Updates from Haiti: Creedible, volunteers travel to Carrefour

Police Officers George Momplasir and Isaac Jean-Pierre thank their chief for allowing them to go to Haiti/Rebecca Newman - CreedibleUPDATE (11:21 a.m. 3/3) The rest of Team Andrew 4 will be home today. Carol Keith, Bill Grace, George Momplaisir and Isaac Jean-Pierre all stayed a few days longer than Claire Hardin, Rebecca Newman and myself. I’m sure their families will be happy to see them. Keith still has a long journey home though, as she has to drive back to Canada.

Momplaisir and Jean-Pierre are both officers with the Stamford Police Department and asked me to post the following message:

“Special thanks to Mayor Michael Pavia and Chief Robert Nivakoff of the Stamford Police Department. Their compassion and understanding of the loss in the Haitian community in Stamford allowed us to come to Haiti and assist in the humanitarian relief efforts at E’cole Bon Samaritain clinic in Carrefour after the 7.3 earthquake left destruction and devestation through the country of Haiti. The photos here on Creedible are a small example of the work continuing even after our departure.

Kids living near a Carrefour clinic play soccer at night/photo by the kids - creedibleUPDATE (10:16 p.m. 2/28) I’m back in my Waterbury apartment now and I feel horrible. It’s clean, it’s dry, there’s food in my fridge, I have a warm shower available and fresh clothes to put on. It’s not fair. It’s shameful to think I complained about all this before. I can’t stop thinking about Haiti. What are the people in Carrefour doing right now? Is it raining on them again? Did they get dinner tonight? Is the earth going to tremble tonight and frighten them? I pray not. There is a lot of work to be done in Haiti and it seems hopeless, but the people of Haiti have shown me that it’s not hopeless. Haiti can become better now, with new infrastructure and new appreciation for life. But it won’t happen overnight. It’s going to take more than one 10-day trip. I’m determined to get back there as soon as I can. I’m no doctor, I’m no nurse – but I can play soccer into the night with the kids who have lost their homes and their parents, and hopefully, give them a brief break from their misery.

 

On the ride home I was talking to Rebecca Newman, Creedible photographer, and Claire Hardin, a nurse – and all three of us feel guilty for being back home and want to get back to Haiti as soon as we can. The rest of our team is still down there and I already miss them. The seven of us became a family and shared a very emotional experience together.

The Good Samaritan Rebuilding Fund will continue working in Carrefour for years to come. Rev. Puck Purnell, who created the fund, arrived in Carrefour today to assess the progress that’s been made. Creedible will continue to report on this grassroots organization. I have LOTS of stories to write and lots of multimedia to produce. Check back here soon for those articles.

UPDATE (10:02 a.m. 2/28) It’s my last day here and I wish that I could stay longer.  On our way back from the beach we dropped off our two Haitian nurses.  They live in an area where I couldn’t even get out of the car to say goodbye because it was unsafe.  As we were driving back to the clinic, it began to pour.  I’m sure the nurses are soaked by now and they don’t have a tent to sleep in.  I promised to play soccer tonight with my two new friends, Jerry and Christopher, but because of the rain, they are nowhere to be found.  I hope they are early risers so I can say goodbye to them in the morning.  I will miss them.  Tears are welling in my eyes just thinking about it.  I can’t wait to get back here.  If I didn’t have responsibilities in Connecticut, I think I’d stay here until the clinic became a little more organized.  I will be back as soon as I can.  And I can honestly say that I’m a different person.  No more will I waste my leftovers or complain that my soda is too warm.  I’ve seen poverty and desperation with my own eyes now and it will stick with me forever.

UPDATE (6:25 a.m. 2/28) The clinic is closed today, which meant I had to say goodbye to some of the volunteers yesterday. Ribirt Pierre was one of them. He is a 27-year-old who survived the earthquake. He lives on the street without a tent because his entire house fell down. A friend of his lives in Connecticut and sent a care package down with us for him, but it was one of the 60 bags that didn’t make it onto the airplane. Until he gets that package, he has nothing. He’s been working as a translator at the clinic for free, but Stamford Police Officer George Momplaisir has been giving him some cash at the end of each day, which Ribirt is very grateful for. He is a college-educated man who speaks at least three languages. All he wants is a job to so he can care for his family.

