Haiti Mission: Grateful to Serve

haiti pt 4Many women eager for breast care arrived each day we were at the local hospital. We used two rooms for this project and in the end, we had provided more than 150 ultrasounds and about a dozen biopsies. With the help of our interpreters, we also provided breast health education to women and some health care workers.

Spreading the Message

Our trusted interpreters worked diligently with us every day. They helped load and unload our heavy bags, assisted as we set up and worked hard to make the workflow as smooth as possible. They quickly became educated and acclimated to our needs and learned much about breast health after hearing us repeat ourselves with different patients. Both were so dedicated and eager to help.

After a biopsy was completed, one interpreter became so well versed with our verbiage that he even reminded me when I left a minor detail out of my usual post-biopsy care instructions. I thanked him for speaking up. Our level of trust and respect for each other was certainly high.

Both often said how grateful they were that we were there helping the people of Haiti. In reality, we were the grateful ones to be able to acquire a glimpse of their lives, get to know them and learn from them.

Working Hand-in-Hand

I had specifically asked to work with one of the interpreters again this year. He and I worked with each other every day during our 2012 trip, and I was in awe of his gentle spirit. He is a true professional, not only in his actions and words but also with his appearance. He often spoke of his loving family, so it was nice to reconnect and learn how their last year had gone.

He is a Baptist minister who ministers at a parish each weekend that is a 2-3 hour motorcycle ride from his home. (We learned from experience that it can take two hours to drive about 20 miles. This should give you an idea of the poor mountainous road conditions.) He impressively learned English completely on his own!  He wondered if he could ever preach in English if we thought people would understand him. We assured him that they would.

We would take a break at lunchtime and our interpreters would watch over our supplies. If we did not provide them with some food, they would go without. We thought we worked hard, but they worked harder, so we were careful to make sure there were sandwiches available for them.  We tried to always bring a granola bar or bag of nuts to snack on if we needed quick nourishment. We would give our interpreters something like this each day with their sandwiches. One day when our interpreter received one of these snacks, he asked if it was OK to give it to the cleaning lady in the hallway, as she had no food. We then handed over whatever snacks we had with us at that moment.

One of the Haitian interpreters handed one of the physicians on our trip a heartfelt thank you note written in English, thanking him for helping his Haitian brothers and sisters and noting how much he enjoyed working with him. It was so touching.

Our trip was filled with small moments like this. The genuine and honest gratefulness only validated the importance of our trip and the ongoing need for this Avera mission.

By Jill Schultz

Director of Breast Health at Avera McKennan

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