Haiti Journal: Visiting a Refugee Camp

Dave Unger in the pharmacy

Tom Wilson, assistant vice president, Research Affairs, and senior research administrator, is chronicling his visit to Haiti with a medical team from Rush University Medical Center.

Day Five: We traveled today to Jerusalem, which is distant from Port au Prince and home to a large refugee camp. The camp is a “temporary” home to people who were displaced one year ago when the earthquake devastated this country. Some of the families live in tents, and others are fortunate enough to have more permanent housing, which consists of a one-room building of cinderblock or wood-frame construction.

Our clinic was set up in two tents where patients were seen, with a lean-to waiting room next to the partially constructed Jerusalem Baptist Church. An adjacent home was used for physical therapy and the front “porch” was used as the triage area. I worked with Dave Unger in the pharmacy, which was housed in our bus transport (we got air conditioning). Despite these crowded conditions, we managed to see over 450 patients with a number of ailments.

After we left the temporary clinic, we visited an orphanage located within the refugee camp. Madame LaFleur ran an orphanage in Port au Prince with her husband that was severely damaged in the earthquake and could no longer be occupied. The orphanage houses 30 children in two large tents at the refugee camp, and we examined each child, providing medications as needed. We also left them with bags of treats, clothing and chewable vitamins.

Traveling through the city of Port au Prince and Haiti in general can be a challenge with all of the traffic and lack of traffic signals. Our trip to Jerusalem was delayed a bit when a policeman pulled us over and claimed that our paperwork for our vehicle, which is registered in the Dominican Republic, was out of date. Once some U.S. dollars exchanged hands, we were back on the road.

We arrived home late due to the traffic for an excellent dinner of fresh vegetables, chicken and rice and beans. The weather is very warm during the day, and it takes a while to cool down in the evening. The bedrooms, which are a step above the Army barracks during my boot camp days, can be a bit uncomfortable through most of the night.

Day Six: Today we traveled to another refugee camp, which is under development. The camp is located in Croix des Bouquets and is run by Pastor Theodore Williams and located outside of Port au Prince in the Haitian countryside. We saw patients in the church building, and a number of patients were waiting for us when we arrived in the morning. We did manage to see approximately 250 people before we closed at sunset.

Dave Unger and I managed the pharmacy. We ran out of some of the essential pharmaceuticals during the day, but when our transport arrived with our late lunch and sorely needed bottled water they also brought some much-needed drugs, which arrived at the airport earlier in the day.

I took a break after lunch to play soccer with some of local boys using one of the soccer balls that I had brought from Chicago. At the end of the day, we gave the remaining children goody bags and I distributed Mardi Gras beads, two additional soccer balls and a basketball. When we arrived home, dinner was a surprise of pasta with meat sauce!

Although I have not had access to a scale to weigh myself, my Haiti diet seems to be working well.

One thought on “Haiti Journal: Visiting a Refugee Camp

  1. What you are doing is so amazing! I have been over to help working with the air force reserves and there is so much work that still needs to be done in Haiti! The world is a better place because of people like you and your medical team!

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