By FATHER JOHN C. KIERAN, Commentary | Published June 1, 2017
In the early 1980s I went to Haiti to see for myself.
I wanted to observe the living church in the poorest of all disadvantaged countries. I was stunned by what I saw—schoolchildren huddled in shelters made from banana leaves being instructed without books or writing materials and overflow groups sitting under shade trees for partial protection from the blazing sun.
I also observed the poverty of church buildings, void of the basic equipment and comforts we are accustomed to in the U.S.
Material poverty is everywhere in Haiti: 54 percent of the people live in extreme poverty; 78 percent live on $2 a day; unemployment is over 50 percent.
In recent times Haitians have suffered terribly: a 7.3 earthquake in 2010 left 1.5 million people homeless. Hurricane Matthew in 2016 demolished entire towns in southwest Haiti. Fortunately, Visitation Clinic, located in that underserved area, survived due to its strong construction.
The all-Haitian staff of Visitation Clinic perform heroic work in medically assisting the 300,000 people in that western area. No cholera patient treated during the 2011 epidemic was lost. When others could not save the life of an infant, John Michael, Dr. Jean-Francois at Visitation stepped in and revived the now 17-year-old healthy youth.
Since opening in 2008 approximately 250,000 people have been treated at Visitation. Many are too poor to pay even the very modest fees charged.
Why are our neighbors of an area only 300 miles off the coast of Florida so deprived? What can be done?
One person can do a lot. Nine years ago a retired nurse quietly began sending a monthly donation to support the medical work being done at Visitation Clinic. My heart went out, she said, to the children being inoculated and protected from the common childhood illnesses seen in Haiti, including worms, diarrhea and skin disease. The retiree’s passion and example inspired friends to form a donors’ group. Together they send a monthly check to Visitation Foundation.
I say, “Together we can!”
I am also convinced that I must do all I possibly can to promote and increase medical care being offered at Visitation, and so I have made support for the clinic my golden anniversary project.
In gratitude for many blessings received over the past 50 years, and my own comfortable circumstances, I want to share with those in most need.
All donations to Visitation Clinic are secure and monitored by our board of directors, based in Nashville, Tennessee. Board members make regular on-site observation trips. We invite others to “come and see.”
Come as an observer; or better, come and share your medical skills by doing short-term pro bono time with us. We have the accommodations and regularly have volunteer professional medics stay awhile.
“Together we can!”
The great disparity between our nation and Haiti prompts reflection on the piercing advice of St. Augustine: “The superfluities of the rich are the necessities of the poor. Those who retain what is superfluous possess the goods of the poor.”
To contact the Visitation Hospital Foundation, visit www.visitationhospital.org or call 615-673-3501. To contact Father Kieran, email firstname.lastname@example.org.