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Home > Balance > Avera Extends its Mission Overseas to the Developing Country of Haiti
Published on December 14, 2021
A mission known as Friends For Health in Haiti has a friend in Avera.
Since 2002 Avera has been raising funds and sending volunteer medical missionaries to the Grand’Anse region of Haiti, on the southwestern tip of this poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
Avera supports the work of a clinic and a Breast Health Initiative that assists local physicians in providing education, clinics, ultrasounds and biopsies for women in the region.
“Our partnership with Avera has been a wonderful partnership. Avera is able to supply us with equipment and supplies we would not be able to acquire otherwise,” said Katie Wolf, MD, Founder, Executive Director and Clinic Director of Friends for Health in Haiti.
Dr. Katie Wolf examines patient
The clinic draws people from the mountains outside of Jérémie, the Grand’Anse capital city. “It’s a very underserved area because it is so far from the capital city of Port of Prince,” Wolf said. There are 40,000 patients in the clinic’s database. While only 118 miles from the city, it’s a seven-hour trip on a mountainous road.
Common conditions treated include high blood pressure, diabetes, skin diseases and infections, and malaria. There are also injuries from machetes and motorcycle accidents. Avera has helped bring improved awareness and screening for cervical and breast cancer to the region.
The clinic started in a one room shack in 2007. By 2011, the mission had raised enough funds to construct a permanent clinic building, pharmacy and residential quarters for visitors or volunteers.
The director of the Avera mission teams, Kathy English, RN, has been to Haiti dozens of times and handles all the participant logistics. “Without exception, when volunteers comment on their experience, they mention their pride in working for a health care system that is also committed to improving health care in developing countries,” English said.
Haiti has a history of troubles ranging from hurricanes and earthquakes to political unrest. Avera teams have not been able to return to Haiti since early 2020, due to the worldwide pandemic as well as political unrest including assassination of the country’s president and gang-related violence, kidnappings and blockades.
“We continue to gather, sort and send medical supplies and equipment,” English said. Haitian physicians have been able to send some breast biopsies for diagnosis. English feels positive that Avera teams will be able to return to Haiti when the situation is more secure.
Dr. Wolf and her team are still able to operate the clinic. “It’s in a very isolated, mountainous area. That’s a challenge but at the same time, it’s a blessing because they are isolated from the trouble that’s centered in Haiti’s capital of Port au Prince,” English said.
“When you live in Haiti, you always have to expect the unexpected. Sometimes, it comes in the form of political unrest and instability but oftentimes it’s much more mundane,” Dr. Wolf posted on Facebook. Like getting from point A to point B.
The 2021 earthquake closed the bridge between Dr. Wolf’s residence and the clinic. So now she keeps one Jeep on her side of the Grand’Anse River, and a Jeep across the river at a gas station. She and her nurse park one Jeep for the day, go across the bridge on foot, and then hop in the second Jeep. By using these two vehicles each day, they can get to the clinic to care for the waiting patients.
For Americans, volunteering in Haiti is eye-opening and often life-changing. “One of the main things that people realize is that the world is larger than just the United States,” Wolf said. “We can get so caught up with our work and activities here that we forget there’s a whole world of people out there – especially in developing nations like Haiti – where people are lacking in just the basics of life.”
“They are busy all day trying to get enough food to feed their families and are just happy being able to survive. It gives you a greater appreciation of the world in general and that people in the U.S. are just so blessed to have what we have,” Wolf said.
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Avera is a health ministry rooted in the Gospel. Our mission is to make a positive impact in the lives and health of persons and communities by providing quality services guided by Christian values.
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