Lane Haitian relief strives to work toward providing sustainable medical and educational approaches to the health care needs of Haitian Communities.
By Dr. Snell Fontus, Founder
I was born in Haiti, but never lived there for any length of time. When my parents lived there from 1981 to 1994, I visited multiple times, and as a physician, I had the opportunity to return multiple times with various medical teams. I love the country, its people, its history, and its culture. I look forward to my trips that I consider a “Magical” place.
In the late 1990’s, I discovered Centre Medical Emmanuel (CME) while on a medical mission trip with a group from North Carolina. This “jewel” is located in the small community of Cayes Jacmel, on the southern coast of Haiti. Built by missionaries in the 70’s as a hospital and nursing school, this small facility has everything you need to accommodate visiting medical teams. The compound has an outpatient clinic, inpatient facilities, dormitories, a nice generator, an x-‐ray machine, a laboratory, and well equipped air conditioned operating rooms. What made it even more attractive for me is that the facility’s medical director is a good friend of my family, Dr. Louis Phillipe, also known as Luxo. Although it can be a bit difficult getting there by road, I returned to this facility multiple times over the years with various medical teams from the East Coast.
On Tuesday January 12th, 2010, Haiti was hit by an earthquake at 16:53. It devastated the southern part of the country. I was saddened by the pictures that I saw, and spent some frustrating hours trying to reach family members. Luxo was in the U.S. when the earthquake struck, and he immediately made his way back to Haiti and to CME to assess the damage. What he found was a small hospital over run with patients, for the x-‐ray machine was the only one functioning in the southern part of Haiti.
About one week after the earthquake, I received a phone call from Luxo, asking for help. He wanted me to bring a medical team with me. I immediately started putting a team together from the Northwest, and with a lot of support from the medical community, we were able to send two teams to help out. That experience was life changing for all the team members, but we did what we could, and I believe we made a difference.
What that experience taught me was that there were a lot of medical professionals willing to participate on medical mission trips to Haiti here in the Northwest. I therefore decided to bring a medical team to Cayes Jacmel twice a year to do off site clinics and to operate. Instead of joining other teams, I now put together teams of willing volunteers from my region, my corner of the world, and give them an opportunity to discover “Magical Haiti.”
Our biannual trips bring a certain amount of consistency to the people served by CME. People in the region know that we will be there twice a year, and we are able to provide a certain amount “follow up care,” which the locals appreciate. With the help of some of the translators who helped us out during the earthquake and continue to help us out to this date, we have played a part in the creation of a school in one of the hard to reach communities.
As more and more people in the Northwest hear about our work, we have also had more folks willing to donate to support our work, which is very helpful, since in the past, all funds for the trip came out of the volunteer’s pockets. Since the earthquake, Haiti has progressed and so have we. That is why we decided to create Lane Haitian Relief, a nonprofit corporation.
When I decided to put together and lead these trips to Haiti, I never thought the response would be so positive. All I wanted to do is give people an opportunity to discover what I considered a mystical place. The volunteers who have participated on these trips have experienced that mystic and are now willing to help this organization grow. I thank them all, and I hope that this organization will continue to grow, not only to provide much needed medical services, but to allow others to discover “Magical Haiti.”