Medical volunteers in Haiti on the ten teams sponsored by North Carolina Baptist Men have saved hundreds of lives and are doing an incredible job, according to Baptist Men’s Director Richard Brunson who returned March 1 from an assessment tour.
Just 72 hours after the destructive earthquake Jan. 12 N.C. Baptist Men medical volunteers were in Haiti working with quake victims. Since then about 150 volunteers have spent a week at hospitals and temporary clinics tending to injuries and illnesses.
“It’s been amazing what these teams have done,” Brunson said. “They have saved hundreds of lives and have been a strong Christian witness through their words and through their actions.”
The last several teams have included handymen who are building storage for medical supplies, adding plumbing and beds to the accommodations secured for volunteers and keeping logistics moving forward.
N.C. Baptist Men is renting a large house on the fenced compound operated by Global Outreach 10 miles north of the Port au Prince airport. Volunteers operate from that site, where Scott and Janet Daughtry have been coordinating efforts for a month. The compound has its own water and generators.
N.C. Baptist Men has purchased three diesel vehicles for use in their relief ministry, including one purchased in the U.S. that was carried over on a Samaritan’s Purse ship.
The airport is now open and volunteers can fly directly to Port au Prince, saving a full travel day on each end of the trip that earlier volunteers had to make from Santo Domingo in Dominican Republic.
“It’s still pretty chaotic,” Brunson said. The terminal is being reconstructed. Passport control and customs is in a hastily erected temporary building and hundreds of people mill around outside. In addition to medical personnel, the most recent teams include volunteers who buy and cook food to feed patients at Petionville Hospital, one of the permanent hospitals from which volunteers are working. Other volunteers hold temporary medical clinics in villages.
The medical situation is changing from an early need for orthopedic surgeons to deal with blunt and severe injuries to a need for more experts in prosthetics and general medicine. Brunson said clinic work will be more prevalent as emergency demand at hospitals diminishes.
He and Gaylon Moss, N.C. Baptist Men’s disaster relief coordinator, evaluated future construction possibilities and affirmed that it will be very complicated. Equipment and supplies are non-existent; land ownership issues are complicated and “you can’t go into a tent city and start handing stuff out.”
The need for more permanent housing is approaching critical status as the rainy season nears. An article in the March 3 Raleigh News and Observer said 414 tent cities have been identified and plotted on relief agencies’ maps. While food distribution is achieving some consistency, poor sanitation and shelter threaten disease outbreak.
Brunson said even people whose house did not collapse are sleeping in tents for fear their house is not safe.
Baptist Men has received nearly a million dollars for Haiti relief but Brunson said operating in Haiti is very expensive. He encourages people who want to make a difference in that nation to continue to help. Baptist Men expects to ship about 13,000 “buckets of hope” to Haiti, each of which will feed a family for a week. The buckets were collected by N.C. Baptist churches.
“It is a huge need,” Brunson said. But paraphrasing Mother Teresa, he said, “You don’t do great things; you do little things with great love.”
“That’s what I saw with the volunteers, just a lot of love,” he said. “And they’re accomplishing great things because God’s love is flowing through them to the people they’re working with.”