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Helping in Haiti

HAMC group assisted clinic in Caribbean nation

April 4, 2014
Tim Chapman - Tribune Editor , Pierce County Tribune

Haiti doesn't come close to resembling the prairie. The small Caribbean nation is one of the poorest in the world. It's wrought with corruption, disease and poverty, but Rugby High School student Hannah Christenson is eager to go back.

"It was overwhelming at first, but I'm really glad I went," Christenson said. "It was a whole different culture and made me more thankful for what I have. And it made me more open-minded."

Christenson joined her younger sister, Lauren, and their parents as part of a Heart of America Medical Center group assisting the Feed My Lambs Ministry - a group that provides medical aid to impoverished communities in Haiti, Bermuda and the U.S.

Article Photos

Submitted Photo
Rugby native Hannah Christenson embraces new friends in Haiti during a trip in March.

The group was in Haiti from Feb. 26 through March 5 and included HAMC CEO Jeff Lingerfelt; Allan Meckle, director of respiratory care; Sarah Christenson, health information director; and her husband Erik Christenson, director of pharmacy.

"They have a lot of needs," Sarah Christenson said. "A lot of issues with Haiti is having clean water. One thing that we're continually working on now is a couple of the orphans had parasites. We can't really treat them unless there's clean water."

Hannah assisted her parents in setting up a pharmacy at the clinic in the coastal town of Montrouis in Western Haiti. Lauren worked in the orphanage with children barely two years old up to high school-aged peers.

"When you're dealing with Haitians, they're receptive, but some of the issues they have are keeping things going." Erik Christenson said. "A lot of the medications are given away quickly ... and no money is earned from the product to buy more. There's no thinking in the logistics to keep the project going long term."

Interpreters were needed to communicate with the French- and Creole-speaking Haitians to emphasize points of importance like using gloves.

The group hiked into mountainous areas to deliver rice and beans to people.

"It was really hard to give them some food and not be able to give more," Sarah Christenson said. "The little kids would say, 'We're hungry, can we have more?' and to say no was hard."

The Christensons took their daughters, so the teens could experience what people in other nations face and expose them realities beyond home.

"The people are so loving in Haiti," Erik Christenson said. "If you're a stoic-like Norwegian like I am, you're not used to meeting the people. They will embrace you, touch you, kiss you and put their arms around you. You start to become part of that culture. As poor as they are they still have a lot of fun."

Lingerfelt spent much of the time with painting and construction at the local school. It was his second trip to Haiti as he went to the same place in 2012.

"I just think it's like a wake-up call or a smack in the face - whatever adage you want to put on it - about how blessed we are. Clean water, indoor plumbing and electricity are luxuries there.

"For me, (going) was to see the progress that's been made. The orphanage has doubled in size and just to see the effort to make a difference there, you can really see substantial improvement in that project of the ministry we were with."

The HAMC group was joined by people from Tennessee, Colorado, Montana and other countries.



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