When the 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, there was a lot of media coverage. People across the world donated time, food, water and money to help the nearly 3.5 million people affected by the quake. But this help was quickly placed elsewhere as other tragedies happened around the world.
Walbom receives hug from
“Things are not back to normal,” says William Walbom, director of diagnostic studies at North Ohio Heart. “Haiti has an 80 percent unemployment rate and they still need help. They need people who are willing to sacrifice their time to teach them trades or teach kids English.”He says the situation is so dire, some children, when they reach school age, do not even know how to sit in a chair and need to be taught.
One Man’s Mission Begins
Three years ago, Walbom was asked to visit Haiti with a group from his church and help out at Double Harvest, a compound located about 2 hours outside Port au Prince. The compound consists of 200 acres of property, a greenhouse, fish farm, church, school and medical clinic. The people there strive to help the locals become independent and make an income for themselves.
During his first year, Walbom helped to build a sidewalk for the school children at Double Harvest. “The people take great pride in getting an education and want to keep their uniforms clean,” he says. The sidewalk covered the gravel and mud surrounding the school. This year, Walbom focused his efforts on maintenance projects for the school, church and compound.
While Walbom hasn’t spent much time in the medical clinic, he does help to keep the clinic up and running. “My first year I took tools for the medical clinic there,” Walbom says. “The clinic saw more than 4,000 people because the compound was one of the only facilities to withstand the earthquake.” The clinic has since received some donated equipment and supplies, but not all of it was in working condition. “I made contact with some people in Cleveland who were willing to send some supplies,” he says, “and we have restocked the clinic over the years.”
He also helped to “stock” the clinic with medical personnel. “My daughter [who traveled with Walbom] is a nursing student and spent a lot of time in the clinic this year,” he explains. The clinic, staffed with two physicians and a few other medical employees, is always in need of qualified medical personnel. “They take in surgery teams and house them above the clinic throughout the year,” Walbom says. “Teams spend a week doing dentistry, optometry and other surgeries. Everything is based on donations.”
Walbom with his daughter
How You Can Help
“Haiti is an extreme situation for most people,” Walbom says. If you are thinking about getting involved in missions, he suggests joining local disaster relief efforts, like the Red Cross, first. “It will wet your feet of being away from the conveniences of home and family,” Walbom explains. “If you find that you are OK with this, and you find the desire to go further, then take the next step.” Haiti is a 2-hour plane ride from Miami, so you don’t feel “stuck half-way around the world,” he says.
But many people have a major misconception about Haiti, often asking “What do you mean there is still poverty?” “You can’t just throw money at a problem like that,” Walbom says. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and the people need education, medical care, food and water. “When you are there, you can’t help but want to give the clothes off your back, but that is a short-term solution,” he says. “The long-term need is education. We need to help people help themselves.”