Their hearts are more powerful than a 7.0 earthquake.
That’s the main reason a group of St. Mary’s nurses began serving the poor Caribbean nation of Haiti – even before the natural disaster that shattered the country in 2010.
“The earthquake deepened our resolve,” says Jennifer Weitzel, a clinical nursing instructor from Edgewood College and founder of Health Ministries for Haiti (healthministriesforhaiti.org). In January 2014, four St. Mary’s nurses will continue an eight-year run of service to this challenged nation.
Those with hearts for Haiti are (sitting, from left) Liz Spellman (NICU), Ericka Haney (NICU), Naomi Fenske (ER), (standing) Jennifer Weitzel (Edgewood College), Annie Vang (4SW), Olivia Schroeder (5E), Maria Pulver (SSICU) and Peggy Weber (Parish Nursing). They are showing off the sundresses they will give to Haitian children as well as the Haitian coffee they are selling ($10 for 12 oz) to help pay the freight for the medications they will take along.
“We started in 2006 with the idea of building a hospital but since the earthquake, we’ve been rebuilding,” she explains. “Our goal is to build infrastructure and capacity for year-round use.”
Leaving Jan. 4 for a week of work in Haiti are first-timers Peggy Weber (Parish Nursing) and Elizabeth Spellman (NICU) along with veterans Naomi Fenske (ER), who has gone twice before, and Ericka Haney (NICU), who will mark her fifth trip in January. Four others have served in prior years.
“I see it as a continuation of the mission work of St. Mary’s and our nursing partnership with Edgewood,” says Peggy Weber, who also orchestrated the making of more than 100 sundresses for Haitian girls through her parish nurse work at St. Patrick’s parish in Cottage Grove.
The mission group helps extend the reach of a Haitian clinic to those in and around the capital city of Port au Prince. In addition, the clinic is starting a school of nursing, so Peggy and Jennifer will lead classes about various aspects of nursing.
The group will also devote part of their day to an orphanage that’s home to, roughly, 100 kids – soon to be 99.
That’s because Ericka Haney will adopt a 12-year-old boy later this year. During her multiple trips over the years, she has watched “her son” grow up. “I love the connections I’ve made and I love seeing our efforts grow each and every year,” she says. Each of the travelers pays his or her own expenses and uses vacation time to help Haiti.
“It’ s a life-changing experience,” says Olivia Schroeder (5E), who was there when the earthquake hit. “It creates an itch to want to do more for the international community.”