Sunday, January 31, 2010

Niece's thoughts about Haiti...

My three year old niece has reached the phase of asking many questions. It's usually why, why, why but today she asked me a different question.

While her and her sister were up in my room looking at some of my Africa pictures they started mentioning Haiti. They have seen some footage on the earthquake and my sister has told them that many people have lost their houses and that people died. I am not sure how much of it they really understand but they definitely remembered some of it.

While looking at pictures of me in the clinic in Sierra Leone. My niece said: "That's you helping children in Africa. Now you are going to Haiti to help children." I agreed with her, saying that I would be in Haiti for a few weeks. And that's when the question came. My niece looked at me and said: "Are you going to die too?" I was taken aback a bit and moved by the question, hearing the seriousness with which she asked it. I answered her with an answer I hoped is true and said "no, the earthquake is over, I will be back in a few weeks".

Later in the afternoon my niece brought up Haiti again. She asked another question: "Why can't you bring the children here to help them?" My response was that I thought they would miss their parents (not mentioning of course that many had lost parents). She then said: "Well, if there are children that lost their house, maybe you can bring them back so that they can live here." And she then went on explaining that she would make a bed for them on the floor in her bedroom. The compassion of a three year old.


An important part of preparation for going to the developing world is to make sure immunizations are up to date. A few of mine weren't. So, today I received my tetanus shot. Fortunately a doctor & friend was able to order it for me fairly quickly and this morning after the church service he was able to administer the immunization as well. Monday morning I'm off to another doctor's office for one more shot. Yes, I have to run around a bit for these shots, but in the end I'll get them.

I consider myself fortunate.

For thousands of people in the world, immunizations are not available or accessible. Many children still lack their childhood immunizations - making them at risk for diseases like polio, tetanus, measles, pertussis, hepatitis, etc. Diseases that can have a huge impact on a child's life and even lead to death. In Sierra Leone I have seen the polio victims, crawling on the ground or begging downtown in their wheelchairs. I have seen children suffering from tetanus, a horrible disease which can so easily be prevented.

These are the less fortunate.

What we so often take for granted, are things that others can only dream of. This void of immunizations in many places is causing unnecessary disabilities and death. Of course, it's not only about availability and access. It is also about education and mothers/fathers understanding the importance of the immunizations, the cold chain, overcoming the fears of side effects, parents prioritizing their child's health, and frowning on the healthcare workers that illegally charge families for free immunizations. It is complicated. But it is not impossible.

As I am preparing for Haiti I hear that tetanus and measles are on the rise. This is not a surprise when the wounds are high-risk for tetanus. And as malnutrition increases, children are more and more susceptible to diseases such as measles. We hear a lot about the surgical/trauma needs which, I agree, are huge. But what about the primary health care structure? What happened to the clinics that were providing immunizations? What happened to the vitamin A distribution? Where can all of the children with malnutrition go for their nutritional supplements? The entire system is run down. And apparently, even before the earthquake only half of the children were properly immunized in Haiti. The need now is greater than ever.

I wish I could bring thousands of immunizations with me. But of course it's not so easy for small organizations to bring in thousands of immunizations because they need to be refrigerated. There is a 'cold chain' needed. However, fortunately I hear that UNICEF is bringing in immunizations and will start up a campaign to immunize children against diptheria, tetanus and measles. I hope they reach many children. I also hope that the children will be given food supplies. And that other preventive measures will be implemented across the board: mosquito nets, vitamin A supplementation, hygiene advice, sanitary facilities. The list is long. And it is a huge task. But without these measures, the burden of disease will be even greater, taking a toll on the many children in Haiti.

Does anyone have a couple of pots of non-expired vitamin A capsules they want to donate to the cause?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Conditions rough...

The latest information I received about my Haiti trip started as follows:
"Conditions are still very rough. You will be sleeping in tents in a noisy location near the Port a Prince airport (bring earplugs). Days are long and the temperatures have been in the 90’s. The working conditions are typical of a disaster situation and not ideal. Please be prepared for this... Our motto in these situations is always Be Flexible and remember you are there to serve."

Wow. Wondering what it will be like. Rough. Tents. Noise. Hectic airport. Heat. No electricity. Possibly no access to running water. Busy clinic. Long days. Ruins everywhere. Uncertain communication possibilities. Patients we cannot help. Full referral centers. Definitely not the easiest of circumstances. But yes, definitely many opportunities to serve. And in the midst of it all there will be glimmers of hope. Patients we can help. Children smiling. Adults thanking. Experiencing the resilience of the Haitian people. Seeing God move.

