Locals happy to lend a helping hand on Haiti trip
NATCHEZ — Dr. Chuck Borum didn’t have long to get comfortable in his newest temporary office before the patients started lining up.
Borum, a Natchez physician, recently offered his medical services in Haiti as part of a mission trip.
“When we got to the area we were staying, we had just a few minutes before we were told to load up and head to the clinic because there were patients waiting,” Borum said. “In the first two-and-a-half hours we were there, we saw at least 35 people.”
Borum and Natchez resident George Bates both took part in the week-long mission trip in late May organized through Haiti Outreach Ministries.
The Christian not-for-profit organization has four compounds that provide schooling, medical care, nutrition and religious services and facilities for the local communities.
“We believe as Christians, Christ calls us to serve people wherever there is a need, and the need is pretty compelling in Haiti,” Bates said.
Borum and Bates were headquartered at the Blanchard community and worked out of a clinic in Cite Soliel community.
Bates has organized and participated in many foreign mission trips, but for Borum this trip was a first-of-its-kind experience.
“My first reaction was just jaw dropping,” he said. “I was definitely experiencing some culture shock, but it didn’t take long to get rolling and understand what our mission was there.”
The mission for Borum was to provide medical assistance for people who, without Haiti Outreach Ministries, would not have access to health care. In Haiti, access to clinics and hospitals is very limited in many areas because residents don’t have the transportation or money necessary to get medical attention. But, from Borum’s experiences, that is exactly the population that needs the care.
In many cases, it was poor living conditions and lack of readily available nutritious foods that were causing the ailments he was treating.
“We saw just a disproportionate number of stomach ailments,” he said. “Many of the Haitian people don’t know where their next meal is coming from, and they aren’t able to get the food they need most of the time.”
Borum said he treated many cases of skin conditions that he sees very rarely, if ever, in his local practice. Borum was assisted by another volunteer physician during the trip. The team saw at least 450 patients in the five days the clinic was open.
“They began lining up before 7 every morning and it didn’t stop until late in the afternoon,” he said.
In some cases, the doctors and nurses in the clinic were not able to treat the ailments, but Borum said they provided an equally important service — transportation to the local hospital.
“Walking to one of the hospitals was just out of the question for these people,” he said. “It was just too far, but we were able to arrange to have them, patient and family in most cases, taken to the hospital.”
Bates assisted in the medical clinic’s pharmacy by building shelves to organize supplies and medicines. He also worked with construction teams to rebuild houses that collapsed during the devastating earthquake that rocked Haiti in January.
“We found out that one of the reasons so many people were killed, was that almost all of the houses had flat concrete roofs and when the walls collapsed, the roof fell in on top of people,” he said. “The houses we are building back have wooden rafters and metal roofs so if something like that earthquake happens again it won’t be so devastating.”
While he was not treating injuries from the earthquake, the evidence of the massive quake was still evident.
“In the cities and just outside of them, there were these large piles of rubble,” Borum said. “They used whatever resources they had just to pile the debris up and now are having to try to go on with normal life.”
While the living conditions for most Haitians are heart wrenching, Borum said the locals he met were happy people.
“They were incredibly appreciative and genuine,” he said. “The children especially were all smiles and very interested in learning about us.”
Bates said all of the areas Haiti Outreach Ministries serves are heavily secured.
Bates is continuing to organize teams of volunteers to work with Haiti Outreach Ministries. He said most weeks there are teams of medical professionals and construction crews working at the sites. Bates said individuals and teams are needed.
Anyone interested in joining one of the mission trips should contact Bates at 601-442-8956.