Haitian Hospital inspires Hope
Haitian people are still facing extreme challenges following the earthquake back in January of last year. Dick Fletcher, of Derby Line, Vermont, knows all about those challenges. For around fourteen years he’s been a supporter of the
nized the biggest fundraiser to date for the hospital on behalf of the club.
“My involvement with this hospital extends beyond my Rotary club. I’ve visited this hospital and have seen the great work they do in caring for the Haitian people in the Artibonite Valley about 60 miles north of Port-auPrince,” commented Mr. Fletcher who has organized a musical performance that will be held on June 25th, at the Haskell Opera House. “The performance will be ‘A Tribute to George Gershwin’ with pianist Michael Arnowitt and guest vocalist John Wilson. These guys are first class musicians and it should be a great show.”
I asked Mr. Fletcher, who moved up to Derby Line from Boston with his wife Betty in 1992 and now owns and operates the Birchwood B&B there, how he first found out about the Hospital Albert Schweitzer. “What caught my attention was the story of the founding of the hospital,” he said. In 1946, Larry Mellon, whose family was involved with the Gulf Oil Company and Alcoa Aluminum, was living with his wife Gwen in Arizona when they read an article about the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Africa. They were so inspired that they gave up everything and Larry Mellon began studying to be a doctor. While studying, Mr. Mellon did medical research in Haiti and discovered that there was virtually no medical care in the country. “The Mellons then decided that, once he had his medical degree, they would take two million dollars and build the Hospital Albert Schweitzer in Haiti. They both lived there the rest of their lives, caring for the sick,” explained Mr. Fletcher.
Since the hospital opened in 1956, its services have developed and grown to meet the needs of the Haitian people. In addition to in-patient services such as internal medicine, paediatrics, obstetrics and surgery, the hospital maintains a rehabilitation therapy program and a major prosthetics service. “After the earthquake, when many people were crushed, there were many amputees. The HAS worked with the Hanger Corporation to set up a little factory to make prosthetics. Over 900 have been made for victims of the earthquake.”
The HAS also has a Community Development Group that goes out into villages, “The group teach- es Haitians about clean water sources, they grant money for reforestation, make small micro loans, teach nutrition to mothers...,” explained Dick who raised money through the Rotary a few years ago for one of the hospital’s clean water projects.
In 2007, Dick Fletcher visited the Hospital Albert Schweitzer, seeing firsthand the life-saving work being done there. “Dr. Renee Bergner of the University of Vermont Medical School brought me there. Doctors from that school have gone to help at HAS, as have doctors from Canada, and especially Switzerland and the Netherlands. The staff is mostly Haitian now, complemented by a few volunteer doctors.” Following the earthquake, a team of doctors from the CHUS, including Dr. Michel Clairoux from North Hatley, volunteered at Hospital Albert Schweitzer.
When asked what surprised him most about his visit, Mr. Fletcher answered: “The paediatric ward was quite full. And what’s still there is tuberculosis and HIV. Tuberculosis is so prevalent that there’s a TB ward at the hospital.”
Since the earthquake, Classical and jazz pianist Michael Arnowitt, along with guest vocalist John Wilson, will honour George Gershwin’s incredible music of the 1930’s by performing songs like “Rhapsody in Blue”, “An American in Paris”, “Summertime”, “I Got Rhythm” and many, many more at the benefit concert for Hospital Albert Schweitzer, on Saturday, June 25th, at the Haskell Opera House. the population served by the hospital has jumped from 300,000 to 345,000, increasing both the workload and the expenses, making the fundraiser “very timely.” “After the earthquake, cholera broke out in the Artibonite Valley. It subsided somewhat but is coming back with the rainy season and the staff is working day and night to treat patients,” commented Mr. Fletcher.
“That hospital has done great work in 55 years. It’s more than just a hospital; it’s preventing illness and improving quality of life. That’s why it’s so important to keep that hospital up and running. The hospital’s motto is: Saving lives and changing lives.”
The benefit concert will take place at the Haskell Opera House, on Saturday, June 25th, at 7:30. Tickets are on sale at La Veille Douane Restaurant, in Stanstead, and at the Woodknot Bookshop, in Newport. For reservations call 802 873-9104. Hospital Albert Schweitzer, a hospital in Haiti that was founded 55 years ago by a wealthy American couple.
A member of the Rotary Club of the Boundary, which gets involved in humanitarian projects around the world as all Rotary clubs do, Mr. Fletcher introduced the Hospital Albert Schweitzer, or HAS, to that organization about fourteen years ago and he’s now orga-
Dick Fletcher, of Derby Line, Vermont, is seen here visiting the Hospital Albert Schweitzer in Haiti.