Finding Hope in the Heartbreak
By James Addis
February 10, 2010
Sponsored child Leonel Novas, 17, was thrilled to discover he could play a role in World Vision’s relief efforts following the Haiti quake.
Leonel lives in the Dominican Republic, near the border with Haiti, and is the child of a Haitian mother and Dominican father.
Immediately following the quake, thousands of injured took rides on crowded public transport to Jimani—a Dominican border town—to seek treatment in hospitals there.
The hospitals opened their doors to the wounded, but doctors, who arrived from all over the world in response to the emergency, could seldom speak the Creole language of their patients and families.
Leonel accepted an invitation to a join a team of three World Vision translators to meet the communications needs.
Leonel says when he arrived at the Good Samaritan hospital, about 300 patients had turned up to a hospital designed to accommodate 60. Those seeking treatment, often with horrific injuries, lay in the hallways and were later placed in large tents in the hospital grounds.
He says doctors and patients were trying to communicate by hand signals, which simply added to the chaos and confusion.
“I am able to make sure the doctors get the right message from the patients,” he says.
Leonel says he is also able to reassure family members of the wounded by relaying to them doctors’ assessments and treatment plans.
At the same time, he finds the work emotionally challenging.
“I remember a little girl who had to have both her feet amputated. She cried and cried throughout the night,” he says.
Leonel says he can identify with many of the suffering because he has also been a victim of a natural disaster. In 2004, his home was destroyed when flooding swept through Jimini, killing several members of his family and dozens of his fellow sponsored children. He found temporary shelter in the home of a local pastor, and World Vision provided his family with food and clothing in the immediate aftermath.“I feel deeply touched by their pain,” he says of the quake victims. “I feel I need to help, just as I was helped back in 2004.”
He believes God also prepared him for his role. Having lived all his life in the Spanish-speaking Dominican Republic, his Creole language skills had suffered. However, recently he had been practicing the language with a friend.
Leonel says in addition to helping him during the flooding disaster of 2004, World Vision has been instrumental in helping him progress at school, providing access to computers and school supplies. He is now in the 11th grade and hopes to go on to study languages and computer science.
In addition to providing translators to Jimani hospitals, World Vision is providing doctors, nurses, food, water and tents.
Navensky Charles might be surrounded by the stench of death, but he is alive.
Like all patients at L’Hospital General in downtown Port-au-Prince, the 18-month-old cannot be accommodated in a hospital building. The few buildings still standing are unsafe to use. Consequently, he lies in a hospital bed in a street outside. Regularly, trucks rumble past, carrying corpses. They come from the city morgue about a block away. Outside the morgue, hundreds of bodies are stacked three deep.
But Navensky is alive. When his house started to collapse, his father, Jerome, dashed upstairs to rescue him. They both made it outside just as their home caved in. Navensky suffered a broken shoulder, leg and arm during the hurried escape.
As darkness was falling, and the streets were in chaos, Jerome and his wife, Nadia, had to wait until morning before carrying Navensky to the hospital. The walk took nearly two hours. It was not until the early afternoon that hard-pressed medical staff could treat him.
World Vision is supporting the hospital by supplying essential medical supplies such as surgical gloves, syringes, antibiotics, and bandages.
Navensky moans softly and flinches if he thinks you are about to touch him. Otherwise, he does not complain. Nadia and Jerome will spend the night anxiously watching over him. They have no home to return to anyway.
Jerome is thankful for the humanitarian organizations who have come to help following the worst quake in Haiti’s history for 200 years.
“If it was not for the NGOs [non-governmental organizations], the Haitian people would be lost,” he says.
To learn more, visit World Vision ACT:S.