Helping Haiti heal
Experts explain earthquake's effects, relief efforts
Licking County's Tracee Karaffa said the local community still could assist the people of Haiti best through cash donations, as the crisis there moves from trauma response to infection and disease control during the rainy season.
Karaffa, a physician in Granville, was one of several featured speaker's during the Feb. 25 presentation at Denison University, called "The Haitian Earthquakes: Why They Happened, What Was Left Afterward, and How We Can Help."
Karaffa will return to Haiti on Sunday, March 7, to continue providing medical relief efforts. In the wake of the Jan. 12 earthquake, she worked in mobile clinics at refugee camps and at St. Damien Children's Hospital just outside Port-au-Prince.
"About 500,000 people have gone out into the countryside from Port-au-Prince," she said. "The refugee camps are unbelievably horrible places to live -- sticks with a tent. The people are living in mud with a sheet over them to protect them."
She said she expects conditions to worsen in the coming months with the rainy season causing mosquito-borne illnesses, in addition to the poor living conditions and lack of public sanitation.
"There needs to be ongoing care for the displaced population," Karaffa said. "People all over the country are sleeping outside. They're afraid to be close to buildings."
Karaffa, a 1978 Granville High School graduate, has been helping the people of Haiti for more than a decade.
"I had patients who were missionaries, and they hooked me up with mobile clinics," she told ThisWeek. "The village I went to wanted a permanent clinic, and then I formed Healing Arts Mission."
Begun in 1998, Healing Arts Mission (HAM) supported the people of Haiti in the areas of health, nutrition, education, housing and social justice.
"We'd take medical supplies to Haiti and filled our suitcases with Haitian art to sell here once a year at an auction," Karaffa said.
Funds raised from the auction have been used for various projects in Haiti.
Karaffa said all of HAM's staff survived the earthquake at its health center, but they all lost family and friends.
"We have no place to stay now because it collapsed, but we're going to work on building a bunkhouse," she said. "We want to help Haiti bring health care to their people."
When she first started helping the people of Haiti, Karaffa said, she would cry because of the heartbreaking stories.
"The first couple of times there, I would have to go cry in the back," she said. "After the first couple of trips, you get focused in order to do what you can to help."
Denison senior Lauren Sabo has visited Haiti several times, she said, most recently in January. She returned to the United States just four days prior to the earthquake.
"Last April I did research and helped with a medical clinic," she said. "I went back in January. We put on welding classes. The goal was to build a trade school there."
Now, she said, the focus is on rebuilding.
"These people are strong, resilient and faithful, and they have a lot of hope," she said. "They need our hope. The earthquake has put Haiti on the map. It put a spotlight on Haiti. Going forward, I hope changes occur."
Denison geosciences professor David Greene said Haiti likely would face another earthquake in the next 50 years, so consideration must be given to the buildings in which people live being earthquake resistant.
"Geologists can't tell you when earthquakes will occur," he said. "An earthquake is hundreds of years of stored up energy, and it's released all at once. You get energy in seismic waves."
Geologists try to communicate that people have control over whether they survive an earthquake if the building stays, Greene said.
"Earthquakes don't kill people; buildings kill people," he said.
Denison University formed the Haiti Relief Coordinating Committee (HRCC), which coordinates campus efforts for fundraising, education and outreach.
Its goal is to raise $15,000 by the end of March. Granville's Brews Cafe donated $1 for every draft beer sold this month to the HRCC. Brews also hosted a band Feb. 19 and raised $900 to go to Haiti relief.
"We've had a lot of inventive fundraisers," said Laurel Kennedy, faculty adviser to HRCC.
Denison's Knitting Co-op sold handmade winter scarves in the colors of Haiti's flag to raise money. A community concert is being planned in late March with Denison musicians and, possibly, community groups.
In April, a 3K Run for Haiti will be held, incorporating activities for young and old and including yoga, Zumba and weightlifting.
More information about HAM's efforts and daily reports from the coming medical mission trip is available online at healingartmission.org. Continued fundraisers through HRCC can be followed by going to Denison's Web site, www.denison.edu, and clicking on the Service Learning link.