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CC helpers home from Haiti

Team’s “ambitious goals” provided shelter, medicine

Homes for Haiti team members pose with just some of the kids served by the orphanage just outside of the capital Port-au-Prince. The team built ten shelters to serve the mission, from classrooms to homes for staff members.
Homes for Haiti team members pose with just some of the kids served by the orphanage just outside of the capital Port-au-Prince. The team built ten shelters to serve the mission, from classrooms to homes for staff members.

By Kate Hayden

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For two weeks, 27 team members from across Floyd County travelled Haiti delivering medicine, shelter and support to patients and orphans. In return, they received the gift of stories.

“I think that our entire team –– everyone just said how much their lives had changed,” Homes for Haiti team member Sue Ayers said, only three days after the group returned home to Iowa.

That’s not to say it was always smooth travels for the group, made up of members from St. John’s Lutheran Church, Trinity United Methodist, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Roseville and Trinity Lutheran Church in New Hampton. As the building team got to work on the ten shelters sent to the contingency’s home base –– an orphanage –– the medical team took a bus out to outlier villages around the edge of the nation, up to four and a half hours away from the capital city of Port-au-Prince.

The bus was too big for some roads, leading to an impromptu medical clinic along a mountainside.

“The road kept getting more and more narrow. We didn’t think the bus could make it (up the mountain),” Ayers said.

The medical team of nine –– including two high school students ––  turned around and set up a mobile shop at the mountain’s base, with two medically licensed volunteers seeing patients and prescribing medications the team had pre-packed before ever boarding a plane: including 500 doses of worm medication for children, between two to three thousand doses of antibiotics and 26 kits worth of building tools for the orphanage and medical kits. The team ended up treating an estimated 600 to 700 patients over six clinic stops in the country, with health problems ranging from removing stitches after falling off a mountain bike, eye infections to consoling a child whose stomach was painfully filled with fluid.

There were also security concerns after Haiti moved national elections to combat corruption. The Iowa team, which had registered their trip with the U.S. State Department, received escalated warnings to avoid certain areas of the nation as small riots broke out –– once, setting fire to a school in a town just after the Iowa team left.

“It just made us very cautious,” Ayers said of the medical team travelling back to their home base. “We were just thrilled when we got back –– around the orphanage, there were no issues at all.”

Back at the orphanage, builders constructed ten so-called ‘safety homes’, prefabricated structures that the team sent ahead in a shipping container from Iowa. Four structures became classrooms for pre-kindergarten through the second grades, two became permanent housing for long-term missionaries, and the final homes were given to long-term employees of the orphanage.

“They saw the people getting the homes themselves, and could hand them the keys…that was very special for them,” Ayers said.

Individuals also completed personal projects for the orphanage, such as high school student Carter West, who raised $1,000 in funds and spent $995 on school supplies and books for the Haiti students, and artist Janiece Bergland, who designed and painted a mural across the wall of the orphanage’s chapel.

“(They were) ambitious goals that we had. We just accomplished a lot,” Ayers said. “But we think that’s Iowa’s work ethic, and we told the people who donated that we would do what they wished us to do.”

Homes for Haiti volunteers assemble a SafeTHome at the orphanage. Contributed photo
Homes for Haiti volunteers assemble a SafeTHome at the orphanage. Contributed photo

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