Long after the media spotlight passed over the victims of the Jan. 12 earthquake, Mercer students and faculty continue to provide support to the ravaged nation. The Mercer community began by sending money and supplies, and now a number of Mercer teams have begun to travel the country to work on projects to heal the victims and survivors of the tragedy.
Among the great tragedies of this devastating event is the loss of limbs, as doctors have performed thousands of amputations to save the lives of victims. One of Mercer’s most widely known initiatives may offer those with leg amputations hope for a brighter future and help them to return to their lives as they rebuild their county. Because the cost of prosthetics is so high, many in developing nations must go without them. However, Mercer faculty and students have pioneered technology that provides low-cost leg prosthetics to amputees in developing nations and it will now bring the program to Haiti.
The prosthetic program launched in 2009 with a Mercer On Mission trip to Vietnam, and now will be expanded to Haiti this summer, said Dr. Craig McMahan, university minister and dean of the chapel. Dr. McMahan, who coordinates the Mercer On Mission program, will travel to Haiti on March 17 with a delegation from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and American Baptist Churches USA to assess clinic sites for a Mercer-led trip in April to fit 20 prosthetics.
In the spring, aided by $80,000 in grants from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, teams traveled to Haiti to assess and start programs to help provide low-cost prosthetics to the new amputees created by the quake, and trauma counseling training for teachers and pastors. The counseling team returned in July to implement its program, and will return again in the fall and winter, while the prosthetics team plans for a return over fall break. In addition, Mercer On Mission will send a team of students next summer.
This summer, four teams traveled to Haiti to help. In addition to the counseling team, three mission teams went to help minister to and heal children. A team led by students from the School Medicine set up and operated a mobile medical clinic at several orphanages in Haiti. The team traveled to the city of Les Cayes to set up the clinic.
The team included four Medical School faculty members (including three physicians), a Mercer Medical School parent who is a doctor, four nurses, 12 medical students and eight non-medical personnel, who coordinated a children’s ministry, worked with orphans, and assisted in non-clinical duties helping patients and care providers.
Second-year medical student Amy Mason led the trip and said medical students often organize a summer mission trip and last fall students picked Haiti for their mission. Their travel plans were confirmed on Jan. 12, the day of the quake. The team was in part organized through the Medical School’s Christian Medical Association. The team felt called to go, Mason said, and continued with the trip to help those suffering from the quake’s effects. Les Cayes is four hours west of the capital, Port-au-Prince, where the earthquake hit, but there are thousands of refugees that have fled the city to the outlying areas. The team worked with both children and adults from the community, focusing on primary care.
“I learned a lot about leadership and the importance of unity while we were there and I was worried about it, but it’s amazing how people when they’re in this setting will set themselves aside and work together for the betterment of the people of Haiti,” Mason said.
To see photos and blog updates from the trip, visit http://micahovermon.com/haiti/.
The counseling team was led by Dr. David Lane, counseling program coordinator and professor of counseling, and Dr. Kenyon Knapp, assistant dean for graduate programs and associate professor of counseling. The team also included three Mercerians of Haitian descent, two from Atlanta: Bloodine Bobb-Semple, a counseling Ph.D. student whose parents are Haitian, Rose Donatien, a Haitian native and 2010 human services graduate, and a student from Mercer’s Macon campus, Olivier Clermont, a Master of Public Health student and Haitian native who will serve as a translator.
“We were there to train people, but we were also able to help those we trained,” Dr. Lane said. “As we worked through our trauma demonstrations, the stories we heard just blew us away. It really seemed to help them and also appeared to show that our model worked.”
The CCPS traveled to Haiti from July 12 to 24 to teachers and pastors through a series of courses aimed at combating psychological trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder and preparing schools for future disasters.
In addition to the medical missions, Chris Fuller, head of Mercer’s Baptist Collegiate Ministries led a team of seven students to minister to children in Port-au-Prince, July 7-13. The Mercer students included Alissa McGee, Kacie Niemann, Lauren Spradley and Erin Patterson. Over the course of seven days, the group ministered to more than 700 children doing such activities as playing games, telling Bible stories, doing crafts and playing soccer.
In August, a group of Mercerians returned to Port-au-Prince to continue the ministry. Led by Mark Law, Mercer’s campus minister intern, the team performed similar work with the children in Port-au-Prince from August 4 to 10. Mercer students Brooke Schermerhorn and Kelly Ferrill also participated in the trip.