Monday, January 17, 2011

Charlotte connections continue to grow in Haiti.

Karen Goins-Byrnes, 44, a Nascar sports marketing consultant, approached the Charlotte medical team at the Port-au-Prince airport.

Byrnes returned last week from their trip educating residents on cholera. She traveled with members of her church, Gold Hill Road Church of Christ in Fort Mill.

I asked Byrnes to reflect on her trip. This is what she wrote.

“My first trip to Haiti was just a few months after the earthquake. I anticipated seeing people that were distraught and hopeless and it would be my job to lift their spirits. Boy was I wrong. In spite of unbelievable devastation and human suffering, I was introduced to a country of people that were strong, persevering, full of hope and even joy. How could this be? Instead of me lifting their spirits, they lifted mine.”

This week I had the good fortune to return to Port-Au-Prince and Cap Haitian, Haiti on the one-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake. Now the people of Haiti are dealing with a second disaster, the Cholera epidemic.

We are distributing 4,000 dropper bottles containing two ounces of bleach. Eight drops of the bleach will treat one gallon of water and make it suitable for drinking. Each two-ounce dropper bottle will treat and provide approximately 250 gallons of drinking water to Haitian families. We have already distributed enough to treat 1,000,000 gallons of water. The trip has been such a success; we have pledged 16,000 more dropper bottles, which will treat 4,000,000 gallons of water.

Our church has been doing work in Haiti for over 10 years. Our team leader, Tim Mastenbrook, has made 48 trips in just 25 years. Our church works with about 150 churches in north Haiti and even more in south Haiti. This network of churches guarantees that the efforts actually reach the people.

The ultimate solution to the Cholera epidemic is wells and latrines in these communities to provide clean drinking water and safe disposal of sewage. We are trying to raise the $6,000 needed for a well and the $2,000 needed for a latrine to place in 10 Haitian communities with the greatest need. Each location would provide clean drinking water and safe disposal of sewage for 1,000-2,000 people, half of those being children.

I know there are many people in the U.S. that do not sympathize with Haiti, but there is no way you can understand the situation without seeing it first hand. They do not have the resources that we have in the U.S. There are no landfills and no trash service, so there is trash everywhere. There are no water treatment plants or sewage systems, so they suffer from Cholera. There are no public schools so many children grow up illiterate. The Haitian people are very hard working, but there is no commerce, so there are no jobs. We live in a country where there are programs, resources and elements to ensure success. None of that exists in Haiti.

I hope I have the good fortune to visit Haiti every year. Seeing the country reminds me of all my blessings. Being with the people reminds me that happiness is a state of mind, not a set of circumstances. Anyone who visits Haiti to help the people will discover that they help themselves and are forever changed."

Photo: Goins-Byrnes spending time with children at a Port-Au-Prince orphanage.

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