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Haiti: Missions seek ways to reach victims

By Sarah L. Smith
Coastal Observer

Dr. David Grabeman bought seven tickets to Haiti last week.

It was just before 5 p.m. on Tuesday, the same time a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck 10 miles west of Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital.

Grabeman, a local dentist, and six other doctors from All Saints’ Church, will probably have to cancel their annual medical mission trip to Haiti next month unless commercial flights resume.

They are now looking for other ways to help, and trying to learn if their friends in the country survived.

Dr. Edward Verville, owner of Pawleys Veterinary Hospital, and a member of the All Saints’ mission team, said he is still waiting to hear if one of his vet friends survived.

Clint Goddard, founder of Coastal Haitian Ministries in Pawleys Island, said he learned one of his former interpreters died. Others are on the streets, but they are alive, he said.

The disaster hit close to home and the images they see on television have a surreal quality, Grabeman said.

“You look down a street and say, ‘gosh, I remember that,’ ” he said.

Pictures of the fallen Hotel Montana are particularly poignant. His group would always stay at the hotel on their last night in the country, and after a few trips, they got to know the employees.

“It’s been real sad to think they didn’t make it,” he said.

But there could be good that comes out of the disaster, Grabeman and Goddard said.

“The saying is that Haiti is the country the world forgot,” Grabeman said. “It’s now being brought to people’s attentions as to what’s really going on down there.”

In the past eight or nine years both Goddard and Grabeman saw improvements in the country’s infrastructure, including more paved roads and cell phone towers.

If the relief money and international support is used properly, the missionaries believe Haiti could rebuild its fallen communities and strengthen the country’s infrastructure.

“I think things are really going to change now. I really do. I think if they get the proper help, they’ll do their part and hopefully restore the country to some sense of normalcy,” Goddard said. “It’s going to take a long time for this country to recover.”

The Haitian countryside has been ravaged by years of deforestation, the country’s infrastructure is weak or nonexistent and it is still recovering from three hurricanes that hit in 2008.

If the country can overcome those obstacles, along with the one they face at present, the three missionaries believe Haiti can become a prosperous nation.

“You can’t shut these people down,” Verville said.

Dr. Katy Close, a volunteer at Smith Medical Clinic, is due to leave Friday to find out how the earthquake affected Hospital Albert Schweitzer. Close divides her time between the two medical facilities.

Located in the mountainous Artibonite Valley of northern Haiti, the surgical hospital is one room and can hold 80 patients.

It takes three hours to get there by road, but that hasn’t stopped the injured from Port-au-Prince from traveling for medical attention.

According to the hospital’s online updates, it has about 800 people seeking medical attention and more are on their way.

Doctors have been operating since the earthquake.

Money from local nonprofits, countries around the world and international relief organizations will help pay for relief efforts and the country’s restoration.

In Pawleys Island, Goddard said money is beginning to trickle into his nonprofit.

Christ Church in Murrells Inlet raised about $1,000 Sunday, for Coastal Haiti Missions, and the church’s senior pastor, the Rev. David Bryan, said he’ll continue to ask his congregation for Haiti donations over the next few weeks.

The money will go to missions Goddard supports: New Missions, Mission E4, Luke’s Mission and Homebound Mission. The missions are not local, but Goddard knows the people who run them and trusts that the money he sends gets to the people who need it the most.

Money can be sent to Coastal Haiti Missions, 268 Reef Run Rd., Pawleys Island, SC 29585.

Donations to local United Way branches will not support Haiti relief, but donations to the local Red Cross will.

Donors can text “Haiti” to 90999 and their phone companies will add $10 to their bill that will go to Haiti, or they can call 1-800-REDCROSS.

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