Even though the clnic is closed today, we’re fortunate to get one more day with the Haitain nurses. We are all going to the beach together. Darline Grigoire and Vialine Kaelisma are the nurses and they too are living on the streets without a tent. Darline, Stamford Police Officer Isaac Jeane-Pierre’s cousin, was working in a hospital when the earthquake happened and yesterday she told me of some of the horrible things she saw – dead bodies, people trapped under rubble, people who were on fire, etc. She must have nightmares every night.  I will miss both of them and wish more than anything I could at least give them a tent, but there just aren’t enough to go around.A 3-month old baby lost both his parents in the earthquake/Rebecca Newman - CreedibleUPDATE (2:43 p.m. 2/27) A 3-year-old boy came into the clinic today with the worst case of scabies we’ve seen yet. It was on his neck and spreading down his chest. The scabs looked infected. Vialine, one of our Haitain nurses, gave him a bath and he was given cream to put on the wounds. Right before we closed for lunch, a 2-year-old girl came in who was so malnourished that she couldn’t even stand up. Nurse Claire Hardin said she looked like a 10-month old. We gave her some bread and Pedialyte. Now we can only hope her life takes a turn for the better, but we’ll probably never know.
During lunch I visited with two of our nurses. One is 23 and the other is 25. Both lost their homes and are living tentless in the streets. It’s amazing they still come here everday looking their best. I can learn a lot from these great people.
UPDATE (7:03 a.m. 2/27) There is a small posse of children we hang out with after the clinic closes each night. I will always remember their smiling faces. Two of the kids, Christopher and Jerry, I’ve especially connected with. Christopher, 15, did not lose any family members in the earthquake, nor did his house collapse. But he is sleeping in the street anyway because his family is afraid to go in their own home. Jerry is living in the hotel with his mom. He’s 14 and lost his dad in the earthquake. I know he’s hungry and scared, but last night he was eating dinner and offered it to me and then offered it to Claire. How selfless. We, of course, told him no thanks, but the gesture is admirable. They both speak English and I’ve written them letters that I hope they’ll remember me by.
The clinic opens soon and people are already waiting outside. It looks like rain, but maybe it will hold off.

UPDATE: (6:06 p.m. 2/26) We saw more than 100 patients today. The nurses are seeing a lot of lice, STDs, worms and fevers. We are running out of supplies and really need multivitamins and Pedialyte. We saw another orphan here today. It was a 3-month old baby who is being cared for by his 18-year-old aunt. Both the of the child’s parents died and the aunt cannot take care of it, as she is living in a tent. George is hoping to find a lawyer who specializes in adoptions. (The baby’s photo is to the left).
I just had a conversation with Mona Millien, Rev. Jean Ellie Millien’s wife and she told me that she still feels the earthquake even when the ground is steady. We’re blessed that she survived the quake. I agree with her that Haiti is going to need a lot of counselors and psychologists. School is supposed to begin on March 1 and Mona said the students of Ecole Bon Samaritain need pencils, papers, and other school supplies.
The wind has picked up and it looks like we’re about to get buckets of rain dumped on us. So many people are going to get soaked. Send those waterproof tents!
The clinic opens in a couple of hours and we’re getting ready for another busy day.
Jim and Puck, if you’re reading this, the wheelchair got safely to the 17-year-old girl. Her dad picked it up over the weekend along with the art supplies and was very thankful.
Ann, if you’re reading this, everyone got the photos and cards you sent. Jackson says hi and told me you’re like a mother to him.

UPDATE (8:54 p.m. 2/23) We served 138 patients today at the clinic – 83 of those came in before lunchtime. It was a little unorganized at first, but overall today was great. Officers from the NYPD continue to help us and they’ve been very helpful. I’m expecting another busy day tomorrow. We are running out of things fast. We need multivitamins (adult and child), condoms, any infant medicine, hydrocortizone and money for food.

