By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
To continue medical services, teacher education, water filtration training and other activities in Grand- Bois, Haiti, ServeHAITI will host a fundraising event Oct. 13. Live music, a Haitian artisan market, silent auction and complimentary drinks and hors d’oeuvres will be served at the event, to be held from 6-11 p.m. at the University Club, 1518 5th Ave. in Moline, Ill. Cost is $35.
The annual event attracts more than 250 people. It’s the largest single source of income for ServeHAITI’s medical clinic, said Liz McDermott, the organization’s trip coordinator. “With a lot of hard work by our volunteers and by the grace of God we’re usually able to raise well over a third of our annual operating budget of $400,000.”
Trips are organized each summer, fall and winter, and other times as needed. A small group — including Our Lady of the River (LeClaire) parishioners Laird and Kathy Behnke — tentatively plan to travel to Haiti in December to repair cracks caused by an earthquake and possibly rebuild the medical waste incinerator. All of the trips serve to provide medications and supplies and support the work done daily by Haitian staff, McDermott said.
ServeHAITI began as a Catholic Parish Twinning effort with St. Pierre in Grand-Bois and has evolved into full-time healthcare, economic development endeavors, education programs and a child malnutrition program that saves lives for the entire region.
ServeHAITI employs more than 50 Haitian staff including community health workers and gift of water technicians. “We have been blessed by the prayers and support of many parishes, especially including Our Lady of the River, LeClaire; St. Joseph, DeWitt; St. Joseph, Hills and St. Paul the Apostle in Davenport as well as St. Joseph, Bellevue.”
The clinic located in Grand-Bois sees approximately 1,000 patients each month and also covers service to all zones in the region via the group’s community health workers. They visit neighborhoods to check blood pressure, provide first aid and encourage pregnant women to receive prenatal care. Gift of water technicians make sure water filtration buckets work properly.
Medika Mamba, a program to combat child malnutrition, is seeing larger numbers of admissions due to poor crops last season that has resulted in more malnourished children. If the program is followed correctly, the child will be well and discharged within 12 weeks, McDermott said.
Ellie Argo has volunteered on five ServeHAITI missions, inspired by her mom, Kathleen Argo, who couldn’t stop talking about her ServeHAITI experiences. Both are members of Holy Family Parish in Davenport. After Ellie graduated from Assumption High School, she attended her first ServeHAITI mission in 2013, along with her mom. “I fell in love with the people there.”
Ellie returns to Haiti because of her love for the people. “I can’t write to them. I can’t text them. I need to see them. They are very hard workers and have such love.”
Her work in Haiti has solidified Ellie’s career choice as she studies to earn a master’s degree in social work. Ellie’s cousin, Clare Gervase of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport, made her first ServeHAITI trip three years ago at the invitation of her aunt Kathleen. Her duties have varied each year: working with teachers, in the pharmacy and in the clinic.
“Once you go and meet the people of Haiti and the ServeHAITI organization, they draw you back. I can’t imagine not going again,” said Clare, whose first trip inspired her to go into nursing after graduating from Assumption High School. “We are making a difference.” She noted that the Haitians appreciate the collaboration with the volunteers. Quality of life has improved in the area, too.
Kathleen Argo first volunteered with ServeHAITI in 2010. After her dad passed away in November 2009, she and her siblings were talking about his generosity. “I decided it was time for me to give back to others.” She felt her dad would like for one of his children to volunteer for an organization like ServeHAITI. “It is awesome.”
The first year, Kathleen volunteered in teacher training. “We brought a lot of stuff and did a teacher in-service. We had no idea what to expect.” Dry erase boards and markers were fine tools, but the Haitians couldn’t just go to the store to buy new ones. Chalkboards and chalk could be made and were easily accessible there. Also, “We taught the teachers how to talk to the children, do sharing sessions and small groups. Just little things can make a difference.”
Kathleen said the people of Haiti have taught her about resiliency, simplicity and thankfulness. “Each time I go there and teach, I also learn something from them.”
For more information about ServeHAITI, go to www.servehaiti.org. Tickets for the fundraiser can be purchased at https://tinyurl.com/servehaititickets.