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Monday, March 8, 2010

Crossing a divide (second in a series)

Read part 1 ...

We arrived in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic on Friday with no problems, except some lost luggage. We spent the evening getting accustomed to the warmer weather, the humidity, and the rapid pace of Dominican Spanish. Most of us headed to bed early because we knew that Saturday we were going to visit a monastery to help care for Haitian refugees.

This morning we met up with five Dominican medical students and three Dominican nursing students to travel to the Provisional Center for the Recuperation of Haitian Earthquake Victims. This center is a home that was donated by the former merengue singer, Rubby Perez, and run by the Capuchin Franciscan Monks.

Perez offered the use of the home when the Dominican government and local NGOs needed space to house severely injured refugees. We unloaded the medical supplies, donated by MedShare, the food, and medicines we bought with the money we raised and set out to help provide care.

Many of the refugees sustained severe injuries in the earthquake, from broken femurs to amputations. Many of the patients were operated on in Haiti and the Dominican Republic by international surgeons, but there is a huge need for ongoing care, including wound care, physical therapy, and mental health treatment.

Dealing with these health issues on top of the terrible tragedy of losing loved ones, homes, and jobs is almost unimaginable. The process of healing will be long and difficult, both mentally and physically. One of the take-home messages of the team was that while the great amount of aid pouring into Haiti directly after the earthquake is so useful and greatly needed, there will need to be a sustained effort to provide the services needed to facilitate this healing process.

While the outside perception of relations between Dominicans and Haitians is largely negative, we experienced a picture of Dominican health care students reaching across a divide to provide dedicated service to the Haitian refugees. Several of the students have been visiting the refugees every day to provide free care, and we were so fortunate to get to work alongside them.

While we were only able to be at the center for a day, it made a huge impact on each and every team member. The tragedy of the earthquake came to life as we dressed the wounds of the refugees, held their hands, and listened to their stories. The supplies we brought filled their supply closet and their kitchen and will help to sustain the efforts that have brought the Haitians this far in their recovery.

Pictures to come…

Hasta la proxima,

-- Hunter Keys 11N and Abby Weil 11N, students, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing

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