NEW CANAAN, CT – February 20, 2010: On January 12th an earthquake rocked the capital city of Port-au-Prince in Haiti and instantly this poverty stricken land became the center of much of the world’s media attention. It is sad that it takes an epic event like this to shine a light on one of the neediest countries on our earth, but this is reality.
While the public outpouring of support, both thoughts and prayers as well as financially, is a sign of the true goodwill in all of us, I’d like to take a moment in the midst of this crisis to point out how critical charitable giving is on a year round basis. Whether its home or abroad, in our backyard or around the globe, there are always needs far greater than any of our own at any moment in time. As Americans, as members of the human race, we each need to look in the mirror and ask ourselves if we do enough for others. And we need to ask this question every day; not just when the media shines a bright light on the latest natural disaster or epic event.
Why? Because without constant vigilance, the truly needy only become more disadvantaged over time. They need us. Not just in times of crisis; but each and every day.
Allow me to share a story that may give the idea of charitable giving a new meaning.
A couple of years ago, when performing one of my tasks at work, I came across listing for a surplus military ambulance on one of the online vehicle auction sites we use. It was the fall of 2007, and here was a virtually new 2005 Chevrolet Heavy Duty 4×4 Diesel Truck with an ambulance body. Painted in army green with familiar Red Cross insignias on the sides, this vehicle had apparently been one extra built by a supplier and was being sold off. Something instantly said to me “buy this ambulance – something good will come of it”. And after a few bids we concluded the auction with the successful winning bid.
A few weeks later, I was speaking with my childhood pediatrician, Dr. Thomas Flynn, who I knew was volunteering at a hospital and was working on the Board of the non-profit organization that ran it. I asked Dr. Flynn if there was a need for an ambulance, and after a few days, I had my answer – it was a resounding YES!
Hoptial Sacre Cuer is funded and managed by the CRUDEM Foundation(acronym for Center for the Rural Development of Milot). The hospital was opened in 1986 and has seen annual growth and expansion of both its building complex and services to the people of Milot, Haiti, each year since then. The hospital is the remarkable result of some very dedicated people – including hundreds of medical volunteers (doctors, nurses, and support staff) from all over the U.S. who personally invest a week of more of their time as volunteers on site to staff the facility and provide medical services and training to the people of Haiti.
At the time of my inquiry, the Hopital Sacre Cuer was looking to expand their community outreach program by implementing a ‘mobile clinic’ that could go out and bring much needed medical services to populations in the remote villages surrounding Milot.
Over the coming months, I worked with Dr. Flynn to ensure funding was put together through the generosity of the parishioners of Saint Aloysius Church in New Canaan, the Rotary Club of New Canaan, several private individuals, and Karl Chevrolet. Gifts in kind came from New Canaan Auto Body, which repainted the entire ambulance white, along with several other companies, including the shipping company that transported the ambulance from Miami to Haiti.
Since its arrival at the hospital in early 2009, this ambulance has been hard at work, helping the hospital successfully expand its’ mobile clinic bringing medical care to thousands who would have gone without.
Back to the present, in the days since the earthquake shook the Haitian capital city of Port-au-Prince, the small Hopital Sacre Cuer in Milot, about 70 miles to the north, has become a beacon of hope. As the hospital was far enough away from the quake zone, it was unharmed. Within days of the earthquake, official’s onsite in Haiti began to recognize that Hopital Sacre Cuer had one of the most advanced operating facilities on the island and it was staffed with knowledgeable medical professionals.
A surge in patients began, as some of the most critically injured began arriving from Port-Au-Prince. Despite being just 70 miles away, there is simply no infrastructure in terms of modern roads in Haiti. A drive would take seven plus hours to navigate the myriad of dirt roads and paths; thus transporting patients happened by helicopter. The choppers landed in an open field near Milot and were met by ambulances and volunteers to transport the patients to the nearby hospital.
Within a couple of weeks, the population of patients had far surpassed the facilities’ normal capacity of about 90 beds. With over 400 patients, the hospital grew into a sea of tents; housing cots and beds of all shapes and sizes. Along with the surge of patients, a much larger team of medical volunteers was needed to help. Many of the stories are both heartbreaking and uplifting, as many volunteers have recounted both the trials and the victories of the past month. If you have a moment, please watch this first hand account, filmed by a member of a volunteer medical team from South Bend, Indiana: