Reflections on a Medical Mission to Haiti
By Ann Kenworthy, RN
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 the Bas Limbe region of Northern Haiti. We were based out of the Haiti Village Health clinic, and together with a team of Haitian health care workers, we held pediatric outreach clinics in several remote villages.
The Haiti Village Health clinic, originally opened in 2008, serves 30,000+ people, half of which are children, living in 16 villages located within a 10-mile radius.
The nonprofit organization I work for, Positive Legacy, has provided $28,500 to 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 $10,000 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 medical staff is now able to see patients, perform life-saving surgeries and deliver babies with adequate light even at night.
Some staggering statistics about Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, where the population is approximately 10 million:
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.
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/