On January 26th 28 volunteers departed from JFK airport in New York to fly to Haiti for NOVA’s 15th medical mission. The team from New York and New Jersey met 6 other volunteers from Florida, Texas and Haiti at the Port au Prince airport. With 34 doctors, nurses, translators and volunteers this was the largest medical mission team that NOVA has ever sent. The school bus donated by the Knights of Malta in 2012 came in very handy for such a large team!
After meeting in Port au Prince, the team set out for Aquin, Haiti where we stay that the Aldy Hotel for the week. The trip to Aquin is a long drive across the country and it was made even longer by the hour long traffic we hit going through Carrefour, a section of Port au Prince on the highway heading south. The team arrived a little travel worn but in good spirits as we settled in for the work ahead. Because of guests staying in the hotel for the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, the patron saint of Aquin, Haiti, 8 members of our team had to stay at another hotel for the first two nights, but the team was all together again after the first two days. Typical of the quality of NOVA’s volunteers, the people that had to stay at the other hotel rolled with the punches.
This mission was like many others in a lot of ways, but during the week, NOVA made a quantum leap in the medical care we provide in and around Cavaillon. During the week our doctors and nurses saw well over 1000 patients in the 5 days that the clinic was open. One major challenge the team had to face was that our medicines were delayed in customs in Port au Prince. We had expected them to be in had prior to our arrival but unfortunately this wasn’t the case. Our medicine didn’t arrive until Friday, the last day our clinic was open. This could have been a disaster, had it not been for two factors which mitigated against this. First, NOVA had left over medicine from our last mission, which had been stored in our house in Martineau. This supply was enough to treat many of our patients effectively.
Second, for those patients who needed medicine we had ordered but had not arrived yet, the doctors wrote prescriptions and asked people to return on Saturday to obtain their medicines. The volunteers in the pharmacy, under the leadership of Mary Dalton, did an amazing job of keeping this organized. Saturday was a challenging day especially for our pharmacy volunteers, mostly nurses, who organized the newly arrived supply of medicine for distribution and re-packing, and filled all of the outstanding prescriptions. They worked very hard to get this done and they did an incredible job!
Typical of our missions, among the huge numbers of people who receive medical care from NOVA, some stories stand out. Two among them are the stories of Joseph and Dave, two children whose lives were immensely impacted by NOVA’s work. (Their stories can be read here: Read about Joseph. Read about Dave.) The numbers of patients we see are amazing, but there are faces, and names, and stories and families behind each of those numbers. It the impact that our work has on these people who need our medical care that keeps our volunteers and our supporters inspired to continue the work we have done for the past 11 years.
Other than the glitch with the medicine, this trip went extremely well. In addition to all the work we do in our week long clinic, NOVA was able to accomplish two goals: First we were able to send our first successful mobile satellite clinic on Friday, February 1st to Flamands, Haiti, a remote community on the coast. And second, we finalized our agreement with Haitian Pilgrims to take over running their clinic in Boileau, Haiti, a village a few miles from Cavaillon. (Read about the Mobile Clinic Here and read about the Boileau clinic here.) It is not easy to pull people away from our work in the clinic in Cavaillon with the numbers of people that arrive each day hoping to see a doctor and get some medical care, but the size of the team, the flexibility of our volunteers, and their dedication made this additional work possible.
This is NOVA’s 11th year of working in Haiti and our 15th Medical mission. This does not include two missions that had to be cancelled: one due to a hurricane and one due to political unrest. This work is made possible by the incredibly talented, dedicated, generous and courageous women and men who come to Haiti to help the people there. Each of our volunteers pays for their own airfare. So not only do they take time off from work to volunteer, but they are also financially supporting the mission by paying for their travel costs to Haiti. But without our supporters back home who support us with encouragement and with the money we need to purchase medicine and cover ground expenses, this work would be impossible. The team would like to thank everyone who contributes to NOVA to help make available medical care to people who otherwise have none. Your continued support is vital to the work NOVA does.