UPDATE (7:05 a.m. 2/24) No tremors last night! I think everyone finally got a decent nights sleep.

Naomi Pierre, an orphan living in Haiti, visited Ecole Bon Samaritain clinic on Wednesday/Rebecca Newman - Creedible
UPDATE: (12:42 p.m. 2/25) One of our first patients this morning was a little boy with severe burns on his hand and arm. His mother said that another kid pushed her son and he fell into a pot of boiling water last night. All she had to soothe the burn was toothpaste. The nurses here put ointment on the wound and wrapped it, but said he needs a doctor ASAP. Another  patient we saw was a 7-year-old girl with a cough who said that her mother died in the earthquake. After that, a woman who was 9 months pregnant came in with hypertension. We were able to get her to a hospital.

UPDATE (8:55 p.m. 2/24) Today was one of the hardest days we’ve had here. Naomi’s story definitely touched us all. And another woman came in and began to cry while getting examined. We learned that during the earthquake she lost her 10-month old baby, her husband, and four other family members. The other night we played soccer with some of the children living in the hotel next to the dance hall (the dance hall is where the clinic is set up). One of the children, named Jerry, told me today that his father was working in the palace and was killed when the earthquake happened. It’s heart wrenching and like I said before, I wish we could do more.
On another note, I hear there is a major snow storm headed to Connecticut. Because of that, Rebecca, Claire and I are coming home Sunday instead of Friday.

UPDATE (3:12 p.m. 2/24) We have a new friend. Her name is Naomi Pierre and she is a 10-year-old orphan. She was standing outside the clinic this morning and one of the NYPD officers let her come inside to sit in the shade. The girl hardly spoke, but finally she warmed up to our translator Ribirt and to Rebecca and I. We learned that both her parents were killed in the earthquake and she is living with her aunt. Her aunt works during the day and is unable to leave food for Naomi. We gave the girl some bread and juice. It was the first thing she had eaten since yesterday morning when she had ice cream for breakfast. Where she found ice cream here, I have no idea. Rebecca and I gave Naomi a shower and washed her hair. We found some new shorts to give her (she fits in size 2T) and I gave her my t-shirt, since the clothes she was wearing were the only clothes she had. During lunch, one of the NYPD officers braided her hair. We offered to give Naomi a ride home, but she wanted to stay with Rebecca and I in the “pharmacy” instead. Someone will walk her home tonight. I will never forget this little girl and wish I could do more for her. No matter how much we play with her today and give her food and toys, I know I can’t bring her parents back and take away her sorrow. I pray, though, that a few hours of companionship will give her a boost.

While we were working in the clinic, Bill Grace, one of the Team 4 volunteers, worked over at the school and was able to recover one of the two pumps used for water. The other pump was damaged but Bill is trying to fix it. Also recovered were two infilltration systems. A sturdy tent is now set up at the school so the students can begin classes on March 1.

I just learned that the first of the two tremors last night was actually a 4.7 earthquake. Yikes! No aftershocks today and we are all hoping for a good night’s sleep.

UPDATE (8:05 a.m. 2/23) Two more tremors last night. This time they were 11 minutes apart. The first one was at 1:27 a.m. That means we’ve had four aftershocks within 24 hours. How can the people here heal from this earthquake if the earth shakes every day? After a tremble the animals here go wild – roosters, pigeons, dogs, cats, goats – the critters are scared too. Is it normal to have aftershocks this long after an earthquake? I’m suddenly very interested in geology.
George has instructed us to have emergency packs ready in case another one happens.
The clinic opens in an hour and patients are already waiting outside and praying together.  Who knows what today will bring. We have a good system down now but we already need more supplies – adult multivitamins, children’s cough and cold, children’s neosporin, pedeolyte, etc. Some NYPD officers helped us out yesterday and they are coming back today with meds. They’re a great help. Claire Hardin, a nurse from New York, examines a child in Carrefour/Rebecca Newman - Creedible

UPDATE (6:36 p.m. 2/22) Busy day. I interviewed Bishop Zache Duracin at his house this morning. The home he was living in at the time of the quake was completely destroyed by the and the fact that he is alive is truly a miracle. His wife was ejected from their car, which was in the garage, and she is now in the U.S. being treated. The USS Comfort saved her life. On the way to Duracin’s current home (which was not damaged), our car broke down. Men who were standing nearby jumped up and helped us without any hesitation. They fixed the battery with wire they found on the ground. Haitians, I’ve learned, are very resourceful.

