Local resident brings much-needed aid to fifth-world country
The medical team travels to different villages diagnosing and providing first-aid care. There have been times, Epperson said, the team has used its funds to send someone with a severe condition to the hospital.
Epperson describes the people as beautiful and happy. She also said starving is a normal state of affairs to them. During her first trip, Epperson said seeing the extent of starvation surprised her the most.
“It’s horrible to see people that hungry,” she said.
She said children eat rocks, sticks and mudpies because it feels better to be full.
The most common condition the medical team treats is worms, the number one killer in Haiti. Epperson said the tapeworms, which can get up to 15 feet long, steal whatever nutrition people eat.
All it takes is one pill every six months to deworm people, Epperson said.
The team also gives out a lot of antibiotics and treats coughs and colds, malaria, typhoid and charcoal burns. The team organizes thousands of Ziploc bags with color-coded dots for each member of the family. As the medicine is put in the bag, an interpreter explains to the mother what each item is.
In addition, the team tries to provide luxury items, including powdered milk, vitamins and raisins.
The mission trips last approximately eight days. The team, which can vary from eight to 20 people, flies to Haiti from Florida with tubs of food, including meats and vegetables. The medical supplies are already in Haiti at the Love A Child compound near the Dominican Republic border.
Epperson said every plane is filled with people going to Haiti to make a small difference in a few hundred lives, saving a few from death, postponing death and demonstrating God’s love that might give some hope for today.
When the team arrives in Haiti, Epperson said they are immediately put in vehicles and transported out of the city in order to protect them from being robbed. She said they are never allowed to sightsee or go shopping in the city.
For the first couple of days, Epperson said the team is busy organizing medical supplies before traveling to one of the mountainous villages. The supplies and team members are transported via truck, which Epperson describes as a dump truck.
When the team arrives at the village, Epperson said they find the flattest place to construct the clinic using whatever is available — trees, rope or duct tape.
Once the clinic is up and running, Epperson said people are already waiting. Families of eight to 10 people will walk through river beds and steep mountains for as much as three days to visit the clinic and will stand in the hot sun with no water just to get some medical care.
The team always runs out of time and supplies and when the clinic closes down, Epperson said the team has to leave behind people who have been standing in line for two days and were not able to receive care.
“It’s heartbreaking to drive away and leave them standing there,” she said.
Epperson’s journey to Haiti began when she first started sending money for Love A Child’s beans and rice program, which provides food for the Haitians. She then put in an application to go to Haiti on a mission trip.
Epperson moved to Florida in 2003 and visited the Love A Child office in Naples, Fla. While visiting the office, she was able to meet the missionaries from Haiti and tour the warehouse.
Epperson said she felt Love A Child didn’t run an extravagant operation and is a good steward of its resources.
She said she has always been interested in helping other people and always had a desire to be a missionary.
When Haiti became available, Epperson said, “Ok, this is it.”
Twenty-five percent of the children in Haiti die before they turn 5-years old and women can have up to eight to 10 children.
On its compound, Love A Child compound has a 125 capacity orphanage. Some of the orphans are children whose mothers have died in childbirth and whose fathers gave them away. Epperson said all of the orphans in the Love A Child orphanage are not up for adoption because the missionaries have adopted them.
Many of the trees in Haiti have been deforested for charcoal. The lack of trees causes mudslides when it rains. Epperson said where there were once rice fields, there is now dried, cracked land.
When the team stays in the villages, Epperson said they must be flexible. If it starts raining, the team must quickly pack up the clinic and get off the mountain. She said the roads are like peanut butter and if the team doesn’t get out of the area soon, the vehicles could just slide off the mountain.
Eighty percent of the population of Haiti live in poverty and 50 percent of Haitians over the age of 15 years old are illiterate.
Some of the villages have no water for drinking, bathing, washing clothes or growing crops. There is open sewage and water pigs and goats walk everywhere dropping worms.
Epperson said the government is one of the most corrupt in the world and neighboring countries are reluctant to help. She said if items were sent to Haiti to help the people, the government would probably take it before it ever got into the hands of the people. She said the government would possibly sell the items on the black market.
In addition to the compound, the missionaries who founded Love A Child built a medical facility and 10 private schools, some of which are in the mountainous villages. The schools provide students with one meal a day — a big plate of rice and beans. Epperson said it is often the children’s only meal for the day.
Clean water is scarce in Haiti and Epperson said Love A Child has drilled four wells to provide clean water.
The missionaries have also started a fish farm, grown a big garden and have a carpentry shop. Food from the garden goes to the orphanages and schools, but is also used to teach the Haitians how to grow their own produce.
Not only does Love A Child provide resources, but also teaches them how to be self-sufficient and take care of themselves, Epperson said. She said the missionaries have given the Haitians millions of seeds to grow their own produce.
Love A Child the organization has been working in Haiti for 30 years.
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