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NOH Director of Diagnostics is Drawn Back to Haiti Again and Again

May 8, 2013

Imagine a village, forgotten by its country. The locals must travel nearly 5 miles to get fresh water because the once fresh-water lake they built their village on is now starting to fill with salt. The fish are dying, so the main source of food is being depleted. Imagine a place where parents make “dirt patties”—dirt mixed with water—to help their children overcome the pains of hunger.

Walbom and Children

Bill Walbom with local Haitian children

This place, called Fisherman’s Village, is located on the border of Haiti and the Dominican, forgotten by both. However, one organization is trying to make a difference in the lives of these people. The people of Double Harvest, a 200-acre mission project that includes a school, a medical and surgical clinic, church, tilapia farm and greenhouse, make a trip to Fisherman’s Village whenever possible.“They try to take rice, beans and clothes, plus stickers for kids,” says William Walbom, director of diagnostic services for North Ohio Heart. “To see the kids’ reactions, they are so thankful for the things you do.”

Walbom Experiences Haiti

Three years ago, Walbom was asked to join a team from his church to help rebuild Haiti. His first task was to build a sidewalk for the school children. “The people there take great pride in getting an education and want to keep their uniforms clean.” The sidewalk covered the gravel and
mud and was completed during Walbom’s first trip.

“I saw the poverty and it drew me back,” Walbom says. “This was my third trip to Haiti, and we spent a week doing maintenance on the school, church and compound at Double Harvest.”

Bill Walbom Haiti Mission Trip

Walbom at Double Harvest Compound

The people there rely on teams to come down throughout the year and help maintain the property. “In the U.S., we are used to being able to drive to the store when we remodel a kitchen or bathroom,” Walbom says. “But in Haiti, it doesn’t work like that. There is nothing even close to the Double Harvest compound. You have to rely on things that have been shipped over the years.

“This year, I worked on a drinking fountain for the school,” Walbom says. “Water is a precious commodity. They do provide clean drinking water, but they need better ways to distribute,” he explains. “They use plastic plumbing, and when I needed a part because something broke or something didn’t fit, I needed to walk a quarter of a mile to the facility where this stuff was kept. And sometimes I didn’t have what I needed so I needed to make it work.”

The team developed a saying— “It’s on Haiti time”—because what takes a few hours in the U.S. may take a few days there.

Walbom has visited Haiti three times in the past three years, and each time his intentions were to help the people suffering from poverty and devastating tragedies. But along the way, he had some life-changing experiences, too. “My favorite part of the trip was seeing the newbies’ lives change,” he says. “You cannot go there and not have your life change. Our poorest people in the U.S. are still rich compared to those in Haiti. After seven days, it changes you. Getting to be around these kids who just want to be loved and always have a smile on their face changes the way you look at the world. Many have no clothes, shoes or even food, but they smile all the time.”

Making a Difference

Back in Fisherman’s Village, the Double Harvest team is doing everything it can to help the villagers become independent. “They have been trying to convert salt waters to make it into fresh water so the people will have clean water readily available,” Walbom says. “And they bring in topsoil to try to get plants to grow so the people can grow and harvest food locally.” The group was able to establish a small 8-foot by 10-foot space for a garden and the Double Harvest team brought plants from the greenhouse. “They were concerned that the water from the lake would kill the plants due to the salt content,” Walbom explains, “but with a lot of prayer, these plants have been growing, and the people are now able to expand the garden. Little by little they are starting to be able to help themselves. And that is so rewarding.”