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Life Lessons in Haiti

Colleen Butterley and her son Kevin spent two weeks volunteering at St. Croix Hospital in Haiti working with Dr. Gladys Memnon

September 27, 2012

By Simon Chambers

When Colleen Butterley began to plan, in September 2011, a trip to Haiti, she saw it as a window of opportunity.  Her son, Kevin, was 16, and had only one more summer at home while he was in high school.  She knew that she wanted him to experience more of life than he would see while sitting on the couch playing video games.  So she began to save for the trip of a lifetime.  She would take him to Haiti to experience a different lifestyle while the two of them shared of their time and talents in that country.

Butterley contacted PWRDF with her idea, and PWRDF put her in touch with the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti   They linked Butterley (a registered nurse) with Dr. Gladys Memnom (known to everyone simply as Dr. Gladys) at l’Hôpital St. Croix in Léogâne, Haiti.  Colleen and Kevin spent two weeks last summer working at the hospital

St. Croix Hospital existed as a small clinic before the January 2010 earthquake.  There was no money available for in-patient services.  All that changed after the quake, and the hospital now has thirty beds, a guest house, and has just had a new wing inaugurated by the President of Haiti.  Each day of their stay, Kevin helped to prepare the hospital for the President’s visit: washing windows, painting, beautifying the spaces.  Colleen spent her mornings working in the clinic- helping a local nurse with taking vital signs for the 100 or so patients who came to the hospital each day.  Colleen then helped spruce up the hospital with Kevin in the afternoons, finishing her day by journaling or having time with Dr. Gladys.

“Language was a problem,” Colleen said, “I hadn’t studied French in a long time, and my French didn’t help much when the speaker spoke back in Creole.”  So Colleen took basic information from the patients and her partner took the more detailed histories to present to the doctor.

The two weeks at St. Croix hospital was an important, positive experience for both Colleen and Kevin.  Since coming home, Colleen reports that Kevin is more willing to help out around the house.  “A seed has been planted in him,” she said.

Other young people who want to learn more about PWRDF’s work””about global justice, food issues, etc””are encouraged to contact Sheilagh McGlynn, PWRDF’s justgeneration.ca Facilitator, to learn more about opportunities to get involved in our established programs including 50 Leaders, the Canadian Foodgrains Bank Youth Food Study Tours, and more.

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