It was autumn 2009 when Pastor Kip Smith and his wife Lora first learned about the mission work being performed at Cap Haitien in Haiti. They attended a talk in Cleveland, Ohio, where missionaries and volunteers told of the desperate need for medical supplies and healthcare workers in Haiti’s second largest city. While discussions were being held as to what sort of involvement was possible for their small parish, disaster struck.
The 2010 earthquake in Haiti did not directly affect Cap Haitien but the devastation throughout the entire nation did. Within weeks, refugees from Port Au Prince arrived, stretching already maxed-out resources. The community was and is in dire need of immediate assistance.
Living conditions in Haiti are bleak:
- 60-75 percent of the population remains illiterate
- 80 percent unemployment rate
- No public school system
- 300,000 orphans or street children in Haiti
- One physician for every 10,000 people
- Most of the land is not farmable
- Malnutrition is a pervasive health problem
- Most of the people we met do not eat every day
- Clean water is not readily available to many residents
- Mortality for infants and children under 5 years old is nearly 40 percent
The 700-member congregation of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in North Canton, Ohio, sponsored their first medical mission trip in 2010. They work with Pastor Eliona Bernard and the First Evangelical Lutheran Church he founded. March of 2016 will mark their seventh year of sponsoring medical missions teams to visit the community at Cap Haitian as well as other projects leading to sustainability in the community. Over the years, they have built churches and schools, dug two clean water wells, and started a chicken farm, as well as other agricultural endeavors.
Dale Bellis, Executive Director of Liberty HealthShare, learned of this critical mission work from a longtime friend. After attending a presentation at Holy Cross Church, he brought the opportunity back to Liberty, suggesting we make a charitable contribution to the effort for an upcoming trip. “Our sharing community is blessed with resources and access to medical care,” Bellis states. “Sharing our blessings with the impoverished people of Cap Haitien is an extension of our service to each other here at home.”
The team, consisting of a doctor, two nurses, a pharmacist, and support staff, will spend five days running clinics in Cap Haitian, in a remote mountain village, and in another nearby town. Each day, they will see 100 students and many other community members for wellness checks and diagnoses. They will dispense desperately needed antibiotic medications and ointments, anti fungal treatments, and many OTC medications we in the USA can find at any corner convenience store. The team will also supply vitamins for the school children as malnutrition is rampant.
Liberty HealthShare’s contribution to the purchase of medicines and travel expenses for the medical team means they will have less to raise and more resources when visiting next month. Pastor Kip speaks admiringly of his congregation. “This has become the mission of this church,” he said. “Our congregation of 700 souls has committed to serving this community, as we are called to do by God.” Lora Smith echoes this sentiment in recounting the time it has taken for the people of Cap Haitien to embrace the missions. “They don’t care to know us until they know we care. Over the years, we have demonstrated we are here to stay; here to make a permanent difference.”
The work at Cap Haitien continues. The student body has grown from 400 to 1650 students in the four schools, and each one is in need of a meal every day. The community has also embarked on a project to grow moringa, a fast-growing African tree whose leaves can be ground up and added to the children’s daily meal of rice and beans for added vitamins and minerals. Other efforts to create economic opportunity for the residents are progressing. H.E.L.P. Cap Haitien will continue to invest in projects that offer longevity and sustainability to the community, working in partnership with the people of Cap Haitien.
Liberty HealthShare members can make contributions each month, over and above their suggested monthly share amount, by clicking the "Donation" link in the ShareBox menu. These contributions are used for general compassion projects like the one described here.
You can learn more about H.E.L.P. Cap Haitien by visiting their website.