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Wondering how your fellow CHIer's are doing? Now you can connect through the Alumni Club!! Watch every Friday for a new story on "How Haiti Found Me"!!
Haiti found me. This is what I say when responding about why I go to Haiti. I wasn't looking for anything new in my life including going to a 3rd world country and/or participating in a medical clinic as I'm a non-medical person. My life was fulfilling and full already! Then Haiti found me. I didn't realize that my life would be even better, richer, fuller, and have more meaning with Haiti in it.
One of my favorite quotes is by comedian Amy Poehler “Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you. Spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” The CHI family of blans (Americans) and Haitians has absolutely changed my life. They are some of the most inspirational, incredible, talented, fun, awesome and loving
people I've met.
Munching on a Clif bar under my mosquito net in Arcahaie, I began to realize how much my time in Haiti played a role in aligning who I want to be and who I am. That alignment will never be perfect, but it was pretty close with CHI. In an ideal scenario, I want to contribute to global health as a physician who fights against health inequities and the cycle of poverty, and who practices medicine at the intersection of overarching health needs and personal diagnoses.
My work with CHI allowed me to do just that (though I’m still waiting on the M.D part). I worked with Haitians determined to increase access to clean water in their communities. While fans whirred, we shouted over the generator noise about the importance of clean water and reached a conclusion on profitable chlorine sales techniques. Other days, I hopped into the back of a rickety, brightly colored taptap to assist patients receiving medical care in Mirebalais or Port-au-Prince. A double-casted, bow-legged baby and his shy yet strong mother; a smart boy with a bacterial, blinding eye infection; a mother-of-three with terminal cervical cancer. With my broken Kreyol and our combined charades tactics, I came to know each of these patients personally on our long, bumpy rides.
These stories just scratch the surface of my nine months in Haiti. My experiences there solidified and enhanced my goals and life vision. Reflecting on Haiti's impact on me, I see how rewarded I felt and overwhelmingly grateful I was as I matched my inner and outer ambitions through my work with CHI.
The mountain trails of the southern peninsula of Haiti will always hold a special place in my heart. Pre-dawn we lace up our shoes, my friends and I. We ran precipitous ridges. We ran banana fields. We leapt streams, clambered hillsides, skirted thorn bushes.
And then we would sit, bathed in sweat, on some un-named hilltop. We watched as the sun broke the horizon. Roosters crowing, dogs barking. People would come into focus, illuminated by the early rays of dawn ... hiking the same narrow paths that their fathers and grandfathers hiked. These people were coming. Coming to us, hoping that somehow the doctors and nurses and volunteers might be able to alleviate pain, dress wounds, dry tears ...
We sat and watched ... tiny groups coalescing ... noise building. They gathered in the courtyards. Every morning filled with hope and promise. But I knew, sitting in the dust, in the dark corners of my heart, that the day would also bring failure. That amongst the bustling below me, there were wounds I did not have the skills or the tools to mend.
But I also knew that there would be laughter. Hugs. Giggling babies. Grinning little old ladies. Grandfathers with whom I would chat about their memories and their families. People with whom I would have the privilege of sharing a moment.
It was going to be a good day ...
Haiti found me through my daughter Rachel and CHI. I had yearned to do this type of medicine but didn’t know where or how to find it. The path is clear now and although past my prime, I will continue to travel there until physically unable but even then my prayers will continue to flow to the amazingly beautiful people of Haiti.
I fondly call those I go will my “CHI Love Team” and cherish the wonderful stories that become part of everyone’s own book of life. For those back home who want 3 words to define the trips I tell them; exhilarating, exhausting, and very humbling. From Jungian analyst Clarissa Pinkola Estés: "I hope you will go out and let stories, that is life, happen to you, and that you will work with these stories from your life . . . water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom." Haiti has taught me that I can be one of God’s beautiful flowers. Thank you Haiti, thank you CHI.
“Governor, get out of the way!” That’s what was swirling in my head at the end of a January 2010 press conference for a Cedar Rapids company that had just moved into its post-flood building. Gov. Culver was blocking my exit because a TV crew was interviewing him. As we finally exited the building, together, he turned to me and said, “There has been an earthquake in Haiti and I am being asked what the Iowa response will be. Rogers, got any ideas?”