While I was gone another tremor occurred. I did not feel it, but those back at the clinic said it was sobering to see the reactions of those sitting in the waiting area. A look of panic came across their faces and several jumped out of their chairs and backed up against the walls. One boy I spoke to, 15-year-old Christopher, told me that his house is OK, but he and his family are sleeping in a tent anyway because they are so afraid.
Also while I was gone, an elderly woman came into the clinic and was bleeding severely. Walking barefoot through Carrefour, she stepped on broken glass. The crew here stopped the bleeding, bandaged her up and insisted she went to a hospital. She had to be carried outof the clinic and put on a tap-tap to get there. A tap-tap, by the way is a taxi that holds way too many people at a time.
The clinic is closed now and it’s almost time for dinner. The courtyard we are sleeping in is not fully enclosed at the top and we can see lightning in the distance. Another storm is already on its way. Please pray for my new Haitain friends, that they find a way to stay dry tonight.

A man walks passed a fallen building in Port-au-Prince/Rebecca Newman - creedible
UPDATE (8:12 a.m. 2/22) At 4:30 a.m. we were all awakened when the earth began trembling. George has a measuring device in his tent and said the aftershock moved the ground 1 to 4 inches. The animals went crazy after the tremble and it was difficult for everyone to go back to sleep.

UPDATE (10:34 p.m. 2/21) We worshiped at Holy Trinity Church this morning. The building is completely destroyed and a makeshift sanctuary has been set up behind the rubble. The property also housed a school and I was told that 2,000 students were in the school when the building collapsed. No one knows exactly how many students were killed. The bishop of Diocese of Haiti delivered the sermon this morning. A translator later told me that his sermon was about moving forward and helping one another through this. We also toured the university, which is where the students go after they graduate from the grade school. It was also destroyed and is now a tent city. No one knows how many were killed there either. We tried to clear our minds and visit a beach, but each of the beaches we found were in ruin. What was once warm sand, is now concrete and rubble. There is another beach not too far away, but to get there means driving past the mass graves and I don’t know if we have the stomach for that. Tomorrow the clinic opens at 9 a.m., but I will not be here for the opening as I will be going to Port-au-Prince with Rev. Millien and Luc to interview the bishop.
Now it’s raining and my heart is breaking. Most of the tents people are living in are not water proof. Tonight they will be sleeping in puddles. I am blessed to be under this tin roof and wish I could do more to help these wonderful people. Please donate water-proof tents to the Good Samaritan Rebuilding Fund.

UPDATE (6:54 a.m.  2/21) Church starts early here. By 6:30 a.m. people were already heading to a tent across the way with a Bible in one hand and a folding chair in the other for morning worship. “Allelujah, allelujah, allelujah!,” someone shouted into a microphone. Their praised was followed with singing. I don’t know what they are singing, but the chorus sounds familiar to worship songs I know I’ve heard back home before. It’s amazing to see people worshiping God in the midst of all this destruction. I think church is going to be a strong reminder that God IS indeed here with our Haitain brothers and sisters.

UPDATE: (3:16 p.m. 2/20) The clinic was a little confusing at first because of language barriers, but we got a system down and with the help of our translators were able to serve a lot of people. We have two nurses on our team and four Haitian nurses are also helping us. They are seeing a lot of diarrhea, scabies and high blood pressure. We just got back from the Red Cross station, which is huge and incredibly organized. We gave them sutures in exchange for a blood pressure cuff. We could use some more cuffs though. The clinic is closed for today and will re-open on Monday. Tomorrow is church and then a trip to the beach!

