Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, was shaken by a massive earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010.

Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, was shaken by a massive earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010.

The Rev. Don Wallick of Church of the Good Shepherd United Methodist on Sharon Woods Boulevard was in Haiti earlier this month, with stops at both the capital of Port-au-Prince, near the epicenter of the 7.0 temblor, and the northern city of Cap-Haitien.

It didn't seem possible that the damage he observed was sustained more than a year and a half ago, he said.

"The place is just completely devastated still from the earthquake," Wallick said. "If you drove around, you would think it happened last week. It's still very bad."

For Wallick, this was his third visit to the impoverished nation that became the first black republic to declare independence from France in 1804, according to the website of the Central Intelligence Agency.

All three trips have been under the auspices of International Child Care, a Christian health organization that has been operating in Haiti since 1967 and in the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola, since 1988. ICC, with headquarters in Markham, Ontario, Canada, and Kalamazoo, Mich., "is working to change the conditions of poverty that impact health and wellbeing," the website states.

As a veteran of previous trips to Haiti, Wallick said he found himself the leader of 10 volunteers helping out primarily at Grace Children's Hospital in Port-au-Prince. The rest of the group, seven from Church of the Good Shepherd, one from Brice United Methodist Church and one connected with Centenary United Methodist Church, were all first-timers, he said.

"I have a sort of a different philosophy of doing work like this," Wallick said, looking back on the most recent time spent in Haiti. "We often kind of get caught in a trap where we try to do nice things for poor people and then come home and feel good about what we've done, and there's certainly nothing wrong with that.

"But in terms of engaging with the people where we go and considering long term what we can do to make a difference, that often doesn't happen with trips like this."

That's one of the reasons, he added, why he travels to the earthquake-torn country in conjunction with International Child Care.

About a decade ago, and to the chagrin of some entrenched supporters, ICC officials decided to adopt a philosophy that all of the paid staff people in Haiti would be Haitians, not "white folks" from Canada or the U.S., Wallick said.

"For my money, that's a better bet in terms of making a long-term difference in a county that really needs it," he said.

The party arrived in Port-au-Prince on Aug. 6 and the following day, worshipped at a Lutheran church in the capital - "which was a delightful experience," Wallick said.

They visited the Presidential Palace, which is still "piles of rubble," as well as some museums before starting volunteer work at Grace Children's on Aug. 8. Mostly, the Americans assisted caregivers in seeing to the infants and children, many of them orphans.

During the middle of the week, they traveled to Cap-Haitien to see more of the country and observe what ICC is doing in the more rural areas, according to Wallick.

On Aug. 12, their last full day in Haiti, they returned to Grace Children's Hospital for more cuddling and holding of babies who no longer have parents to do that for them. A party with staff members and the older children took place in the afternoon.

"You really grow attached and it's hard to say goodbye after you do that," Wallick said.

Many of the visitors had cameras and took pictures, and someone went out and bought a printer that can reproduce photos directly from the devices. It was the first time a lot of the children had ever seen pictures of themselves, Wallick said.

The minister said it was a deeply moving experience.

"The people of Haiti are full of vitality and joy and strength, and it is very difficult for middle-class Americans to figure out how that happens, because when you go and you stay there and you kind of work side by side with the people and come to know them, you look around and you say, they have nothing that we consider important and necessary to have a good life," he said. "It really challenges you at a core level to reevaluate your own values, because you come home then, and we have these beautiful homes and very nice beds and air conditioning.

"We have nothing to be miserable about because we're focused on stuff that's not really important."