Our world changed forever on January 12, 2010. We were preparing for our 48th trip to Haiti to continue work on the Eli-Tim clinic (dental, eye, and medical) in Cayes when news arrived of Haiti’s devastating earthquake. Our mission changed, as we postponed our dental-construction mission to provide requested help preparing for the Haitian Methodist Annual Conference. The event was to be held January in Port-Au-Prince but was changed to Cayes in February.
Expecting 100 guests, we gathered 500 pounds of needed supplies. Because of the quake it was necessary for us to go to Santo Domingo, DR and then fly to Cayes, Haiti. Traveling were ourselves, Carolyn and Doyle Ellis of Community UMC, Vincennes, Indiana; Diana Collins, Shiloh UMC, Jasper, Indiana and Argentins Julian of Bronx, New York.
Cayes population is normally 20,000 residents but there were more than 22,000 new refugees from areas damaged by the earthquake. With the sudden surge in population, local supplies grew scarce even as we prepared for the conference. Preparations included painting the church, butchering a pig and a hog, and setting up seating and tarps to shield conference attendees from the weather.
During the conference, attendees were served two lunches, which included canned hams from Indiana. Friday evening’s meal was chicken and homemade noodles prepared over a charcoal fire by Doyle and me and served to the members and guests.
Mary-Martha group of Community UMC began selling these homemade noodles to support UMCOR’s volunteer dental efforts 38 years ago and has done so ever since.
Sunday’s service, music and message were magnificent!
On Monday, we traveled to Port-Au-Prince and saw firsthand the devastation of the earthquake. The roads were lined with makeshift tent cities. Some tents were cobbled together with whatever materials their occupants could manage such as bed sheets and scraps of cardboard. Other tents were donated from around the world.
The basketball court at our teacher’s college is now the site of a tent city with more than 600 residents. Its occupants keep it clean and free of trash. They use the school’s restroom facilities. The children living there are invited to attend classes, which are now held outside.
Vocational classes continued outside and local workers were repairing quake damage to the school. We were very proud of the college staff. We were also amazed at the amount of rubble cleared since the quake, much of it by hand.
The IMC (International Medical Corps) briefed us regarding its medical response to the earthquake. We provided 5,000 antibiotic doses and 4,000 doses of pain reliever as well as bandages, other medications, tooth brushes and paste, soap, washcloths, and towels to be divided among the 11 districts.
It is our hope that anyone with advice or help to offer those in the quake zone will be sensitive to their needs, giving first priority to their safety during this gigantic task of rebuilding.
Dr. Doyle and Carolyn Ellis are members of Community UMC in Vincennes, Ind.