Haitian Hos­pi­tal in­spires Hope

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier, Derby Line, VT

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-

photo cour­tesy

Dick Fletcher, of Derby Line, Ver­mont, is seen here vis­it­ing the Hos­pi­tal Al­bert Sch­weitzer in Haiti.

photo cour­tesy

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