UPDATE: (7:17 a.m. 2/20) I don’t think anyone slept great last night. Fighting dogs and the whimper of the losing dog was hard to tune out, so was the meowing kittens and people talking and singing outside. They have no walls anymore, so their voices carry.  At  6 a.m. the roosters started crowing, telling us to get moving. Then the goats chimed in. I went outside to brush my teeth and I could see the feet of people waiting outside for us to open. We open at 9 a.m.

UPDATE: (8:10 p.m. 2/19/10) We just finished singing happy birthday to Rev. Millien,
who turned 76 today. He celebrated his birthday by serving us a yummy rice and beans dinner. We should have been serving him. He is such a kind-hearted soul. The kind of man who gives the left overs from his dinner to the stray kittens wondering around in here.

Tomorrow we open the clinic at 9 a.m. sharp. Luc says people will start lining up at 4 a.m. I will serve as a “pharmacist” and had out meds. Thank god we have nurses and translators here to help. We are feeling very welcome and very safe and are eager to start helping.

UPDATE: (2:46 p.m. 2/19/10) We are finally at the first aid station and were greeted very warmly by the Millien family. We had some complications last night when boarding the airplane and were only able to take one-third of the 97 bags of luggage we packed on board with us. I believe the luggage is now in the Dominican and will be picked up by someone on Sunday. From the airport it was about an 8-hour drive to Port-au-Prince, then it was about another hour to get here to Carrefour. The city is in horrible condition and it is difficult to see, but I definitely can feel a sense of resiliency here.

UPDATE:(1:40pm 2/19/10)  Team Andrew 4, has reached the destintation in Carrefour, more updates to follow.

UPDATE:(11 pm 2/18/10)  As of 9:07pm, Team Andrew 4, has boarded the plane!  

In 1997 the Rev. Jean-Elie Millien, founder of Epiphanie Episcopal Church in Stamford, and his wife Marie Mona Anglade retired to Haiti to begin an elementary school in a neglected town outside of Port-au-Prince.
The school, Ecole le Bon Samaritain, has provided food, health care, hygiene and education to the school’s 180 children for more than two decades.

Now, after a 35-second long earthquake rattled the island, the school is in ruin. The Milliens know the whereabouts of only 25 of the 180 students.

“Many of them have gone with their family to the countryside. We may have lost some, we’ll never know,” said Rev. Puck Purnell.

Purnell is rector of Old St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Bloomfield. His parish has supported Ecole Bon Samaritain for 13 years. Almost immediately after the earthquake occurred, on Jan. 12, Purnell created the Good Samaritan Rebuilding Fund.

The fund crosses religious boundaries and has brought people from across the map (we have a Canadian on our team) together to help bring aid to Carrefour.

“I think there’s a deep sense of connectedness as human beings in a tragedy like this,” said Suffragan Bishop James Curry, of The Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut.

A first aid clinic has been created at a facility near the school, where volunteers are seeing about 200 people a day. The president of Haiti has ordered Haitians to start school again on March 1, even if it means holding classes outside. The problem – it’s about to be rainy season.

Team Andrew 4 will help with the first aid station and will likely help prepare a classroom for the students.

Our team is made of George Momplaisir and Isaac Jean-Pierre, both Haitian-Americans on the Stamford Police Department, Canadian nurse Carol Keith, handyman Bill Grace from East Windsor, Claire Harden, a nurse sponsored by the United Haitian American Society, my photographer, Rebecca Newman, and myself.

I am leaving my Waterbury home at 2 p.m. and will meet the other volunteers at St. John’s Parish in Stamford, where the staging area is located, to help load 100 bags of medical supplies into vans. We will all then caravan to JFK Airport. Our 6-hour flight is at 9 p.m.; we then have an approximate 12-hour bus ride to Carrefour.

There is Internet access at the first aid station and I will be posting live updates. Stay tuned to this page for the next week to read about this journey.

No other stories will be posted on Creedible until I return later next week.

They’re waiting for us. The Millien family is saying goodbye to Team Andrew 3, and getting ready for our team of seven to come in.

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