I am trying to prepare myself...

Ruins in town...

About 10 days ago I was walking in Middelburg and noticed a building in ruins. I thought it was a bit odd. All I saw was a huge mass of bricks. However, the buildings to the right and left were still standing. This was simply one building that was being torn down to be re-built again. But it looked like a huge pile of rubble when I passed. Immediately my thoughts went to Haiti. A city now in ruins. As I stood looking at this building, I was trying to imagine what Middelburg would look like if ALL the buildings were in ruins. I couldn't picture it. And then the thought that along with all of the ruins, so many lives would be lost and so many more would be injured. I wanted to stop thinking.

Yesterday I biked by the same area and noticed that now the lot was totally empty. No more ruins. No more rubble. Cleaned up. Just like that. Ready for the building to be re-built. It made me wonder what will happen in Haiti. How on earth will all of those ruins get cleared out? How will they get rid of all of the rubble? How long will it take? When can someone (who?) start re-building? So many questions. Too many to be asking right now. For the people of Haiti, these must be questions they ask everyday. What will happen to our nation? How will I find a new home? Where will my children go to school? Where will I find my next meal?

Pray for the people of Haiti.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Haiti prep...

Now that my trip to Haiti has been confirmed there are many things to do.

My flight from Brussels to Dallas was booked today.
I arranged housing in Texas.
Vaccinations arrived at our GP's office and are in the fridge waiting to be injected.
I found my Mefloquine (Lariam) tablets and will take the first one on Sunday.
My hiking back pack has taken up residence in my bedroom.
I received a 'what to bring list' from YWAM this evening.
I'm having someone track down some scrubs for me (I gave mine away in Sierra Leone).
And I've made multiple 'to do' lists already today.
Lots to do.
And all the while wondering what it will really be like in Haiti.
Knowing that my first visuals in Haiti will be so much worse than what I've seen on TV.
Seeing that the suffering goes far beyond what is being covered in the news.
Yet being confident that God is there, in the midst of it all.
For the Haitians, for our team, for me.
Lord, prepare my heart.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Going to Haiti...

Some of you may know that since the earthquake struck Haiti I have been looking into ways to go and help. I cannot believe the devastation this earthquake has brought and my heart goes out to the people (especially the children/orphans) in Haiti who are suffering physically, emotionally and spiritually. I find it hard to sit back and watch, when I have the spare time and can go and be of help. I contacted various organizations but most wanted surgical/anesthesia staff (understandable). I then heard (around the 22nd) that YWAM Tyler is sending in ‘Mercy Works’ medical teams every Monday and contacted them. I felt strongly I was to go and so I contacted them to see if I could join their teams. A few days later I heard it would be possible.

Yesterday I called the YWAM base and I am indeed on a confirmed list to travel to Haiti on Monday February 8th and I will be staying for 3 weeks. There will be a team of 20 of us traveling together. Yay for teams. I'll be in Texas a few days in advance, to get over my jet lag from my Europe-USA stretch.

I am sure I will be hugely challenged under the circumstances we will be living and working in (very basic) but do feel called to go and help so believe God will give me strength and enable me to do more than I can imagine (or more than I maybe remember from surgery during med school!). I am also hoping to be able to do some primary care and to be able to love on the children!

I am amazed at this opportunity to go and thankful that God has enabled it to happen. I am excited but also somewhat nervous. I cannot imagine the destruction I will see there. But also know that God will go with me. And He is already there, in the midst of it.

Could you please remember to pray for me? Here are some points to keep in mind:
~ safety – with the aftershocks as well as potential violence
~ strength – during long working days, heat, medical challenges
~ wisdom - in patient care
~ health – for us as a team
~ provision – water, food, medical supplies
~ team leaders - I don't know who they are but pray for wisdom, patience and guidance
~ witness – that we can also meet the emotional/spiritual needs of the people we meet

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Thank you anonymous donor...

Thank you so much to the person who anonymously donated $250 to my water project yesterday. I appreciate it a lot! What a blessing.

AND this means we have now raised $5000.
We have got ourselves ONE WELL!
250 people with clean water.
250 people with a greater outlook on life.
This is very exciting.
There are still a few people who have donated through a Dutch account.
So once I have added that money we'll have a final amount.
And I will close this campaign so that this project can move on to the next phase!
More soon...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Droplets of hope...

Amidst the waves of suffering in Haiti, droplets of hope can be found.

