Now, a month after the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti, some things are beginning to look up. City News speaks to CityCare’s Team Two leader Lim Meng Chin.
|CN PHOTO: Michael Chan
The resilience of the Haitian people is a shining beacon amidst the staggering death and destruction of the earthquake that hit this impoverished Caribbean nation.
A mere 10 days after the devastating quake left over 200,000 dead and about a million homeless, the second CityCare humanitarian team arrived in the capital Port-Au-Prince to find citizens attempting to return to some form of normalcy.
“By the time we got there, people were already back in business, selling things in the markets,” said team leader, Lim Meng Chin, who has previously helped in three other natural disaster relief efforts, including tsunami-hit Banda Aceh in 2005 and earthquake-hit Sichuan in 2008.
“When you look at the Sichuan earthquake, after one month the people were still in a daze, not thinking. In Haiti, however, the people are very strong,” Lim, 34, added.
This same courageous spirit was exhibited by the Haitian translators that supported CityCare. Lim commended them for selflessly putting aside their personal loss of loved ones and homes to support the relief efforts. “They stayed positive and upbeat throughout,” he noted.
As the disaster-torn country bravely strives to pick up its pieces, many areas remain in need of medical aid. Over the seven days they were in Haiti, the 10-member CityCare Team Two initiated the set up of three mobile clinics in the badly hit coastal town of Gressier, located west of Port-Au-Prince.
With the clear objective of treating injuries and open wounds, the five doctors, three nurses, one medic and Lim rallied together, tirelessly tending to 80 to 120 victims daily. Some of the toughest moments they faced were when the doctors had to perform amputations and major operations.
|CN PHOTO: Michael Chan
Team member, Dr. Vincent Chen, a retired senior consultant who owns his own clinic, proved an inspiration to the rest because of his resourcefulness, optimism and modesty. Lim commented, “At the age of 59 and with the kind of accomplishments he has behind him, he is such a humble person,” said Lim.
A strong esprit de corps also permeated the global disaster relief teams in Haiti. CityCare’s teams found themselves interacting and quickly formed alliances with various aid organizations from different countries. Different workers had different kinds of expertise, and they grouped themselves with the common goal of helping as many Haitians as possible.
“It was like a little United Nations coming together—[everybody was sharing] medication, doctors, food, rescue,” Lim said enthusiastically. In particular, CityCare had the privilege of working with some paramedics and firefighters from the United States who were ready to enter the most difficult places to conduct rescue operations.
The sight of crushed limbs and maggots festering on infected wounds may not be easily forgotten; but what is definitely indelible is the gratitude of the people they have helped. For Lim, one high point was “when one of the patients told our doctors, ‘Because you are here, we know we have hope to face our future.’”
The team was also touched by the appreciation of the local translators. “They said to us, words alone cannot express what we have done for the people. Just being there is already a form of support that shows them that the world has not forgotten Haiti,” he said.
Even more memorable may be the smiles and laughter the team managed to bring to the children of Haiti. The fame of Jet Li and Jackie Chan had preceded the Singapore team, and in the minds of these young ones all Chinese are kung fu experts.
Team members gamely played along, performing “martial arts stunts” and “sparring” with the children to give temporary relief from the terrible conditions of the dilapidated orphanages that these children are currently housed in.
|PHOTO: MELVIN LYE
Seeing these boys and girls sleeping on hard boards instead of proper beds in less than hygienic quarters, their tiny bodies covered with flies, was especially heartbreaking for team members, especially those who were parents themselves.
The needs of the people of Haiti continue to be overwhelming. Urgently required are waterproof tents, clean water and flu vaccines to prevent widespread illness and disease during the ongoing rainy season.
To make a donation to the CityCare Haiti Relief Fund or volunteer for upcoming humanitarian trips, log on to www.citycare.org.sg.