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
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.
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
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.
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 12×12 shelters made with 2×4 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
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
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
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
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
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.)