On Saturday, April 17th 27 NOVA Hope for Haiti launched its 10th Medical mission to Cavaillon, Haiti. The 27 member team consisted of doctors, nurses, translators and other volunteers. Since 2002, these medical teams have been providing urgently needed medical care in a community that has none, and since the earthquake this past January the need has grown. Our missions are completely volunteer run. Volunteers pay for their own airfare and the medicine, medical supplies and ground expenses are funded by the Church of the Presentation in Upper Saddle River, NJ and by private donors. This trip was also sponsored in part by St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City.
The team flew from JFK to Port au Prince on Saturday the 17th carrying supplies for the week. We met up with Solanges, a NOVA volunteer and member of the Board of Directors who lives in Port au Prince. Solanges had a truck and a bus waiting to carry us, our supplies and the medicine which was shipped to Haiti in advance of our arrival. Then we made the four hour journey from Port au Prince to Aquin where the team stayed. Immediately upon leaving the airport we began passing tent cities where earthquake refugees have been living over the past three months. The tent cities didn’t end for over an hour of driving.
On Sunday the team set up shop in the Seventh Day Adventist Church. We couldn’t use the community room which we normally use which is owned by the Church of our Lady of Perpetual Help, the Catholic parish in Cavaillon. It is currently being used as a temporary school, because the Catholic school was damaged. It took almost all day Sunday to set up makeshift examining rooms, set up the fully stocked pharmacy and get the clinic ready for patients.
Then on Monday we opened the doors and the patients flooded in: Moms and Dads with kids in tow, elderly for whom life in the rugged Haitian mountainside country is hard, teens and adults in need of care… the whole community for miles and miles around came for medical attention. Patients were checked in and triaged, and then they were sent to wait to see a doctor. Once the doctor saw the patient, usually with the help of a Creole speaking translator, they waited while their prescription was filled. It was first world care, provided with love, compassion and concern. And because of their hard work and dedication, in the 95+ degree heat and humidity, NOVA’s volunteers were able to see and treat over 1200 patients between Monday and Friday.
Evenings were spent relaxing. Sometimes meetings were held to go over the work of the day and to improve our work. But mostly the team spent time getting to know one another better. The volunteers, many of whom were strangers to each other at the beginning of the week, formed strong bonds of friendship by the end of the mission. Hard but great work, a spirit of giving and generosity, and a sheer love for humanity brought us all together. The half day rest we took on Thursday at the pristine, white sand, untouched beach also helped refresh and recharge the team.
Sadly on Saturday we had to break down the clinic. Some of the younger team members who still had energy wanted to stay longer, but it was time to return home. While we were able to see an impressive number of patients, many were also turned away. The need far outpaces what we can do, but we do what we can nonetheless.
With the clinic dismantled, it was time on Sunday to return to Port au Prince and catch a flight to New York. We arrived early and took a brief tour of the devastated capital. There was stunned silence on our bus as we drove past the destroyed Presidential Palace and the National Cathedral. The ruins and the rubble are on every block. We witnessed piles of rubble everywhere; a grim reminder of the great loss of life suffered in Haiti, and the long, hard road that the people of Haiti have yet to walk to rebuild. They will continue to need the world’s help for a long time to come.
During this week, members of the Board of Directors of NOVA Hope for Haiti who were in Cavaillon met to continue work on our long term project of building and staffing a permanent clinic and medical care center in town. We met with builders and with potential medical staff. We hope to see NOVA’s first permanent clinic come to fruition in the next six to twelve months.
Thank you to all of our volunteers, to the Board of Directors, and especially to our donors and supporters, without whom none of this work would be possible.
NOVA Hope for Haiti