Contributed by Wayne Chan
Now a recognized symbol of hope in Haiti, CityCare’s orange-clad volunteers have been joined by foreign aid groups and doctors, helping them to triple the number of patients they see each day to 300, up from the 100 per day in their first week.
Arriving on Jan. 23, CityCare’s second medical team treated 1,659 patients during their five and a half days in Carrefour, a badly devastated Haitian residential district.
For Dr. Donny Bastian, 28, a general practitioner based in Surabaya, Indonesia, it was his maiden trip overseas. On Jan. 18, he applied for a passport for the first time, and five days later, found himself treating an increasing throng of patients at CityCare’s
makeshift clinic in Carrefour.
Although it was his first time abroad, Dr. Bastian found no problems adjusting to doing relief work in Haiti, as he had gone on humanitarian missions within Indonesia before.
“I think the only problem for me is the long plane trip, [it’s] not very comfortable,” he said. “Haiti itself is similar to Indonesia, so the food and weather were no problem for me.”
He joined seven Singaporeans and two Taiwanese volunteers as part of CityCare’s second disaster relief team.
Led by Lim Meng Chin, 34, the second team of 10 also comprised Singaporeans Dr. David Eu, 42, Dr. Jennifer Yeo, 50, Benjamin Tan, 27, Lin Xin Ru, 25, Yap Tat Ming, 36, and Melvin Lye, 29.
The two Taiwanese doctors were Dr. Victor Chen and Dr. Alfred Chien, who made a mad dash to book flights to join CityCare in Haiti when they heard that the team was looking for doctors.
In addition to the three international doctors already on CityCare’s second team, two local Haitian doctors also pitched in to help at the clinic.
On the third day after the second team’s arrival, a team of 14 US paramedics and emergency medical technicians sent by Firefighters for Christ, a non-profit organization, also linked up with CityCare and helped transport more serious cases to a US hospital ship loaded with medical expertise and supplies.
According to Dr. Eu, a general practitioner, Firefighters for Christ was just one of a few other international aid groups that CityCare networked with at a Haitian church organization called Light Ministries, led by Terry and Cary Nelson who have been serving in Haiti for 28 years. CityCare benefited from Light Ministries’ network, which made the distribution of medical supplies and aid more coordinated and effective.
“These groups helped us to get some of the medication from the UN (United Nations) because we are physically at the clinic all day,” said Dr. Eu. “As we are not able to make these trips, we gave them a wish list so they were able to collect medications.”
In addition to its first makeshift clinic in Carrefour, CityCare’s second team also split into two—one group stayed to work at the clinic, the other went out as a mobile clinic, going to other hard-hit areas in Haiti to reach the wounded who could not make it to a center for help.
Dr. Eu added that the situation was improving and that the Haitians were very friendly and appreciative. Dr. Bastian
added that contrary to media reports, the Haitians were definitely not hostile, but just needed care and compassion.
“Although they are faced with a situation so depressing, their spirits are still up. They still are fighters, they’re survivors,
they’re willing to pick up where they left off,” said Dr. Eu. “You can see the markets, the roadside trade starting; they’re selling goods and doing barter exchange, that sort of thing.”
Dr. Eu also observed rows of tents being put up in between the roads on the dividers, as people did their best to continue
their lives in the midst of the devastation. For nurse Lin Xin Ru, 24, the thing that moved her most was the strength of the human spirit in the 78 young survivors of a collapsed orphanage that had killed 56 children. For these children, the pain from the wounds they suffered were no less excruciating than those suffered by the adults.
|CN PHOTOS: David Eu, Michael Chan, Lim Meng Chin|
“When I saw those little children— they’re about two to six years old—I felt really very sad for them, [it was] very heart-wrenching,” she said. “They are really strong, even at that young age, and hardly cried when we treated their wounds.” Lin also recounted some of the lighter moments in their trip. During one aftershock, one member of the team comically rolled down the stairs while rushing to evacuate the house.
She also mentioned that as a young Asian lady, she was accorded some special “privileges” by the locals.
“I did get special treatment because I think they (Haitian security forces outside the clinic) seldom see Asians around that region,” she said with a smile. “So when I’m there, they’re relatively more protective, so when it’s my turn to step out to control the crowd, they’re more helpful.”
In addition to sending medical teams, CityCare has brought tents, canvas sheets, solar-powered dynamo lamps and 56 water filters donated by Singapore company Hyflux into Haiti to support the rescue efforts. It is also looking for a venue in Haiti to build an orphanage to house young earthquake victims.
CityCare has, at press time, sent four medical teams to Carrefour, and treated 5,478 patients (as of Feb. 10). Its fifth medical team will leave for Haiti on Feb. 17. The organization plans to continue sending teams till early March.
To volunteer for upcoming trips to Haiti, email email@example.com with your name and contact details. Kindly indicate if you have medical or nursing training.