Setting the Groundwork

When the earthquake in Haiti happened, my wife and I were at a musical, and I got an iPhone update saying "massive earthquake in Haiti." I went home and started researching and found out just how really terrible the earthquake was. I called up a friend who led a mission trip to Katrina and one following the San Diego wildfires.

When the earthquake in Haiti happened, my wife and I were at a musical, and I got an iPhone update saying “massive earthquake in Haiti.” I went home and started researching and found out just how really terrible the earthquake was. I called up a friend who led a mission trip to Katrina and one following the San Diego wildfires. We both thought that this would be something that we could really help with; she’s a neonatal intensive care youth nurse for Kaiser, and I’m an urgent care doc at Palo Alto Medical Foundation; we thought we could do a lot of good outside of the established folks.

We both then applied to the large organizations that were taking physicians over, but they were only interested in brining over doctors for at least 2 weeks and preferably for a month or more, which is really more time than my contacts were able to volunteer since we would be taking vacation time for this.

We knew we could do good, looking at how bad the disaster was, so we started to consider whether or not this was the right place and were praying about it. We increasingly saw that there was a great need and started to contact other folks who had gone on these mission trips to third-world countries; Menlo Park Presbyterian Church organizes many of these trips, and other members of those past trips had good experiences in similarly devastated areas like after the tsunami hit southern India. And like with those disasters, they had a similar desire to help with the Haiti earthquake. So, we started finding people who may be free for a week to go.

Since then, I’ve been trying to nail down all the logistics of getting there, and there are tons of stories of how hard it is to get there and bring in supplies. What’s helped is having someone there; since January 26, Randy Roberson of telehelp.org has been in Haiti, and he’s been meeting with our receiving NGO, which is the Four Square Gospel Church of Haiti. It’s important that in a disaster situation in any third-world country that you’re welcomed to do work that they perceive as valuable, and they are very eager to have us set up a clinic, since most of the care is being provided in the hospitals and there is a lot that you can do closer to the camps that are set up.

The other really critical person has been Jesse Mendoza of Jordan International Aid, who has been in Haiti since day 5 after the earthquake and has been instrumental in getting us over there. He has people in Santo Domingo who have been sending in food and water, and they have been trying to secure a flight on a military charter out of Miami, get us lodging in Jimani in the Dominican Republic (about an hour drive east of Port-au-Prince), get us security, and get us translators.

So, that gives you an overview of the time from when I decided I wanted to go to Haiti and help in the relief efforts to when the decision was made on who I’d be working with. In my next post (look for it on Thursday or Friday), I’ll explain some of the obstacles I’ve had to overcome in getting involved and determining how and when I’d be able to get to Haiti.