Reaching out to Haiti
Educating Her Sisters and Brothers
Miquette Denie '06, a nurse and teacher in Haiti, speaks quietly and solemnly about her homeland's devastating situation. She was grading a biology test at Quisqueya Christian School in Port-au-Prince when she heard a loud noise and the ground shook terribly. She ran from the building toward the soccer field on the school grounds where she teaches. Children had already gathered and she saw a collapsed house across the street. Denie ran for her nursing kit and upon return to the house found a man bleeding, trapped under a wall. She performed CPR but was unable to save him.
She and the other teachers thought the earthquake was localized to their area.
They soon learned otherwise.
In the weeks to come, Denie worked 18-hour days as a nurse and medical coordinator, tending to the wounded, trying to reach those who were buried and gradually becoming painfully desensitized to the bodies stacked on the sides of streets. She received word little by little about friends who had died.
As Quisqueya Christian School transformed into a medical center, Denie spent every waking moment matching medical volunteers to the areas in most need.
At the same time, she scrambled to check on all 169 children served by her nonprofit organization, TeacHaiti. Now in its third year, TeacHaiti matches financial sponsors with students in need, affording them educations at community schools. Many of those schools are now destroyed or heavily damaged.
"Many people are hurting. Many more are desperate," Denie says. "We must press on because we know that we serve a merciful, gracious and mighty God."
Under Denie's guidance, TeacHaiti will open a new school this fall, providing an education and at least one hot meal daily to each of its students. It's more important than ever, she says.
"My passion is education," says Denie. "Haiti will never get out of its predicament without education."
Life-Changing Medical Mission
While volunteering in Haiti with Nehemiah Vision Ministries, David Ingala '94 helped hundreds of people injured by the earthquake. Without medical training, he served as assistant to the physicians, surgeons, nurses, dentist and other professionals on the team. He helped clean wounds, gathered supplies and worked in the makeshift pharmacy.
In all, the team of volunteers treated nearly 7,000 people, including a 1-year-old child who was severely dehydrated. She didn't survive.
"I'm a laboratory person," says Ingala, who works in the field of molecular genetics. "I'd never treated people before. And to have fed and treated that baby girl and then lose her was pretty tough."
But Ingala was called, quite literally, to serve in Haiti. While visiting his grandparents in early January, he heard a frequent volunteer with Nehemiah speak at their church about the dire need for assistance. The international organization equips young Haitians to help rebuild the foundation of their own country, much as Nehemiah helped rebuild Jerusalem, at told in the Bible. Now, they were putting together medical mission teams.
Ingala got on the plane Jan. 22, eventually settling in the village of Chambrun, home to a church and school maintained by NVM. They transformed a storeroom into a clinic and a school bus into a mobile clinic.
Before returning home Feb. 13, Ingala pledged sponsorship to a 5-year-old boy, Wyclef, and promised to return to help the people he'd grown to love. He already has plans to volunteer again in October and is praying for an opportunity this summer as well.
"This trip was completely life changing," he says. "I feel like I have too much."
Called to Action
Upon hearing news of the earthquake, students in Dr. Peter Hovde's Global Issues course took action. They quickly formed the Concordia Haitian Relief Fund, with all donations supporting Lutheran World Relief. They drummed up attention and raised money with an 800-member Facebook group, info booth in the Knutson Campus Center and fundraising events including a meal with Dining Services and a concert.
Within a couple weeks, they raised $4,500 for the people of Haiti.
"I thought it was important for students to get involved because global issues do make an impact on us ... even if we are thousands of miles away," says one of the group leaders, Theodore Rinell '12, Colorado Springs, Colo. "Students should really live up to BREW (curriculum theme of becoming responsibly engaged in the world). It is really quite an amazing thing that separates us from other schools."
Hovde's class wasn't alone. Other fundraisers sprung up across campus. Kat Melheim '11, Stillwater, Minn., teamed up with the international organization Overlooked to sell Haiti Hunger Relief T-shirts. She sold 145 shirts, raising nearly $3,000 – enough money to send 7,250 meals to Haiti.
Mackenzie Koeck '10, Fargo, N.D., read a New York Times article about God's Littlest Angels Orphanage in Haiti. She spread the word on campus about the need for baby formula, toiletries, blankets, towels and other supplies, which she shipped herself. Students in Park Region Hall helped out with a fundraiser. Others donated money and supplies. In the end, Koeck shipped about 30 boxes to the orphanage.
Like many across the globe, Koeck felt called in this time of need.
"I didn't just want to sit around in Moorhead and read about the devastation," she says. "I wanted to do everything in my power to make the situation better."
By Dr. Connie Peterson
When I traveled to Haiti in January with a group from my church, I thought I knew what to expect. I had been in the country before. I knew about the hunger, the lack of infrastructure and the instability of the government. But I also knew the people. I knew they were resilient, hopeful and hospitable people who had such tangible faith you could feel Jesus smiling when you attended their church services. I had been captivated by them once and I wanted to be part of it again.
We were going to Pignon, a town about 80 miles northeast of Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince. Our mission group was charged with completing building projects at a local school. We flew into the capital Jan. 9 and ate breakfast at a local hotel. Little did we know that the hotel, as well as almost every other major building, would cease to exist three short days later.
We drove to Pignon and I couldn't help but see the world around me through nurse's eyes. The reddish hair of some of the children told the story of protein malnutrition. I saw the scarred feet of the barefoot children. The large bellies and emaciated appearance of some of the livestock told of parasites and starvation.
As we worked on projects at the school, we prayed for the health of the children and the country. We took comfort in the evidence of previous building projects and a new school nursing office, furnished by donations from Fargo-Moorhead. I visited the hospital and saw the medical team from Fargo-Moorhead working miracles with modern equipment and sterile supplies. There were flickers of hope for health improvement.
But that was before the earthquake struck.
We felt the ground shake the evening of Jan. 12. We knew there had been an
earthquake, but we didn't realize how severe until much later in the evening when our host, Pastor Caleb Lucien, arrived in camp. He breathlessly told us "it was as bad as you could possibly imagine" in Port-au-Prince.
We immediately shifted gears, re-organizing and re-visioning our task. We cleaned the school grounds for the onslaught of refugees. We organized equipment and supplies at the hospital. We even assisted surgical patients at the hospital.
There was no communication with the outside world. The major cell phone provider in the country was down. The rare computers were extremely slow and had only intermittent Internet service. Haitians were terrified about the survival of their families and friends in Port-au-Prince. Many families had multiple children attending school in the city and were unable to contact anyone for days.
We knew life would never be the same for our Haitian friends. Later, as we watched the food riots on television, we saw the Haitian people characterized as violent and uncivilized. But we know differently, because we know them. We have prayed with them, worshipped with them and shaken their hands. We have felt their grief and heard them walking in the streets singing hymns during the days following the quake. We have seen starving people share their food with people who have nothing.
We are called to be God's hands in the world. The people of Haiti are calling. What will we answer?
Dr. Connie Peterson is an associate professor of nursing at Concordia.