Haiti trip will change, challenge, bless
    September 7 2010 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

    In the first two minutes on the bus from the airport in Port-au-Prince, disaster relief volunteers from North Carolina learn three things about Haiti from on-site coordinator Scott Daughtry: Haiti will break your heart; it will bless you, and it will change your life.

    In 36 consecutive weeks hosting teams from a rented missionary house on the 66-acre compound started 27 years ago by Global Outreach, Daughtry has been right every time.

    BR photo by Norman Jameson

    Brenda Barker, a member of Scotts Hill Baptist Church in Wilmington, takes blood pressure at a Haitian medical clinic. See photo gallery.

    For the first few weeks following the devastating earthquake Jan. 12 that killed an estimated 230,000 in 30 seconds, North Carolina Baptists responded by sending emergency medical teams, operating out of roadside clinics and teetering hospitals.

    Sometimes, Daughtry said, volunteer medical personnel didn’t leave the hospital until they caught their plane home.

    Daughtry and his wife Janet arrived Feb. 1 while bodies still lined the streets of Port-au-Prince, everything was covered with dust, chaos reigned, relief materials backed up in port, the top floors of crumbled buildings lay atop the bottom floors.

    Today the bodies are gone.

    Most of the bodies — government estimates 80,000; locals estimate 200,000 — are buried in a mass grave in an unremarkable depression between hills on the road to Titanyen.

    A simple, hard to see cross marks the spot.

    Since an estimated one-third of Haiti’s 9 million people live in and around Port-au-Prince, the capital city receives most of the attention and many of the estimated 3,000 NGOs (Non Governmental Organizations) operating in Haiti concentrate on Port-au-Prince. Florida Baptists have a significant presence there as they have for decades and are about to begin construction of 1,000 permanent homes.  

    Village work
    Since the initial medical team response, North Carolina Baptists — coordinated through the disaster relief office of N.C. Baptist Men — has sent a constant stream of carpenters, mechanics, doctors, nurses and general handymen to help however they can.

    Currently construction crews are assembling on site 12x12 shelters made with 2x4 frames, a metal roof and wrapped with durable tarp. These shelters are prefabricated at two Samaritan’s Purse construction sites.

    Daughtry is given all the shelters volunteers can assemble and his Haitian crew delivers them to the build site.

    Of the 17 Haitians employed by Baptists in the relief effort out of the Titanyen compound, all but one live in a tent or shelter, including two doctors.

    During the week of Aug. 22-28 a 22-member team organized by Scotts Hill Baptist Church in Wilmington was on site, the largest team so far. It included enough medical people for two teams, and enough construction people for three teams.

    Medical teams saw more than 1,000 clients in tent cities, orphanages and remote villages with no other access to medical care. Construction teams built 25 shelters during the week for people in the village of Titanyen, which lost many homes in the quake.

    “When we don’t have help it’s very difficult,” said Francise Milien, who conducts the clinics when no medical volunteers are available. “We must stay later and most of the time we must send patients home but when we have help, we can see everybody.”

    Patients are waiting when medical teams arrive at whatever church, tent or makeshift shelter they will hold clinic in that day. While volunteers set up the pharmacy they’ve carried with them, Milien addresses waiting patients with a brief lecture on oral health, hygiene or the importance of abstinence to avoid sexually transmitted diseases. Young girls blush and boys snort, either from embarrassment or from bravado.

    Then Milien or a volunteer leads in song and prayer before patients take a number and wait for their turn before the doctor, physicians assistant or triage nurse.

    “Lots of organizations do good, but if those who proclaim Christ are not at the forefront of the effort, we’re not doing what we should be doing in Christ,” said Jimmie Suggs, missions pastor and administrator for Scotts Hill.  

    In the 1967 movie The Graduate, Dustin Hoffman’s character Benjamin Braddock was advised to seek a career in plastics.

    That must be Haitians’ favorite movie as Haiti is awash in plastic. Shelters wrapped in plastic, water bottled in it, water carried in plastic buckets and all manner of goods carted in thin, strong plastic bags. Plastic bottles tossed and flattened into shoe leather by truck tires loosely pave roads.

    There likely is no Creole word for “littering” because littering implies some places are off limits to trash.

    BSC photo by K Brown

    Haitian boys explore their new shelter provided by North Carolina Baptist Men volunteers working through Samaritan’s Purse. See photo gallery.

    That evidently is not true in Haiti as the ditches, roads, intersections, dirt yards and every wind break is awash in trash. Most of it plastic. Other refuse taints the air in what can be a suffocating mix of diesel fumes, dust, sewage, fried food, spices and the sweet sick smell of sweat leaking from your body as if your skin is a sieve.

    Recognizing the immediate post quake need was shelter to get people out of the elements, donor nations flooded Haiti with tents. They are the primary shelter in 1,300 refuge camps that popped up like weeds and are still growing as refugees move out of the city where hope for improved services is slipping away.

    A tent city recently blossomed on barren hills just a couple miles from the Global Outreach compound. N.C. Baptist volunteers hold clinics there, among a thousand tents where there is no visible water or sanitation source, and no intentional roads — only meandering footpaths.

    Samaritan’s Purse designed a more stable structure and has a goal of erecting 10,000 of them.

    It has engaged dozens of partner organizations like N.C. Baptist Men to put them up and has met nearly 70 percent of its goal.

    They have surpassed their goal of 500 in Titanyen, and citizens on the short list there are getting very nervous that volunteers will leave for another village before their own shelter is built.

    That led to some arguments but volunteers simply referred the distressed citizens to their own mayor, who made all decisions about who would get a shelter and in what order.

    Call the disaster relief office at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5605, or visit www.ncmissions.org to inquire. North Carolina Baptists are continuing to form teams to help in Haiti.

    After several days working in dusty, dry conditions in which the heat index reached 120 degrees, and beginning to comprehend the scope of the problems in Haiti, volunteers wondered if their efforts were the most effective response.

    “I don’t know the right response,” said Daughtry. “But the wrong response is to do nothing.”

    (EDITOR’S NOTE — Jameson wrote about his experience while in Haiti. Follow his daily blog by reading the first entry.)

    Related stories
    Haiti trip will change, challenge bless volunteers

    Daughtrys: ‘We’re just like anyone else’

    Mission trips enliven Scotts Hill members
    6 months & counting: Volunteers toil, shed tears
    Editorial: What difference does it make?
    Photo gallery
    YouTube videos
    9/7/2010 7:31:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 1 comments

J. Ronald Hester
I just want to thank you for the articles from Haiti. Having been there back in March it is a little disappointing to see the lack of change since that time. However, it is great to see the temporary shelters going up. I dare say that many of these may become permanent shelters for many of the people. As I left in March my thoughts were that shelters of this type were probably the greatest need at the time. I only wish our people could understand the heart of people who are hurting so much, but coping so well. There is hope when people like Scott and Janet, the volunteers from Scotts Hill, and the others from all over the state continue to work so diligently.
9/8/2010 9:07:29 AM

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