Haiti Volunteers Return Exhausted but Hopeful

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AFT healthcare professionals from around the country who went to Haiti to provide much-needed medical relief to victims of the Jan. 12 earthquake have returned home—tired, but inspired by the resilient Haitian people.

"En solidarité," or "in solidarity" in English, is a common expression often seen spray-painted on the walls in Haiti, says Brian Cunningham. "That phrase cannot describe any better the spirit of the Haitian people," he says. Cunningham was one of a team of nurses, paramedics and EMTs who are members of the AFT-affiliated Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals that traveled to Haiti.

The Vermont teams worked out of a medical compound in Jimani, Dominican Republic, called the Good Samaritan Hospital or Buen Samaritano. The compound on the Haiti-Dominican Republic border was built 12 years ago and is a small healthcare facility run by American volunteers.

Registered nurse Mari Cordes was part of the first Vermont team to travel to Jimani. "The systems and supplies sprang up almost immediately, and were ever-evolving as more patients and volunteers arrived," she says. In the three weeks that she was in Jimani, Cordes saw the progression of healing.

"It was a joy to watch [the Haitians] begin to heal or be mobile for the first time in a long while," she says. For most of the earthquake victims, "the future is a colossal unknown. And still, they gave us such grand affection and love, and grew to trust us," adds Cordes. "This alone was a magnificent gift and honor, one that I will treasure for the rest of my life." [Adrienne Coles, Dan Gursky]

February 25, 2010

Read other dispatches:

Jan. 25 | Jan. 26 | Feb. 1 | Feb. 25