I read about a 4 year old boy who was brought to the IDF hospital by his father due to vomiting and weakness. Blood results quickly proved the child was suffering from leukemia, a disease which could not be treated in-country. Fortunately the child was transferred to Miami where he will be treated with state of the art medicine. Despite the circumstances, for this boy, the arrival of the IDF hospital and the world’s attention on Haiti, made it possible for him to get the treatment he needs. Before the earthquake, who knows what would have happened? Would he have been able to pay for a hospital visit? Would he have been diagnosed correctly? And would medical personnel ever have been able to fly him to the USA for treatment? I know that for similar cases in Sierra Leone, West Africa, there would be no solution. For this little boy in Haiti, there is now hope.

Another organization assisted a lady with an emergency c-section in the middle of the night due to placental abruption. Fortunately there was both an ObGyn and a pediatrician available to help this mother and child. After resuscitation of the child, both survived. Had this same event taken place prior to the earthquake, I wonder if both mother and child would have survived. Another glimmer of hope.

Although I have heard the situation is dire and the cases seen are horrific, it is great to know that many teams are on the ground, making a difference. And even those men, women and children with conditions not directly caused by the earthquake, are also able to receive quality care.

In the waves of suffering, there are little droplets of hope. Hope for individuals. Hope for Haiti.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Children of Haiti...

Pictures showing the children of Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake. Moving and beautiful shots. Click on:

The above picture is from AP Photo/Gerald Herbert.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dutch help with Giro555...

The Developed World has turned to Haiti. Funds are being raised everywhere to assist in the rescue, relief and rebuilding of Haiti. In the Netherlands the Dutch join together to give to a specific relief account: Giro555. Giro meaning the type of account (shorthand for post office account which was commonly used in the olden days) and 555 being the national account number for disaster relief. Every time disaster strikes, the Dutch give to Giro555. The money collected is then divided amongst nine organizations providing disaster relief in the country where disaster struck, including the Red Cross, Oxfam, Save the Children and others.

On Thursday, January 21, radio stations throughout The Netherlands worked together to raise money for Giro555. Throughout the week the Dutch were already actively raising money for Giro555 ranging from: children baking and selling goods in schools, car washes, benefit concerts, children going door-to-door, companies donating x% of their income from a certain product, an auction on twitter etc. In the evening there was a live broadcast in which many different television networks worked together to raise more money. About 360 famous Dutch people, from movie stars and pop stars to royalty, were in the studio helping with the fundraiser: answering telephone calls from people wanting to donate and contributing with music and song.

At the end of the evening the teller stopped at 41,724,126 Euros and because the Minister for Development had promised to double the amount, the National Event for Haiti brought in 83,448,252 Euros. That is $117,945,763. And, the good news is, many of the fundraising events throughout the country are ongoing. So this is not yet the final amount.

Well done for The Netherlands, a country with a population of 16,499,084. Let us hope and pray that the money reaches the people in Haiti.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


The beauty of giving, as posted on Medair USA's site:

"On Thursday morning, Janurary 14th, Roger's 8 year old son came downstairs with an envelope labeled "medair." It contained $25 that Jake was saving towards a large Lego set. Jake had two questions for his dad as he handed him the envelope, "Can this help Haiti? And how do I change this into Haiti money?" Please join Jake in giving what God has blessed us with to help Medair US as we work to alleviate the great suffering of our neighbors."

Give with joy.
Give in abundance.
Give more than you think you can.
And be blessed.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Haiti six days later...

Photos from Haiti. Eye-opening. Saddening. Disturbing. Mind boggling. Devastating. And these are simply pictures...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Elsewhere in the world...

With the devastation in Haiti, it's hard to think of much else these days. However, I am aware that all over the world there are men, women and children suffering. We live in a world full of poverty. A world full of hurt and suffering.

Through email I have been helping out of a friend of mine in Sierra Leone. She came across a 9 year old child, in need of healthcare. So, I find my thoughts lingering to Sierra Leone, a country I once called home. And thinking how much easier it would be to help this child if I were actually there. But I am not, and email will have to suffice.

