External Support - Haiti

Mother of Sorrows Parish was a proud sponsor of a recent campaign to provide Water Filter Kits to families living in Haiti where clean drinking water is simply unattainable for most.

The POINTOne Water Filter Kit provided by Mother of Sorrows families:

  • Can filter out 99.99% of bacteria such as Salmonella, E. Coli and protozoa such as Giardia. This bacteria is present in the water supply in Haiti and is responsible for causing the latest outbreak of Cholera.
  • One kit can deliver over one million gallons of clean water and can last up to 10 years. 
  •  The only energy source required to filter the water is gravity.

Home from Haiti!

Parishioner Terri W., a licensed physical therapist, reports from her time working in Haiti, April 2010 as part of the Healing Hands for Haiti rehab organization.

I cannot express the emotions that I have experienced this past week as I travelled with the Healing Hands for Haiti rehab organization. I displayed a smiling optimistic face by day....but found myself in a puddle of tears every night.  In the midst of rubble, tent cities,extreme poverty, desperation, disease and injury the Haitian people are so resilient, appreciative and hopeful. So very thankful for having chosen physical therapy as my profession and being given the opportunity to serve the poorest among us. I was told that I would fall in love with the Haitian people, and they did not disappoint.  I travelled by small plane to a refugee hospital camp that was set-up in northern Haiti in the rural town of Milot near the city of Cap Haitian to care for some of the earthquake victims and their families. The neaby Catholic hospital (interestingly founded by a man named "Dubuque") was filled to capacity caring for the locals, so they erected a tent city to accommodate the earthquake vicitms.  My therapy team of 5 of us (4 PTs and 2 OTs), along with a team of MDs and nurses from Haiti and all over the world, cared for ~175 men, women and children many who incurred amputations, spinal cord injuries, and surgeries for complex crush injuries of their arms and legs. 

I also served a pediatric hospital just down the dirt road...I wish I could bring all of the children home with me!  Their stories are compelling. Some of our patients you heard about in earlier news stories of survival. Parents lost all of their children and many children lost both parents. We worked from tents in the tent-city community of children without toys or bicycles, no TVs, no I-pods or computers. Adults slept on cots. People bathed in the open air without privacy while women cooked food over open fires nearby. Children modified garbage to make toys.  I caught one 6 year old dis-assembling an old rusty oscillating fan that he found in the yard.  Two hours later, he was proud to show me his new toy. He had skillfully removed the outer metal ring from the fan and used a stick to rotate the "wheel".  Others took small plastic water bottles, turned them on their sides, made wheels from bottle caps or other debris, added string and crafted a "toy car."  What creative minds, what potential!!  One boy begged my in an excellent attempt at English to bring him books in English and French.  I sorted thru stockpiles of donations and found him one...you would think that I gave him a new computer game.

Temps in the tents were over 100 degrees every day. Everyone had one bag the size of a large garbage bag filled with all of their life possessions...all that they owned, all donations from thruout the US and the world. Yet no one complained!!  Not once!!! They were grateful to be alive to have food and shelter and people who cared about them. The hospital was trying to plan discharge for many of these people, but as you can imagine where were they going to be discharged to?  No homes, no families, a real dilemma.  The patients themselves did not want to leave the compund for they felt secure there.  Many are dealing with post traumatic stress, having been trapped under debris for hours.  One man retold his experience to me in painful detail.  His face and chest were inches from concrete.  He feared breathing deeply or screaming worried that the slab looming above him would shift and crush him.  He found an air pocket and with a free hand tossed pebbles thru the opening to summon rescue teams.  Several hours later, his airborne pebbles were seen and he was rescued.  While I was there, Drs. removed a rogue remnant of concrete schrapnel that was discovered imbedded in his leg all these weeks later.

I know that I will never again have much tolerance for Americans who complain about simple, mundane things...for we really have NOTHING to complain about.  As a nation blessed/obsessed with abundance and material things, one needs to visit a country like Haiti to fully understand how others live with so little. 

On my return I had an extended lay-over in Miami and was in the airport listening to people gripe about their hotel room or their plane being late or whatever peeved them at the moment.  I had to restrain myself from interjecting: "Why don't you go to Haiti and see what those people there have to contend with....you might not find your inconvenience to be such a big deal"  I left behind all of my clothes that I brought with me...gave away my silver earrings, my favorite Merrill sandals, my rolling suitcase, everything that I had.  For it really meant nothing to me anymore but meant the world to these people.

On our final day we travelled ~ 1 hour to the outskirts of Port Au Prince and visited an orphanage where we set-up a temporary health clinic for the village people led by the physician who travelled with our team. It was well over 110 degrees that day. We were hot, dehydrated and exhausted ourselves but we dispensed exams, Tylenol, and vitamins to 126 appreciative children and adults in a span of 5 hours. "Merci beau coup"....Most of the children had ringworm and other ailments but received no medical care for there just aren't enough medical supplies to go around.  The children stood in line to receive their one reward sticker. Their little eyes lit up as if I had given them a dollar. They loved to hold and be held, exposing me to many diseases and health risks. They stroked my hair, "momma blanc" or "white mother"

I will never, ever forget the experience, the people, my Haitian patients, for they have changed my life forever. I hope to return next year. They begged me to return and promised that they would take good care of me. I went thinking erroneously that I could impart all of my wisdom and in doing so, I learned new skills taught by some of my PT/OT colleagues and was truly humbled.  From the locals in the town of Milot who served as volunteer interpreters, I learned some Creole, as they insisted on being my teachers. One of my spinal cord patients, who I got out of bed to a wheelchair for the first time in three months, grabbed my hands firmly, looked into my eyes, cried, and through his interpreter called me his "blessing"....amidst my own tears, I told him that he was in fact mine.