Print this page
Friday, 22 January 2010

Volunteering with International Medical Corps in Haiti

Written by Rachael Repoff
Rate this item
(0 votes)

 

On January 12th, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck beneath Port-au-Prince Haiti; the initial quake was followed by twelve aftershocks each greater than 5.0 in magnitude. Nearly every structure in the vicinity collapsed into rubble. Recovery efforts began immediately to rescue the millions of people displaced and the thousands who were feared dead. Disaster relief organizations from all over the world descended on Haiti to provide aid.

Volunteering with International Medical Corps in Haiti, volunteer haiti, International Medical Corps, Jocelyn Jean Baptist, volunteer doctors and nurses, Port-au-Prince Haiti earthquake, Rachael RepoffOne particular woman, Jocelyn Jean Baptist, a neonatal nurse who is originally from Haiti but now resides in the US decided she was going to find a way to help. With twenty years of nursing experience, she knew she could be of some service. She volunteered through International Medical Corps, a global, non-profit organization established by volunteer doctors and nurses dedicated to saving lives and relieving suffering. Baptist was able to return to her homeland and provide emergency medical care to survivors.

inTravel: You are originally from Haiti, how long did you live there?

Jocelyn: I was born and raised in a rural area of Haiti called Saint Jean Dusud. I attended college and law school in Haiti as well.

inTravel: Why did you decide to move to the US?

Jocelyn: I moved to the US in 1980, basically because my mother told me to. (Laughs) She wanted me to further my education in the US, so I began attending a nursing school in Long Island, NY.

 

inTravel: When you heard there was an earthquake in Haiti, what was your initial reaction?

Jocelyn: First, I wanted to make sure everyone in my family was safe. Surprisingly, I was able to find out pretty quickly that my immediate family was okay, but it took about two weeks to confirm that everyone in my extended family had also survived. It was during that time I realized I had to go to Haiti. In my heart, I just knew deep down it was where I needed to be.

inTravel: How did you find out about the International Medical Corps?

Jocelyn: It was actually my brother that helped me get involved with them. He was talking to someone who worked there and mentioned how much I wanted to go to Haiti and that with my background in medicine I would surely be an asset to their rescue team stationed there.

Volunteering with International Medical Corps in Haiti, volunteer haiti, International Medical Corps, Jocelyn Jean Baptist, volunteer doctors and nurses, Port-au-Prince Haiti earthquake, Rachael RepoffMy application was processed and everything went through very quickly. They booked all my arrangements and before I knew it I was back in Haiti for the first time in thirteen years. The International Medical Corps provided all transportation, security, hotel, food as well as a small stipend. They truly are a great organization; I’m hopeful I’ll get the chance to work with them again soon.

inTravel: Can you describe the destruction you saw when you arrived?

Jocelyn: There were cars buried underneath rubble and debris all over the streets. Everywhere you looked there were people suffering. Almost all the houses and buildings were now just piles of rubble. The news footage shown in the US failed to capture the severity of the situation. I think to fully comprehend the scope of what had just happened, you needed to see it first-hand.

inTravel: If most of the buildings and houses were destroyed, where were people living?

Jocelyn: Mostly in tents, either real tents or make-shift tents. Mother Nature seems to be adding insult to injury because their rainy season is just around the corner.

There are still some buildings and houses standing, but people won’t go in them due to their questionable structural integrity. Also, any house still standing is covered in visible cracks and looking like it might fall down at any moment.

 


 

inTravel: Where in Haiti were you stationed?

Volunteering with International Medical Corps in Haiti, volunteer haiti, International Medical Corps, Jocelyn Jean Baptist, volunteer doctors and nurses, Port-au-Prince Haiti earthquake, Rachael RepoffJocelyn: During my two week stay, I worked mostly at the University Hospital in Port-au-Prince. I spent a little time at a nearby local clinic which was much less stressful than the hospital; most patients were there for follow-up care.

inTravel: What was it like working at the University Hospital?

Jocelyn: It was very hectic. From 7AM to 5PM we were busy non-stop. First, we’d admit the patients, then we’d prioritize them by health needs; patients with the most critical conditions were seen first. People came in with injuries ranging from amputations and broken bones to various infections.

Many people would also come to the hospital with “old injuries”. These weren’t injuries caused by the earthquake; they were older injuries that people had just been living with, often for years. We never judged anyone who came in; we were simply there to provide care to anyone in need who walked in the door.

I also think many of the people with “old injuries”, partly were coming in because they were scared and really wanted to connect with someone. They knew they’d have a consultation and that someone would listen to their story. It seemed to me that the need for human contact after such a traumatic event was almost as important to their well-being as the medicine we gave them.

Volunteering with International Medical Corps in Haiti, volunteer haiti, International Medical Corps, Jocelyn Jean Baptist, volunteer doctors and nurses, Port-au-Prince Haiti earthquake, Rachael Repoff

 

inTravel: I have no doubt that’s true. I’m curious if your neonatal nursing skills were utilized?

Jocelyn: Well, I spent a great deal of time educating pregnant women and new mothers about what nutrients they need during that time. I also spent a great deal of time reinforcing the importance of breastfeeding.

inTravel: Do you currently have plans to go back?

Jocelyn: I’d like to go back soon, but I do have my regular job in the US, so I’ll probably have to wait a few months.

inTravel: What do you think the recovery goals should be for Haiti in the short term and in the long term?

 

Jocelyn: In the short-term, providing proper shelter for all people and making sure that everyone, especially children, are getting proper nutrition from each food group.

Long-term, I think the focus needs to be on health care and rebuilding the education infrastructure. With most of the schools and universities now destroyed, it’s the perfect time for a fresh start.

I know the media will inevitably move to the next disaster, but I hope that everyone doesn’t forget about the devastation that occurred there. It’s going to take time to heal; this isn’t just something you can put a Band-Aid on.

My greatest wish for Haiti is that it gets through this difficult time, comes out of it stronger than before, and is able to stand tall.

*Our Collective Thanks Jocelyn Jean Baptist

For donations to or information on International Medical Corps: http://www.imcworldwide.org/

©Rachael Repoff

Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

Related items