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Making house calls in Haiti
Leogane, Haiti -- Four years ago this month, 21 seconds changed the lives of Haitians forever. A magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit the already fragile, impoverished country.
Four years later, billions of dollars in aid has brought progress. But it comes slowly in a country where many Haitians lacked the most basic needs **before disaster struck.
14 volunteers from Rochester General Hospital, Intervol and Constellations brands went to Haiti this past week to help with that progress.
13WHAM went along and found that the problems are complex and staggering.
Unemployment in Haiti is as high as 80 percent. Many Haitians lack the very basics: suitable shelter, food, water and medical care.
At the local groups destination, an orphanage in Leogane, the volunteers saw life up close: the kitchen is two pots over an open fire to feed 46 children. The laundry is done by hand. Shelter is three shacks-- two and three children to a bed.
Life is so hand to mouth that some of the bunk beds built by local volunteers on the last trip had to be burned for fire wood.
Intervol of Rochester has been working to bring excess medicine from Rochester medical facilities along with doctors and nurses to sites like the orphanage. Its a word of mouth system but it works. It's very fragile but there's no alternative said Intervol founder, Dr. Ralph Pennino. Probably 80 percent of Haitians don't have access to real healthcare. Those that live in remote villages have little to none.
On this trip, Dr. Elizabeth Murray of Golisano Children's Hospital treated each child for pink eye and gave them fluoride treatments. In the emergency department at home, she typically sees 20 children a day. Here she treated 46 in a morning.
Putting in the eye drops at home children would be squirming. These children tipped their heads back. They wanted to be helped, said Dr. Murray. She then taught the pastor who leads the orphanage how to continue with the treatments and left behind enough medicine donated by Strong hospital and employees to get it done.
That kind of sustainability is a centerpiece of what Dr. Pennino and others are trying hard to achieve here.
Good intentioned people start this and that but when they leave what have they left behind? You need to leave something behind because then, people can take of themselves, said Dr. Pennino.
A similar model aimed at sustainability is also being put to use as Intervol and Constellation Brands have worked to fulfill a promise to the pastor of the orphanage to build them a home. The local group traveled to Leogone to help finish the new building and dedicate it. Friday at 10 on FOX Rochester and 13WHAM at 11, the local group at work on the orphanage and how the project is even more than a new home for the 46 children who will live there.