The next morning we gathered all the food company executives from Cedar Rapids in the Boardroom at the Chamber. There had been a study done the year before and the conclusion was that there was enough food produced in Cedar Rapids to feed a country. Looked like it was time to put that result into action and send relief supplies to Haiti. The Governor’s office lent us great support and the Clinton Foundation became invaluable.
On February 9th, we were still meeting as a Haiti food supply relief group, when I received a call I save on my voicemail still this day. “Hi, my name is Chris Buresh and I am a doctor who has been doing work in Haiti. Can we meet?”
Our food relief group felt we should now transition to a medical relief group, and in a matter of days, we coordinated the shipment of a full semi truck of medical supplies to Haiti. It took major logistics planning, a lot of elbow grease and moxie, the intervention of President Clinton, and even Teamster drivers who volunteered to get the shipment to Miami in record time. That May, I flew to Leogane with Chris and his dad to work alongside Chris and his team in the hospital Iowa helped build-and you could say, by that point in time, Haiti had most definitely found me!
I went back and looked at my diary from my first trip to Haiti in April, 2014. Here is the first paragraph…..”Can’t believe it is our last day!!!! They said it would go fast, but I didn’t think this fast. I really want to get home to see Sue and family, but I am not ready to leave. I am not finished here yet. I will miss the ‘team’. I will miss my Haitian family.”
That really says it all.
“Haiti truly found me” and changed me forever. I could not believe that these people who have nothing, and I mean nothing, could be so happy in so many ways. I could not believe how much they cherished their families. I cannot believe how much that trip taught me about life. Having been blessed with a very cherished life, I never expected Haiti would change that life in so many ways.
I owe a debt of gratitude to B2 for helping Haiti find me, thank you Brader. I will continue to travel to Haiti, my second home, at least twice a year until I am too old to go. I am sad that our October trip was cancelled, but I anxiously await my next trip in January.
God, thank you blessing me with this awesome opportunity.
B1 (alias Dave)
My first trip to Haiti was an eye-popping and amazing experience. I was overcome with the sights, the smells, the colors, and the noise. Once I got off the plane it just seemed like all of these people were jammed together so tightly. I remember riding in the back of the pick up truck from the airport- I just couldn’t take everything in or make sense of much of it. Initially I think that I was shocked by signs of intense and pervasive poverty. Thinking that t2 hours ago I’d been standing in the luxury mall that called the Miami airport made my brain sort of seize up. Once I settled in, stopped moving so fast, and started talking to people, I felt so amazingly and selflessly welcomed.
The thing that stuck out most about that first trip was a voyage we made up into the mountains to do a clinic. One of our group members wasn’t in shape to do the uphill walking, so we got him a horse. At least they called it a horse- it looked more like a half starved rickety donkey. Now this gentleman is an amazing guy, but he loves his pecan pies and he was really giving this horse some trouble. At one point the horse missed a step and collapsed, trapping its rider’s leg underneath it. The horse was fine. The rider decided he’d rather risk a heart attack than another mountainside equestrian misadventure, so he hobbled the rest of the way to the clinic.
The clinic was a little crazy and a lot busy, which I would find out is pretty normal. One older gentleman came through, though, who really struck me. He was in his 80’s and wearing a flannel shirt and a World War II Pith helmet. He had a home-made walking stick that he used to navigate the steep trails. He had sparkling eyes and one of those smiles that sticks in your head. He saw our team member gimping around the clinic and interrupted our visit to go and give him his walking stick. He insisted. He knew he could get home just fine with a little help, and once there he could make himself a new cane.
That sort of generosity is something that I’d never seen before. I’d seen people be gracious and kind, but I’d never seen anyone give up something that they need to get around to help out a total stranger without expecting anything in return. Watching people in Haiti take care of each other again and again, seeing them come together to help one another through rough times, inspires me all the time. When I go to Haiti, I always learn more about the kind of person that I hope some day to become. I don’t know about the pith helmet, though.
