Posted in Uncategorized, tagged Bernard Mevs, Doctors Without Borders, Haiti, Haiti volunteers, healthcare in Haiti, Hospital Bernard Mevs Project Medishare, International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, medical volunteers, Port-au-Prince, Project Medishare, The Medical Research Council, volunteer in Haiti, volunteering in Haiti, volunteering with Project Medishare, volunteers with Project Medishare, World Health Organization on July 7, 2011 |
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Rachel Belt is the Volunteer and Logistics Coordinator at Hospital Bernard Mevs Project Medishare in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She has an extensive history of helping others. Before joining Project Medishare, Rachel worked for Doctors Without Borders in New York, World Health Organization in Geneva, The Medical Research Council in Uganda and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative in New York. Rachel was born in Connecticut but lived in England and on an island off of Washington State. She is a graduate of Columbia University and had been looking to move her job abroad when one of her friends sent her the job description for the Volunteer and Logistics Coordinator. She flew down a few days later for an interview and moved to Haiti only three weeks after seeing the job posting.
After joining the Project Medishare staff in March, Rachel has relocated her home to Delmas 41, the staff house, which is a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment. She shares the apartment with Brittany, Chief Nursing Officer of Pediatrics. Rachel usually wakes up around 6:00am to coordinate transportation at the hospital in via telephone. Most days the staff of Hospital Bernard Mevs travels together to work, which is about a 20 minute drive, and arrive at the hospital around 8am. Upon her arrival, Rachel makes sure the food has been distributed, answers questions and checks emails. Most of her work is coordinating the arrival of people with the Project Medishare staff in Miami, dealing with the needs of the volunteers currently on the ground, organizing transportation and showing visitors around the hospital. She spends a lot of her day answering questions as there are roughly 30 new people at the hospital every week. The weekends are particularly busy with the arrival and departure of the volunteer teams on Saturdays.
Rachel oversees approximately 35 to 50 volunteers each week at the hospital. The Project Medishare volunteers range anywhere in age from 18 to 65 years old and they come from everywhere. Many of the volunteers come from New York and Florida but Rachel said that they are now seeing more volunteers from Canada and the West Coast. Aside from her regular job responsibilities, she likes to play with the children around the hospital and feed babies in the Pediatrics ward. Each day she leaves the hospital between 7pm and 8pm. After work, Rachel goes home and cooks dinner. She then either studies, listens to the radio, reads or visits with other members of staff in the house. She normally goes to bed between 10pm and 11pm.
In Her Own Words
“I really like the mission and the staff. I just extended my time here to return to school full time in 2012 rather than in September since I felt I was learning so much from the managers I work with here at Project Medishare in Haiti. There is so much work to be done and encouraging people to engage in work to help others is a powerful way to change the way the world works. Making a good experience for the volunteers is a way to help widen the network of people willing to help others. The experience leaves a lasting impression on you and one that makes people’s families and friends more aware of the needs here and in other places. The people that come to volunteer are inspired by our Haitian staff and by their fellow volunteers and go on to engage coworkers, family and friends in their own efforts. I love the enthusiasm and perspective that people bring every week.”
When asked what the most pressing needs are in her department Rachel said to donate “time! Come join us for a week or two. We need medical and some non-medical staff.” If you are interested in volunteering with Project Medishare, please click here!
Rachel Belt, Volunteer & Logistics Coordinator with a patient at Hospital Bernard Mevs Project Medishare
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Nurse anesthetist Tonya Via helps a patient get transferred to be airvacced to the United States. Via volunteered in the first few weeks after the January 12 earthquake. Photo courtesy of Tonya Via.
By Tonya Via
After the 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti on January 12, I sat silently and watched the news as my heart turned violently in my chest. I saw many images of the massive destruction, devastation, and despair. The most vivid one that stood out in my mind and forever changed my life was a man lying on a coffee table found among the rubble having his leg amputated as he lye there awake under a tarp in the city. It was then I realized there was something I should do, I could do, and wanted to do to prevent another human being, who survived one of the worst natural disasters we have ever known, from having to experience the same inexcusable horrific pain. I am a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. My responsibility is to alleviate pain and keep my patients safe and comfortable during surgical procedures. The Haitians desperately needed anesthesia care, and I knew I needed to respond.
I knew it would be a logistic challenge getting to Haiti so I began working quickly to align myself with an organization I could volunteer with that shared my same passion, helping the people of Haiti in dire need. The University of Miami Children’s Hospital and Project Medishare graciously afforded me that opportunity. The endless, tiring and unselfish work of Ann McNeil from the neurosurgical department at University of Miami Children’s Hospital, was nothing short of amazing. Through her efforts, she made it possible for me, a complete stranger to her, to become part of the medical volunteer team at Project Medishare and University of Miami’s field hospital.
As the sun was setting in Port-Au-Prince, the jet landed. My heart raced I had so many of those images I had seen on the television and Internet invading my mind. Would I too see the same things? Would I get to take care of the Haitians and provide the anesthesia care I came to do? I took a deep breath and began to prepare myself for the real thing. I had waited nearly two long weeks with a broken heart. I was finally there to do what I came to do, help the victims I had seen suffering. To provide the one thing that the man lying on that coffee table needed the most, proper anesthesia care. We climbed down the stairs of our luxury jet and life, as we knew it ended. It was a sight I couldn’t believe. Waiting our arrival was a team of mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted volunteers standing on the tarmac waiting to return home. Their sense of urgency in returning home quickly changed into an unbelievable organized group of helpful cooperative exhausted individuals. They quickly began helping off-load all the supplies we had brought down from the underside of the jet. It was truly a sight to behold. As if they had any ounce of energy left, here they were passing box after box of food, supplies, drugs and equipment down a line of volunteers next to the dangerously hot engines of the jet. Within 30 minutes the massive amounts of medical supplies and food were unloaded onto the tarmac. Our fellow volunteers boarded their plane to return home, their lives forever changed. Mine was about to be too.
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