The child is 9 years old, abandoned by her mother and living with her grandmother. She is ill and her picture reveals that she has been sick for some time. There is not much history to be told. The grandmother said something about the child falling off of a hammock and having deformities of her chest wall since then. In Sierra Leone, complicated cases always go hand in hand with a history of a fall. I suppose they want to link the disease with a cause. Any cause. This child is obviously malnourished, has a deformed vertebrae and a very protruding chest wall. My first thought is spinal tuberculosis, otherwise known as Pott's disease. However, the very outspoken protrusion and an x-ray revealing a large mass make me wonder. Could this be something else? Are there multiple things going on at once? Is the mass a more serious condition, a tumor? I decide to request the help of a few extremely experienced doctors. And to my delight, they agree. Spinal TB. Not only am I happy that I was on the right track, but I am happy because spinal TB is a disease that can be treated in Sierra Leone AND at very little cost. Of course, other matters are not entirely ruled out, as none of us have actually examined this patient and the option of a CT scan is not available. But for now I think that this child will start anti-tuberculosis treatment this week and take her first steps in the long journey to recovery.

I am hopeful.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Dreamt of Haiti...

After finally falling asleep last night I dreamt of Haiti. The rubble. The cries. The desparation. And it was only a dream. I cannot imagine what it is like in real life. The sights, the sounds, the smells. My thoughts are still with you Haiti. And if somehow I can lend a helping hand, a caring heart, I will be there. For now, you are in my prayers.

Today I am thinking not only of those injured directly by the earthquake but also about the men, women and children with other medical conditions unrelated to the earthquake but not able to get help due to lack of medical infrastructure etc. The children suffering from pneumonia. The women in child labor without someone to hold their hand or someone to guide them through the delivery. The people suffering from common illnesses, normally finding care in the hospitals or clinics, but now having nowhere to go. My thoughts are with you.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Cannot stop thinking...

I cannot stop thinking about Haiti. I cannot push the images out of my mind. As I get ready to go to sleep I think about the thousands of people suffering in Haiti. The wounded; those in hospitals and clinics and those who have not yet received any help. I think about the mothers and fathers who have lost their children. The women and men who have lost their spouses. The children who have lost their parents. I hear the number of orphans has tripled. Who will take them in? What is their fate? I think of the uncertainty many people still have regarding the whereabouts of their loved ones. The fear of the unknown, the fear that they might be gone, forever. I think about the aid workers digging through the rubble. The medics as they tend to patients with so few resources at hand. The missionaries who were serving in Haiti, now needing to leave behind their homes, their friends, a piece of their heart. I cannot stop thinking. They are all heroes, survivors and fighters. My heart is torn as I sit here in a house, a roof over my head, with electricity, food and running water. Not being able to physically help. Being so far removed. Torn between scrambling to the other side of the globe to lend a hand and waiting until I know the time, if ever, is right. It is hard to simply watch. Tonight I pray for the people in Haiti. As I lay down in my bed I will think of all of those people in Haiti sleeping outside under the stars, fortunate to be alive yet unfortunate to have been present. Praying.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Thought for the day...

"Nobody made a greater mistake than the one who did nothing because they could only do a little" - Edmund Burke

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Haiti has been shaken.

And shaken hard.
In the midst of poverty and instability they now deal with a disaster.
The images are overwhelming.
But the whole world needs to see.
Infrastructure collapsed.
Rubble everywhere.
People missing.
People dead.
People afraid.
Children orphaned.
No water.
No elecricity.
A tragedy.
Can we even begin to imagine?
And in the midst of it all people are trying to help.
Help with limited resources.
A tough job.
Where to start in the midst of such shambles?
My thoughts are with the Haitians today.
And with those reaching out to help them.
For those on the ground.
And those from afar.

Help by giving: click here to donate

And be moved by the images: click here for images

Sunday, January 03, 2010

$875 to go...


I am amazed. In less than a month over $4000 has been raised through 'my' water campaign. Thanks to all of those who have donated so generously. Of course, I am hoping that between now and the end of the campaign (50 days from now) we will have raised the entire sum of $5000 so that a community will be provided with a well.

Imagine children being able to attend school because they no longer have to walk for hours to collect water. Imagine less children dying of water-borne diseases, that are so preventable simply with clean water. Imagine women being able to take part in income generating activities rather than searching for water. Imagine the difference a water source in the village will make for a community. Let's give a community a reason to celebrate in 2010. Let's work together to make a difference! Give life by giving water.

It's not too late to join in. See my campaign page and donate directly towards my campaign at:
For those in Holland, contact me if you would like to donate through a dutch account.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Happy New Year...

2 0 1 0

Wishing you a Happy New Year.

I hope that 2010 is full of adventure, laughter and good times with friends and family. As well as many moments to reach out and help those around us, wherever that may be. And that dreams will come true...

~ Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly. micah 6:8 ~