So there was this guy (we’ll call him Josh White) and we worked at the same backpacking camps during our college summer breaks. Fast forward several years later to Facebook. This guy posted these incredible pictures from his medical trips to Haiti so I started asking questions and he said “Hey, you should come with.” At that time there was very little information about the trips online so it seemed a little sketchy but I told my wonderful friend (we’ll call her Jana Zimmerman) about this great unknown. I said “Come with!” and we both took a leap of faith.
Fast forward six months and there Jana and I were, along with 17 other “blans”, staying in the home of a wonderful Haitian family in the mountains of L’Asile and ready to work triage in a tiny rural village. I’ll never forget the smiles of the children, the beauty of the mountains, and my first home visit to an elderly woman’s home.
People with seemingly little and who had endured many hardships were kind, generous and gracious with us. CHI no longer runs clinics in L’Asile because on that trip we learned that Haitian nurses were now visiting the village weekly to provide care. I knew the news was somewhat bittersweet for longtime volunteers who had established relationships there, knowing they would likely never return to a community they loved, but it was really a story of success for that small village.
The work was not done in Haiti and CHI quickly connected with other rural communities in need of healthcare. Since my first trip, CHI has become its own non-profit organization and has grown in countless exciting ways. I love to return to Haiti every year. I love Haiti. The home visits, the strength and kindness of the Haitian people, the dear friends I’ve made with CHI volunteers and staff – it truly feeds my soul and offers me different perspectives in my own life, often in unexpected ways. I am infinitely grateful for CHI.
I love to tell others about Haiti and if they seem interested I say “Come with!”
Haiti found me the second day of my first medical trip when a man of about 40 was carried into the clinic area by his sons; followed by his weeping wife. The man had an infected foot. It was swollen to twice it’s size. The stricken wife explained that someone had put a Voodoo curse on the man, they did not know who or why. He was in extraordinary pain and was sweating from a high fever. His leg had turned purple.
Dr. Chris asked me to come and pray with the man and his family. As a Presbyterian minister I had offered hundreds of bedside prayers, but this was a first for me. I prayed that he would feel God’s loving spirit surrounding and protecting him, that the Holy Spirit would ward off all evil and give him relief and peace.
The man was a diabetic; he had stepped on a thorn. With complications of his diabetes, his foot had quickly become infected and with no understanding of the problem and no treatment, the sepsis had spread throughout his body. There was little that could be done.
Haiti found me that day as I came to understand just a little bit more about the roll that voodoo plays in the way many Haitians understand their lives. Voodoo explains the unexplainable. Nobody dies by stepping on a thorn, except, by the end of the day, he had in fact died. It must have been a curse, how else to comprehend the loss? Hopefully we were able to bring that family a little peace in the midst of their loss, that day.
More importantly, CHI brings ongoing treatment and the light of understanding of such conditions as diabetes to hundreds now who might previously have thought they were cursed.
Founding Board Member and Treasurer
As a child I watched a lot of 70’s and 80’s shows and the impression it made on me was that at some point in my adult life I would have to deal with quicksand and voodoo drums. They say when one door closes another opens and it is true. I had just closed a large door and was wondering which door should I pick, but that wasn’t the case because there was a knock on my door and there was Haiti. Actually the knock was in the form of an email from fellow board member Ted Miller that said something like “Hi, a mutual friend of ours said you write grants, can we meet?”
That first year Haiti came to me through research, data sets, statistics, writing, findings, conversations with alumni, meetings, facts, and figures. January 2015 I boarded a plane headed to Port-au-Prince with fellow CHI volunteers and more deet than necessary. And there I was face to face with data sets, statistics, facts, and figures. Only what we sometimes fail to forget and what I will never forget is that facts and figures have a story. They have grandkids and children. They have felt joy, sorrow, happiness, and loss. More loss sometimes than we can ever imagine. I spent most of my time in triage, and I loved every minute of it, for each moment I spent with our clients was a privilege and a chance to put a story to our purpose.
So whereas I have yet to encounter quicksand I spent my last night in Haiti listening to the sound of voodoo drums. And that is how Haiti found me.
Although a Colorado native and avid adventurist, I wasn't exactly looking for a mission when Haiti found me. My intent going on my first trip to Haiti was to give back to this world a little bit, and really what happened, was Haiti gave to me.
