Should You Volunteer In Haiti?
March 1st, 2013 by INMED
Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western World despite being just a one-hour flight away from Florida. Thousands of American healthcare personnel venture to volunteer in Haiti each year. Should YOU be one of them? Let’s explore your questions with Jim and Sandy Wilkins of Haiti Health Ministries…
Q: “Can I give any substantial help in just a few days or weeks?”
A: “Yes. Short-term volunteers relieve some of the load off of we who work here year-round. You may also discover a calling toward heart-felt commitment. We first came to the island as volunteers for a few days in 1995. A vision was cast on that trip, and now we’ve been living in Haiti fourteen years.”
Q: “Can I assist even though I have no healthcare skills?”
A: “Yes, we need both healthcare and non-healthcare volunteers. The latter can help us through rebuilding our clinic destroyed in the earthquake, and through such services as sewing and painting. Healthcare people do well to realize that there is much to learn about how to provide care in the particular context of Haiti, especially amid limited pharmaceutical and laboratory support, as well as vastly different cultural ideas of health and disease.”
Q: “Do I need to speak Creole or French?”
A: “No. We arrange interpreters for our volunteers. Haitians speak their native Creole language in daily conversation. Few speak French, and rarely English or Spanish. Volunteers soon discover that translation is slow and often cumbersome. They often say, ‘I wish I could speak Creole,’ and then endeavor to learn.”
Q: “What’s the risk I will be threatened?”
A: “Robberies, rapes, and kidnappings do take place and are a statistical risk, just as they are in the US. However this risk can be minimized by cooperating with reputable organizations in Haiti, traveling in groups during daylight hours in safe areas, and by heeding the advice of local persons. Medical liability is also a theoretical risk, but in reality we’ve never heard of a lawsuit except Americans in Haiti suing other Americans. Most people, by contrast, will be extremely grateful for your service.”
Q: “Must I have a specific faith to volunteer?”
A: “No, we welcome people of all faiths as volunteers. We have a code of conduct that we require everyone to follow. We will also encourage you to attend a Haitian church service with us on Sunday morning and a weekday evening Bible group. These are important Haitian cultural as well as spiritual experiences. We respect those with other beliefs and would never demean them, but we are not ashamed of the good news that Jesus came to save us from our sins. It’s natural for us to share this with Haitians and Americans alike.”
Would you like to volunteer in Haiti or in another low-resource nation? INMED cooperates with Haiti Health Ministries as well as Medical and Public Health sites in forty locations around the globe. We will assist you with the logistics and particular skills you will need to acquire. And like Jim and Sandy Wilkins, you may also discover not simply a remarkable experience but a calling toward heart-felt commitment.