeakable devastation. With the help of God, we were able to complete every aspect of our agenda and returned home safely before the unfortunate cholera outbreak,” he added.
He expressed thanks and appreciation to all who worked to make the mission a success.
“Special mention of Bishop Vibert our host in Haiti, medical coordinator Linda Coy and all members of the mission team, for a job well done,” Mrs. Grant-Gordon told JIS News.
She stressed that the mission was characterized by the demonstration of personal sacrifices, and will remain etched in the hearts and memories of all the participants.