Today we pause to remember a terrible earthquake that shook Haiti to its core 4 years ago and killed thousands. Although the earthquake struck the capital, far from the northern areas One Child Matters serves, the entire country was affected. Refugees fled back north, where their familial roots may have been before they went to the city in search of work.
Ten months later, a new tragedy lurked. In the water. Cholera. Spread by unclean water and the poor sanitation practices endemic to Haiti, cholera preyed on those already struggling. It was, as they say, insult to injury.
With your help, we responded with aid after the earthquake. Within a week, Medical Mercy was on the ground in Port-au-Prince, and returned again in March of 2010. Your donations to the Children’s Crisis Fund also allowed us to move quickly, putting preventative measures in place to keep cholera at bay.
In the four years since that January earthquake, Medical Mercy has been a consistent presence, training project staff, running clinics, and assessing the needs of the children at each project. As the latest team of volunteer nurses, doctors, and friends travel home, we offer our profound thanks – for the difference they’ve made for the children, and for the way they have trained our staff to offer the care these children need to succeed.
Dr. Beyda shares about how children in One Child Matters projects have the opportunity for a different perspective in life:
Let's talk about purpose, mission, and priorities. How different are those three things for us as compared to those who live in Haiti. Let me share how those would be defined if you and I were Haitians.
Purpose: to live another day.
Mission: to find the next meal.
Priorities: to fend for themselves individually.
The children we care for are learning differently what those categories mean: to purposely live a life with Christ, to serve others as a mission, to put God first as the priority. So even though they live in squalor and poverty, we trust that with what they learn and experience in One Child Matters’ programs they will see beyond the "have not" and relish the "have" of a life filled with grace and love, surrounded by a community of dedicated One Child Matters workers.
What it means for specific children:
I saw a young boy out of the corner of my eye. A tall, clearly elderly lady, unkempt, frail and barely able to walk was with him. The boy came and sat in the chair in front of me with a stoic face, waiting to be examined. A 3 year old, who acted like he was years ahead of his age. Stoicism does that.
A few questions asked and I figured it out. His parents had abandoned him and his grandmother had taken him in. And so did One Child Matters. He is an abandoned child but sponsored, cared for by a frail and elderly woman who may not be here tomorrow. He is like many others we care for. I spent some time with him and treated his malnutrition and his chronic pneumonia. He never smiled. Not then. But when I took him in my lap, he cuddled close and showed a soft smile as he laid his head on my chest. For him, love has been hard to come by it seems.
This has been Haiti. The sun is setting as we sit on the bus that creeps along the road that is not a road and for a moment there is a pause in the conversation around all the experiences everyone is sharing from today. It as at that moment that it all came together for me. An abandoned 3-year-old child is given a chance to be loved and cherished by those who embrace him in the OCM project. And with clean water to drink, a toothbrush, a Band-Aid for his cuts, a teacher who now knows how to treat a burn, a place to wash his hands, and a medical program that came and set up a nutritional rescue program, preventative health exams and illness interventions left behind, this little 3-year-old has a chance. Finally.
On the times when life-changing medical intervention is possible:
I pose the question: what was our destination on this medical mission? What were our expectations? The answer was there for me this morning.
I was asked to look at an 11-year-old girl who had surgery several years ago to remove a superficial mass on her neck. She was left with nerve damage to her arm and accumulation of lymph that made her arm swell to twice its size. She had a chest x-ray taken a while back when her mother took her to see a doctor after wondering for many years why her arm looked like this after surgery. The chest x-ray showed 2 masses in her chest. No one bothered to tell the mother what the findings were at the time the x-rays were taken, nor did the doctor who did the original surgery tell the mother what the mass was that he took out. The mother and the child were abandoned by those who took an oath to heal and care.
This time it won’t happen. With the local doctors working with me, we examined the child, came up with a plan on what tests are needed now, what the next step in the care would be, sat with the mother and explained to her in detail what we thought was going on, and committed to always be there for them.
The destination and expectation was simple: to recognize those who come to us for help as persons worthy of dignity no matter their circumstances, and a commitment to relationship that is genuine. I believe we did that. We left behind sustainable drinking water, a place to wash their hands, education and supplies to treat wounds and other minor injuries, toothbrushes and dental education and medical care that will be there for as long as they need it.
We finished up our last day of clinic, seeing 1400 children, building permanent 2 permanent “tippy taps” in each of the 11 projects we went to, did dental hygiene, brought water filtration systems in and taught first aid and left first aid kits in all the projects. But you know that already.
But what you may not know, is who really did this all. We had a US team of 27 members and a Haitian/DR team of 11 for at total of 38 people serving the 1400 children and the communities. We had 2 local physicians and 1 local dentist who were with us, working alongside, and who will stay and sustain the care we gave. 38 people who gave of their time to serve.
At One Child Matters, our very name suggests that our motivation is the worth of every child, that anyone can give and prove to one child that he or she matters. How that looks may vary for each person, but child sponsorship is one effective vehicle to change a child's life. Giving toward or volunteering with Medical Mercy is another. To give toward the unique ministry of Medical Mercy, click here.
We also use our Children's Crisis Fund to respond to needs of individual children as their needs are identified by the staff Medical Mercy has trained. When children need help beyond the regular support of sponsorship, we rely on the CCF, and you can make a donation here.
Please continue to pray for the people of Haiti, on this day that burdens of heart of many, and in the days yet to come. Thank you, as always, for your prayers and generous giving. Thank you for changing the lives of children in Haiti and beyond!