An earthquake of Ricther scale 7.0 hit Haiti on 12th January 2010. Catastrophic damage was reported and death tolls stood at 150,000. Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, Leogane and Jacmel have seen severe damage and general infrastructure had collapsed in regions close to the earthquake’s epicenter.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere and the severity of this disaster left the country unable to help itself. In response, Crisis Relief Singapore, in collaboration with City Care sent out 6 teams of medical personnel and workers operating back to back in the aftermath.
The teams operated a mobile clinic located in a church compound, seeing sometimes up to 300 patients a day with no respite. Amongst others, they worked alongside other international organizations like United Nations, United States Navy, US Firefighters for Christ, German Red Cross and many others.
By Terence Lim Poo Huat
CRS Volunteer for Team 5 to Haiti
At twilight on January 12, 2010 an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 struck the Caribbean nation of Haiti with the epicentre 15 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince. It was the most violent earthquake in a century to strike the impoverished country. Lasting about 40 seconds the shocks came in waves bringing down many homes and buildings in its paths and the Haitian Government reported that between 217,000 and 230,000 people had been identified as dead, an estimated 300,000 injured, and an estimated 1,000,000 homeless.
The Presidential Palace, Government buildings and several UN and well as other national buildings have totally collapsed or have been severely damaged.
In response to the humanitarian crisis in Haiti Crisis Relief Singapore in partnership with City Care from Singapore was able to send about 6 teams of medical & relief volunteers to Haiti from 15 Jan to 8 Mar 2010. City Care was fortunate to be able to work with the Light Ministries, Inc headed by Pastor Terry Nelson in Haiti who not only provide the necessary lodging & meals for the humanitarian workers or volunteers but also local interpreters from his church congregation to assist in communication with the local population who mainly speak the local Creole language.
CRS volunteers Terence Lim, Dr Jennifer Yeo, Dr Derek Allen, Sharon Tan Meng Guek and Lim Kwee Lee were able to participate in the above humanitarian cause with City Care for Team 5 to Haiti from 17 to 27 Feb 2010.
While in Haiti we were able to set up a field medical clinic in the town of Carrefour to provide the much needed outpatient medical treatment to about 200 to 300 patients daily. We were surprised that patients came to queue & wait outside the clinic as early as 400am as our clinic which started around 800am will have to closed before 600pm when it gets rather dark for us to walk back to our lodging house at the pastor’s residence.
Our engineer volunteer, Terence Lim was able to help the team in demonstrating and explaining to the Haitians on the use of portable membrane water filtration equipment which the team brought from Singapore.
The team visited also some temporary “tent cities” which houses thousands of internally displaced Haitians whose homes have been destroyed in the quake and distributed to them portable dynamo lamps, tents, portable filters and children items.
The team visited also an orphanage which was destroyed by the quake where about only half of the children population survived. We conducted some children program and distributed to them children food, clothing and other items donated by the children from SJI in Singapore.
Aftershocks are common after a catastrophic earthquake and the team experienced two aftershocks of magnitude 4 to 5 occurring in the wee early hours of the morning that shook the house and woke us up!
We had debrief every night for team members to share on their experiences and feedback on the day’s work and to review or discuss on ways to improve our work processes for the next and subsequent days.
The trip and relief work carried out in Haiti has been a rewarding and memorable experience for the volunteers. It has brought smiles and hope to the Haitians to know that people from as far as Singapore which is on the other side of the globe do care for them.
Seeing their resilient and hope in the aftermath of this disaster, it is our prayer and hope that with the humanitarian aids and assistance from foreign NGOs and donors the Haitians will be able to work together in unity to rise above their present circumstances and emerge stronger to rebuild their country.
If the experiences of Haiti Team 6 could be summed up in one statement, it would be “God’s faithfulness amidst obstacles”. Getting to Haiti was fraught with difficulties as one part of the team faced the prospect of having to wait in New York for the next flight 5 days later due a flight that was cancelled due to a snow storm, while another member of the team (Derrick) had his flight mysteriously cancelled and had delayed baggages enroute!
Despite this, the first clinic opened on Sunday 28th March, although it had to be stopped after only 2 patients were seen due to an impending riot in the vicinity of the clinic. Subsequently, the clinic was run for the next 4 days with an average of 150-200 patients seen each day. At times, we had to send patients with critical medical needs to the nearby German Red Cross Hospital, and it was encouraging to see the different NGOs and aid organizations sharing resources and helping each out under challenging circumstances.
In contrast to the chaotic and uncertain circumstances in Port-Au-Prince, our accommodation at Pastor Gary’s house from Light Ministries was a haven of rest, good food, creature comforts like wireless internet access and hot running water, and warm fellowship with the local church, many of whom had lost their homes and were camped out in the courtyard of the house.
The scale of the destruction in Haiti was evident everyway we went, but it was not until we had the opportunity to drive up the hills of Port-Au-Prince on Tuesday, 2 March to view the full extent of the damage to the city. It looked like decks of cards that had fallen, with many lives lost or impoverished in the process. In the midst of physical destruction, it was also evident that the Holy Spirit was moving powerfully amidst the Haitian people as witnessed by the vibrancy of the praise and worship during the 2 services we attended at the local church and also the testimonies we heard of increased numbers of people coming to know the Lord and miracles occurring. On the final night of our stay, we had the privilege of praying and prophesying over our Haitian brothers and sisters for them to rise up to lead the church into victory over the spiritual darkness that was prevalent in that country.
The trip back was particularly eventful for some members of the team (Hui Shan, Derrick and Koon Jin) as they had very tight connections due to missed or delayed flights and had to spend an extra night at Narita. But thank God for the journey mercies that brought everyone back to Singapore safely. God is indeed faithful through all circumstances, and we look forward to returning to Haiti in the near future to carry on the work that has begun.