Haiti changes you once you go there, deeply and profoundly -- for the better. Now when I get caught up in the fast-paced, hustle and bustle of the often chaotic U.S., I reflect and remind myself of what really matters. Haiti so graciously teaches us to recognize our priorities, to slow down, to be positive no matter what the circumstance(s), to realize it's not about external things and that it's about what's inside that matters, to smile and giggle more often (don't take ourselves so seriously all the time), and to value our precious resources. This is to name only a few . . .
Although I return to Haiti once a year, Haiti is always in my heart and on my mind, and hopefully now seen more and more in my actions.
Mesi anpil plus, thank you very much, Haiti, for finding me.
I’ve always believed “good people find good people.” No matter if it’s on the sunniest or the rainiest of days, the universe pulls our force together until we collide. It’s a beautiful thing when you can look back and say “I wouldn’t have known you if I didn’t pick up that phone call, apply for that job, gone to that concert, or simply just introduced myself and said hi.” It’s remarkable how my life has taken shape because of my “good people theory.”
Haiti found me through yet another unpredictable scenario and I’m forever grateful for it. In 2012 I gained tempoary roots in Coralville, Iowa (as a Badger fan!) and was job seeking. I was soon known as the “best babysitter in the world” to Chris (CHI Co-Founder) and Ginny Buresh’s family. As babysitting stayed constant on my plate, I still had room for something more. I’ll never forget that November morning when Chris said, “Hey B… have you found another job yet? I have some Haiti work to keep you busy if you want.” Little did I know that would be 3 years and counting of “busy work” as I currently work part time as CHI’s Project Manager aka the “creative guru.”
In March of 2013 I traveled outside of the country for the first time and never seconded guessed my travels to a third world country. I full heartily believe I was guided there for a reason. My life hasn’t been the same since I first stepped outside the chaotic Haitian airport, took my first tap tap ride and welcomed Haiti into my heart, where it holds a permanent spot.
I think of Haiti every day, which keeps me grounded. My perception on life shifted in 2013 and I feel very lucky to be able to look at the wolrd the way I do and ask "how can I help."
By not fearing the unknown and trusting the universe (and Chris Buresh), I have encountered so many “GREAT people” with my travels to Haiti. As a non-medical volunteer I didn’t know how useful I could be working in a medical clinic for a week. I quickly learned if you have a big heart, open mind and passion to help others, the skies the limit!
I'm forever grateful for the Buresh Family and Haiti finding me!
I was initially drawn to Haiti because of its tropical climate, Caribbean location, and the exoticism that seemed associated with the island based on news broadcasts I’d seen about it growing up. After I finally had my departure date to set, I started feeling nervous about my decision to spend 5 weeks in Arcahaie, Haiti conducting research for my Masters in Public Health practicum project. The travel advisories from the state department warning Americans about the dangers of traveling to Haiti didn’t help much either. However, it seemed like almost the instant my plane touched down in Port-Au-Prince I felt this wave of relief that gave way to a peaceful calm that stayed with me throughout my whole time there—and is the same feeling I get every time I go back.
The connection I feel to Haiti is hard for me understand myself, let alone be able to describe to others. Somewhere within the vibrant beauty and utter chaos of the island, I feel incredibly at home. Yet, I also often find myself feeling like an alien. There is something striking about losing all semblance of anonymity because of how your appearance completely gives away that fact that you are a foreigner.
But by far the strongest force connecting me to this island is the people. The particular Haitians who have become my dear friends, including my self-proclaimed “Haitian brother”, and my 3 and a half year old goddaughter, have taught me more in my short visits with them than any of my years of classes or degrees combined. And every day, the unwavering resilience, bravery, and strength I see displayed by Haitians is awe-inspiring, and changes your life perspective in a profound way.
The talk was titled “Where is God in the Rubble?” with only a dozen people sitting in attendance at a monthly brown-bag luncheon. Little did I know the magnitude of impact this lunch hour would have on my life. As a guest speaker for Finding God at Iowa, CHI co-founder Dr. Chris Buresh presented stories of Haitians he knew personally whose lives had been devastated by the 2010 earthquake and what his team was doing to serve their needs. I was completely overtaken by a desire to help with CHI but doubted that I could do much without healthcare skills. Because of Chris’s persistence in telling me that non-medical volunteers are, in fact, just as valuable to the team, I decided to make the trip. That first trip was in January of 2012 and I’ve been back twice since then due to an amazing sequence of events and people that followed.
