1st Trip to Haiti
Mission-Chiropractic 1st Trip to Haiti
Mission-Chiropractic has brought the healing power of Chiropractic to over 1,300 Haitians in the town of Ouanaminthe. Even though that only represents 1% of the population, the rippling effects of this Chiropractic pebble dropping into the pond are just beginning. The journey to Haiti was part of the 5th Mission-Chiropractic trip to the Dominican Republic, and marks the first international expansion effort for the organization.
Jason O'Connor, DC, from Antioch, California and I organized the effort and led a team of two others, David Hecht, DC, from New York, and John Palmer, Chiropractic Student at Life University. "There was a lot of uncertainty on both sides (Haiti and Mission-Chiropractic) as to how this was going to work", said Dr. O'Connor. "I was organizing with people who have never received an adjustment, and who didn't know what Chiropractic was. I have never been to Haiti, don't speak Creole, and had my own apprehensions around physical safety and sanitary conditions. But, I was willing to try, and trusted that things would work out. We were pleasantly surprised!"
The expansion to Haiti fits nicely into Mission-Chiropractic's desire to bring the benefits of Chiropractic to people who cannot afford healthcare. During the last Mission-Chiropractic trip, in October 2007, Dr. O'Connor was introduced by a Dominican friend to Rezene Tesfamariam, Director of Plan Haiti. Plan International had donated $350,000 toward the construction of a kindergarten at Institution Univers, as school of 1,500 students in the town of Ouanaminthe, Haiti. Understanding the objectives of Mission_Chiropractic, Rezene introduced Dr. O'Connor to Hugues Bastien, the founder of Institution Univers. "That's how it all began", said Jason. "I just wanted to help in any way that I could. For me this is a perfect match-my love for the Dominican people and my love for Chiropractic-all wrapped up in an effort to serve and make things better for others. Having lived in the D.R. for two years, I know how poor the country is. I knew that Haiti was even worse off."
Looking back on the trip, one can recognized some great lessons for life.
Things usually look ugly before they get better. Dr. O'Connor and his team almost decided to turn back when they got to the border and were told they couldn't take their rental car across. They were receiving lots of offers to watch the car while they went across to Haiti. Images of returning to a dismantled vehicle, or no vehicle at all ran through their minds. "We couldn't reach Hugues Bastien on the phone. We were stuck!" The team told stories about their time waiting. "Little children were coming from Haiti begging for money. Several of them approached the car windows and we could see their skin riddled with all sorts of skin diseases, teeth that were decayed to the roots, and wearing filthy rags for clothes. We could see across the border to the outskirts of a very poor town, very sparse vegetation, and garbage everywhere."
Don't give up! The team reported that their minds began looking for every reason not to go forward. But, just as they were beginning to make plans to leave, they received a call from Mr. Bastien. He confirmed the fact that they couldn't bring the vehicle across the border. They felt even more insecure when he told them he might have a place where it could be left. When Dr. Hecht asked if it would be safe, Hugues just replied, "Trust me." Followed by an unsettling laugh.
"We really had no other choice, so we left our car, and the keys, hopped into Hugues' truck and crossed into Ouanaminthe. All three of us are so glad that we went. We would have missed out on a great opportunity to serve and the people who were expecting us would have been severely disappointed." Jason O'Connor also described the organization of the Medical Center. "They had scheduled appointments with the people, just like a regular office. They had scheduled 100 patients per hour, and people showed up consistently throughout the day. We worked non-stop over seeing all the scheduled patients plus walk-ins for the two days that we were in Ouanaminthe. A good 12+ hours of solid work."
To help with the language barrier, they had a couple of translators who delivered a short Chiro-talk to educate the people as they waited. Emphasis was placed on the principle of "The power that made the body, heals the body." The facility at Universe Medical Centre was built for all types of doctors, who can come and donate their time and talents to help the people. There is a huge need for medical help. The team was told that there is only one medical doctor in the region, and that only 25% of his time is actually spent seeing patients because of the administrative responsibilities he also carries.
The team also expressed admiration for Hugues Bastien and seeing his dream come to realization. Hugues is one of 12 children. His family immigrated to the US, and he later received an Engineering degree in college. All of his brothers and sisters continue to reside in the United States, but Hugues had a dream to build a center in his home town that would teach children how to prepare for opportunities and to be able to take advantage when they come along. Little by little he began to build the school. In the beginning he saved money by working as a taxi driver NY. He gradually built a stunning education facility that will next year have 1,600 students. The 3 story Medical Centre is right off the town square, and is currently scheduling visits from all types of doctors. This was the first time that any Chiropractors had visited the town.
Another facility is also nearing completion; it will be able to house teams of 50- 60 doctors who could stay for a week or longer. With Hugues' engineering background, he has taken his vision and turned it into reality. Mission-Chiropractic was able to share in his joy as the fruits of his labor are beginning to show. Speaking on behalf of the Chiro Trio, Dr. O'Connor, says "We were tremendously blessed by what we received from the experience in Ouanaminthe. We went with one purpose, to give of ourselves. We will never forget this!"