NEW HOME! Cornerstone Foundation provides shelter for families in Haiti who previously had been sleeping outdoors.
NEW HOME! Cornerstone Foundation provides shelter for families in Haiti who previously had been sleeping outdoors.
A team of 18 volunteers from Bermuda, including doctors and nurses, returned to the island this weekend from earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

The pioneering effort was led by local charity the Cornerstone Foundation.

We slept on floors, porches, in sleeping bags, had no electricity or running water and felt this was such a very small sacrifice amidst such severe devastation and an opportunity to help the Haitian people.

Leaving Bermuda on Wednesday, January 27 on an American Airlines flight to Miami we were as prepared as we could be with our vaccinations, malaria pills, and basic medical training, not knowing what lay ahead.

We left Miami for Port-au-Prince on a 200-passenger flight chartered by Cornerstone Foundation with 69 people: 18 from Bermuda including pastors, doctors Greg Bernius and Ken-Garfield Douglas, podiatrist Stuart McIntosh, registered nurse Nicole Jackson, structural engineer Bruce Perinchief of Entech Ltd.; 23 from Angel Wings International including doctors, French-Creole speaking registered nurses, and other medical technicians; 28 doctors, nurses, construction workers and engineers from Mini-Clinic Doctors of Florida, Fishers of Men, and Haiti Relief.

Arriving in Port-au-Prince was like landing in a MASH episode.

Military planes, trucks, forklifts, and personnel surrounded us as we off-loaded the 20,000 pounds of medical supplies and food.

We loaded up three vans and trucks and headed on a three-hour drive from Port-au-Prince to Jacmel, a town in the south of Haiti, also terribly affected by the earthquake.

Our entire group was left speechless, especially those of us on the trip that had been to Haiti before.

To see so many familiar buildings, such as the presidential palace, supermarkets, banks and car dealerships totally destroyed left us with the eerie feeling knowing that so many would have been trapped underneath and caused some to remain in silence and others to weep.

Upon arriving in Jacmel we were pleased to find out the mission house we supported was still intact.

Structural engineer, Bruce Perinchief, deemed the mission house safe and sound. Bruce confidentially told missionary Bonite Affriany, who travelled with us from Miami, "Your place is perfectly safe, there are only superficial cracks." I can still see the expression of gratitude on her face as she raised her hands with thanksgiving.

The Angel Wings International team set up the medical clinic along with the team from Bermuda and began treating people as word of mouth spread through the community that a hospital clinic full of medical supplies was operational.

Podiatrist Stuart McIntosh became known as Dr. McIntosh and R.N. Nicole Jackson and Dr. Greg Bernius were not only treating patients, but also hearing their survival stories.

All of them had lost someone.... a mother... a father.... two children.... a friend.

Stuart shared with the group, "These people are truly resilient. To go through all of this and to continue on with life, almost as if nothing has happened. It is truly amazing to experience their strength."

We headed to Port-au-Prince on the Saturday morning to set up tents for displaced families and to evaluate the location of the next medical hospital outside of a refugee camp and to also receive a cargo plane that was due to come in on Sunday.

We arrived at another feeding programme location and saw over 30 families living under tarps and sheets.

Homeless

Many had no home and those who did were too traumatized to go inside. So we were told to bring tents for them.

Upon arrival our team set up tents that afternoon. The tents offered protection from the damp night air, the mosquitoes, and the heavy dust that filled the air everywhere in Haiti resulted in many bronchial infections.

The children were so excited to be in a 'home' rather than sleeping outside. It then dawned on us; these tents were not their temporary dwellings... we just set up their new homes!

When we completed setting up the tents we went to the future location of the medical hospital to clean and prepare for our cargo shipment of 35,000 pounds arriving the next day.

We were expecting 34 pallets of medical supplies, food and related materials to sustain this field hospital.

How difficult could it be to get cargo from a Miami warehouse to the Port-au-Prince tarmac and then to the people in need?

Little did we know how much perseverance we needed to put compassion into action and make it happen! Join me next week to find out how events unfolded.