On the first trip I discovered that an iPad-based program was being used to collect patient information but it lacked the design and power to record and retrieve anything useful. Within weeks of my return home, I scheduled a noon meeting with two co-workers and started a project to create an electronic medical record (EMR) system that would serve the needs of CHI. The three of us, Ted Fitzgerald, Steve Bowers and I, continued to meet over our lunch hours and by January of 2013 the EMR system we named TEBOW was accomplishing what was envisioned by Dr Buresh and his team.
It all started at a noon luncheon thinking that there wasn’t much I could do to help and now I’m spending my lunch hours doing more than I could have dreamed possible.
And that’s how Haiti found me!
Haiti crept up on me. Eight years ago I had heard a little bit about the country, the people, and the need for quality health care as my brother returned from a handful of trips to the country. He hosted fundraisers for medical missions and would speak of the work being done, the people he met, and the impact that a relatively minor contribution could make.
The following year CHI was formed. I continued to hear about Haiti from Chris as he dedicated nearly all of his free time to improving the lives of Haitians. Six years ago the earthquake hit Haiti. Chris and CHI sprung into action. He worked tirelessly to get aid to the people that he had come to care so much about. Shortly after the earthquake I met a young Haitian man named Alix who had come to the US to attend welding classes at a community college. During his semester here, I spoke with Alix many times about his family, his aspirations, and his country.
A year after the earthquake, Alix’s family was still living in a tent city, his best friend could not find shoes, and Alix could rarely make contact with either of them because of poor phone service. When I went to Haiti in 2012, I tried to absorb everything; as Chris says, “you only get one first trip to Haiti.” I found myself walking the streets of a country that I was already familiar with, meeting people whose pictures I had seen and stories I knew. Haiti had found me years before I found Haiti.
I was first introduced to the joys and challenges of global health work by my husband Chris in 2001, soon after we started dating. I visited him at that time while he was learning and working in India, and we subsequently traveled and worked together in Peru in 2002.
In the years since Chris was introduced to the people and rural lands of Haiti, working in partnership with our friends there has become a joyful family effort. I have traveled and worked there with Chris 6 or 7 times, and my nephew and mother have also made the journey. We have all been touched and inspired by our experiences, and have shared what we have learned with the rest of our family, and with our friends, colleagues, and communities.
When Chris and I work together to support CHI, both in Haiti and back in the US, we are supported tirelessly by our families and friends, who provide childcare, encouragement, monetary support, and the benefits of their own time, talents and resources. Of the many gifts that Haiti has given me, I am particularly grateful for how it has shone a spotlight on my wonderful family and community while at the same time expanding my list of family and dear friends.
Who knew what started as a girl's canoe/kayak trip on the Cedar River would lead to multiple trips to Haiti? Marcia Rogers had gone to Haiti post-earthquake and was describing her experience to three of us while enjoying the scenery of the Cedar.
Approximately seven months later, we were in Haiti together. It was truly a shock to my system to witness the absolute poverty and living conditions of the people we were treating.
I was depressed and struggling to understand how unfair the world was to Haiti. This is about a two hour plane ride from the United States. Why are the conditions of Haiti so different?
I got the opportunity to go on a home visit to deliver medical supplies to a family living with leprosy. They lived in absolute poverty. They had a roof and walls and that was it. Their limbs are slowly deteriorating as a result of the disease process.
I became ANGRY! Why is the world so unbalanced? This would be curable in the United States! Why not Haiti? Why does where you were born determine your access to basic human needs?
And then MY world changed. The husband said a prayer. He was so appreciative of God, of the life that he has been blessed with, the family that he has, the country that he lives in, and the care of CHI. He seemed grateful for what he had.
This truly recentered me. Who am I to judge? How much money I have doesn't matter. How big my house is doesn't matter. My family matters. My health matters. Haiti has found me.
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