Friday, January 29, 2010

Dunnville's efforts in Haiti, Part 1

(Find this article online at the Dunnville Chronicle)


The earthquake that rocked Haiti January 12 is being felt a world away, in the hearts and minds of Dunnville residents rising to the challenge of providing relief to the bereaved, severely injured and displaced.
While a local paramedic arrives home from the ravaged region this week, a team of 20 from Calvary Pentecostal Church prepares to arrive in Haiti. Haiti Water for Life plans to deliver much-needed medical supplies, while local businesses do their part at home.
Deanna Oosterhoff is part of a GlobalMedic relief team from Ontario bringing aid and supplies to Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, as thousands of Haitians fled the area after the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that hit the region January 12. GlobalMedic also brought 30 water purification units to the area.
GlobalMedic co-ordinates volunteer disaster response teams made up of paramedics, firefighters and police officers. The 21-year-old, who works at Dunnville’s Marish Greenhouses, first met a recruiter for the organization while attending Niagara College. Eventually, she took training and grew excited to be part of a mission.
The GlobalMedic team were the first responders to arrive. Jane said last week Deanna was to arrive home over the weekend, and doctors from across the world would take over in Haiti where GlobalMedic left off.
“They go in very quickly and get there before all the other (agencies),” said Deanna’s mother Jane, a resident of Wainfleet who said she’s “proud” of the Niagara College graduate.
Oosterhoff returned to Canada about 2 a.m. Monday January 25. She said she was glad to have made a difference in the disaster area.
“People have to fend for themselves…there is no real justice system,” Deanna said, adding 300 criminals housed in a prison there had escaped and gone back to Cite Soleil. Looting is a common problem and Haitians are using vigilante justice to protect themselves, she said. Deanna spent time travelling throughout the ravaged area with a doctor, and worked in a hospital where hundreds of people were camped outside waiting for healthcare for the first several days.
 “There were people everywhere. We’d be walking along and people would be following us, saying, ‘Come see’ and ‘Did you forget about me?’ There was no rhyme or reason to who you go to (to give care). Hundreds of people needed amputations. There were enough doctors but not enough equipment and turnaround time was so long because the equipment we were using had to be sterilized. We were doing amputations with nothing but a scalpel and a razor blade, no anesthetic, no freezing, no nothing.”
Deanna got a disturbing introduction her first day as she walked out of her tent to see the dead bodies of two people who had been shot. More dead bodies littered the streets and rubble, and many survivors presented nasty injuries and resulting infections such as gangrene as a result of buildings collapsing. Though 200 people a day needed medical treatment, there were only resources available to treat 10, she said. Deanna told stories of pulling muscles back into place, standing at patient’s feet while the doctor stood at their head.
Asked how she kept calm she said she was told upon entering the Dominican that that “was the last day of normal. We were there to help…you can’t really feel their pain because then we would also be in pain. We had to be calm for them. As long as we’re positive, they can still be positive. If we get negative, they lose all hope. It’s your job, so you do it…you pull yourself together and off you go.”
Not that Deanna didn’t feel emotional seeing people in pain. “You pray for strength,” she said, admitting the situation was nothing short of “chaos.”
Chaos was a good word to describe the Canadian embassy in Port-au-Prince, where hundreds of Haitian Canadians attempting to come back to Canada were stuck outside and not being let in, some for as long as seven days.
Jane has learned an important lesson first-hand from her daughter’s experience. While Deanna will come home feeling she has made a difference, the relief efforts in Haiti and the long journey to come for the residents there is “all about getting people to help themselves.”

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