Monday, August 5, 2013

Guest Post: Hooked on Haiti

I am completely hooked on Haiti–specifically the Bayonnais River Valley.  Sam Coleman and I returned June 27 from our third trip there. In 2011 I met doctors and nurses who were finishing their education and were committed to returning to Bayonnais to help bring basic healthcare to the 80,000 residents who have virtually no access to a doctor, a dentist or a nurse. I also saw the foundations for the clinic laid out and started. In 2012 I visited with 8 Sardis members to see the building finished and 1 nurse on the job seeing patients. This year, 1 doctor, 3 nurses, a dentist  and an administrator had 20 patients lined up at 8 o’clock on Monday.

While planning for this extraordinary project started a decade ago, in my view the sentinel event that set the clinic in motion was the terrible cholera epidemic of October–December 2010. Sardis had just begun providing the salary for newly graduated RN, Anne Junie St. Louis. She found herself with a flood of very sick people who came to the tents pitched on the clinic site.  Anne Junie was there, along with the nursing students and doctors in training. Together they treated 1,100 patients, starting by hanging IV bags from a mango tree. The long awaited “clinic” appeared almost overnight. It probably would not have if it were not for Sardis’ support of this resourceful young woman.

I have been privileged to witness what you have nourished as it has bloomed.  There is much to be done to flesh out the dreams of the clinic and community leaders. The Haitian Ministry of Health visited for the first time in June and listed the following as urgent needs to be completed by December:
  • Complete the electrical system (funds are in hand)
  • Outfit and stock a medical laboratory (need $17,000)
  • Plaster and tile for the clinic building (need $10,000)
  • Improve the medical records keeping (need $1,000)
  • Provide basic equipment for the dentist to do restorative work
  • Set aside an area for vaccinations
  • Improve the latrine and provide showers
  • Provide a computer system with internet service
  • Build an incineration pit

Sam Coleman and I are on the board at Friends of OFCB, the 501c3 that is an alliance of 12 churches interested in this project, including First Presbyterian Charlotte, Myers Park United Methodist, South Mecklenburg Presbyterian, Huntersville Baptist and Light of Christ United Methodist. The Ballantyne Rotary club is funding construction of a water purification system for the clinic. Friends of OFCB is starting a campaign to raise $ 2,500,000 to convert the clinic into a 27 bed hospital with emergency room, OR and delivery suite and operate it for 5 years, at which point they plan to be self-sufficient.

The hook for me on my first visit to Bayonnais was the honest, firm commitment of these bright young people to devote themselves to such a big task. Every trip just sets that hook deeper. I am convinced that they can do it with a little help. May God bless you for all you continue to do. There will be a trip to Bayonnais for our church in March 2014–please think about it, but WATCH OUT! You will never get over it. 

I promise.

Pressly Gilbert hails from Statesville and is now a semi-retired orthopedic surgeon. He and his wife, Jane, joined Sardis in 1992 and have loved so many facets of fellowship, especially Mustard Seed Groups. They  spend as much time as possible in their family's mountain house.

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