View Full Version : Missionary work in Haiti
03-16-2008, 11:49 AM
Although I mostly reject the description "missionary", it is a descriptive concept of what I do here once or twice a year. We mostly work in the town of Pignon in the central plateau region in a little mission hospital that my partner and I have been affiliated with for almost 20 years. It's pretty brutal living conditions for the people here and the medical needs are staggering. We do some surgery, and do a lot of teaching of surgery residents. It's rewarding, but it comes with a lot of despair and frustration. This trip we operated on 2 people with deadly cancers. The operations were technically successful, but the patients don't have any access to followup chemotherapy or radiation, and sadly they will all therefore die within the next 12 months. And we saw one lady with who was miserable with an unresectable cancer. We could have operated to make her feel much better for the 6 months she had left, but she couldn't pay the $150 the hospital had to charge her to have the operation without devastating the rest of her family and she declined.
These pictures were an operation on a two week old baby to relieve an obstruction at her stomach outlet. She did well and will now live a normal life.
Triumph and tragedy. Every day here.
03-16-2008, 12:33 PM
Great work Bigmac! I am sure it feels good to give back.
03-16-2008, 01:07 PM
Thanks Bigmac, for going beyond the call of duty! Those people will live the remainder of their lives knowing you did everything you could for them.
03-16-2008, 01:21 PM
You are a great humanitarian. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for this post. I read an article about Haiti and "mud cookies" and have been looking at different organizations that work there to see if any have a particularly effective way to help. Do you have any insights from being on the ground there as to where you would put your money to help people self-sustain? Wouldn't it be interesting to see/here the presidential candidates address how they would work to change the situation in a country only 700 miles from FL.
Here is a link to a news piece on the "mud cookies"; http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22902512/
03-16-2008, 03:50 PM
The country of Haiti is just so screwed. The people are smart and motivated, but there's just nothing for them to do to self-sustain. They have no resources other than their manpower. A big part of our thrust has been education, and at least on the north central plateau, that has been gratifying. Even so, we see many people here who are educated but have nothing to do with that education.
I've seen many missionary organizations over the years. In many cases they are church groups that spend a lot of effort raising money to cover their expenses to come down here and paint buildings, or build a school, or some other such things. The problem I have with that is that the Haitian people can paint, or build buildings. I'd rather see them take that money they raise and ship the paint and building materials down here and/or pay Haitians to do the painting or buildings. My conversations with many of those groups over the last 20 years leaves me with the impression that their goal is indeed more to feel good about themselves than it is to help the Haitian people. I'm sorry, but feeling good about one's self in doing this kind of work can't be the main object, and with too many missionary organizations I see down here, that is indeed too far toward the top of the motivation list. Missionary work is just a big mish-mash here, and there is just too much arguing and infighting between the groups. It's disgusting, IMHO. Our group isn't a missionary group per se....we have no religious affiliation and no religious mission. We all pay our own way here and all our own expenses, and every dollar that goes to our 501(C)3 organization (Project Haiti) goes directly to our work. We've been able to rally some amazing contributers over the years...over $2 million in donated equipment and services since 2003 when we initiated our hospital expansion project. It's been a wild ride.
Our big problem this year was, ironically, due to the Haitian government's desire to eliminate graft and corruption in their Customs departments. We ship over 10,000 lbs of donated equipment every year. We used to be able to just pay the bribes in Cap Haitian - about $1500. This year the government hit us up for over $8000 in import duties. Ouch! Hard for us to sustain that kind of hit, and obviously it's money we can no longer use to support of efforts. All of the NGO's that we've talked too are hurting from this too. We've had a donated Toyota Land Cruiser (donated by the Catholic Church in France) sitting in Customs for over a year. Toyota's and Mitsubishis are big here - American vehicles simply do not hold up on these roads, the best of which would be an American off-roader's dream.
These poor people here have nothing, and it's not their fault. They've been the victims of 200 years of corrupt governments and complete neglect by their neighbors. They want to work, but there's no meaningful work to do. They want to be educated, but it's too expensive. IMHO, education is the best thrust for charitable work in this country. Other types of donations are just a spit in the wind - most donations don't even come close to covering even basic needs, and even to the extent that they do, it only helps a miniscule percentage of the need. I'm biased toward medical donations, because that's a huge need that I see here every day. Most of the more advanced medicine in this country is entirely dependent of donations of equipment and medications. Education, on the other hand, allows for a more educated populace who now have the desire and resources to impact their country and I've seen the results of that expanded education effort.
The easiest and most effective effect that individuals can have is in the education arena. I'm a big proponent of the Haitian Education and Literacy Program (H.E.L.P.) in this area because I've seen the direct effect of that organization and it is indeed effective. I'd recommend that anyone that does want to help go through their website at http://www.pignon.org/NewFiles/HELP.html . Joanne Schaefer at that organization is very committed and very effective.
03-16-2008, 06:50 PM
Congrats and great work Big mac!
03-16-2008, 10:23 PM
...I'd rather see them take that money they raise and ship the paint and building materials down here and/or pay Haitians to do the painting or buildings....
Thank you for your efforts there. You make an excellent point about misplaced funding/priorities. I am often perplexed in seeking the best way to help various people groups. You mentioned that many there in Haiti you have encountered are educated with nothing to do. Does any organization work to employ them in useful endeavors?
03-16-2008, 11:52 PM
Thank you for your efforts there. You make an excellent point about misplaced funding/priorities. I am often perplexed in seeking the best way to help various people groups. You mentioned that many there in Haiti you have encountered are educated with nothing to do. Does any organization work to employ them in useful endeavors?No, not really, not on any meaningful scale.
03-17-2008, 02:34 PM
Great work, Bigmac! I can't imagine what the conditions are like there...
03-17-2008, 06:10 PM
Your explanation of what is happening there and more importantly why it is happening was very enlightening. I have a dentist friend who goes somewhere each year with some of his colleagues to extend dental care. My (soon to be ex son in law) went several years with an ob/gyn group. Like you said it was on his nickel. He was with a pharm.co. Things are so tough in some of those place they had him doing some simple surgery .
You are to be admired for you contribution.( And this being done by a guy named after a hamburger !) Missionary may not be your choice of words but "As you do to the least of them--------"
Thanks for your service to mankind.