By Sarah Stiefvater
In a Haitian village without electricity or enough of anything, it is prayer and the kindness of strangers that help the people survive.
Thanks to an ongoing medical supplies drive, residents of Fond Pierre, Haiti, will have replenished over-the-counter medicines next month, when a group of Rockbridge County residents returns to the village.
Fond Pierre, a small village near Haiti’s border with the Dominican Republic, continues to be helped by the Rockbridge-Haiti Medical Alliance (RHMA) and the Haiti Committee of St. Patrick Catholic Church in Lexington.
RHMA, co-founded by Dr. Walter C. Kerschl – a member of Lexington Presbyterian Church – is “an ecumenical Christian partnership serving the health needs of the impoverished people of Fond Pierre, Haiti, and its neighboring villages,” according to the organization’s website.
In a letter to the community , Kerschl explained the alliance’s mission.
“Our foundation seeks to embody the living presence of Christ as The Great Physician through [twice yearly] medical missions, ongoing wellness education, and fostering partnerships with Haitian-staffed school clinics,” Kerschl said .
Since 2008 , RHMA has sent more than $10,000 worth of medicine and other supplies to Fond Pierre.
Members of both RHMA and the Catholic Committee have already taken three mission trips to Fond Pierre. Patricia Powell is a member of the Catholic Committee and will be returning to Haiti for the second time.
“It is very difficult to describe,” Powell said. “This is a country where people have absolutely no resources.”
Although they have very little, the residents of Fond Pierre rely on their devout Catholicism – Haiti’s national religion. Kerschl calls the people of Fond Pierre impoverished but spiritually rich.
Powell, whose husband is on the RMHA board of directors, says Fond Pierre and the surrounding villages are largely run by the priests, who act as community leaders.
“The priests feed the children one meal per day,” Powell said. “That’s more than they would normally get.”
Residents of Fond Pierre are still struggling, but as a result of the partnership with the Catholic Committee and RHMA, the people of Fond Pierre now have a church compound, complete with a school and a medical clinic, where there is a nurse paid for by RHMA.
Although Fond Pierre was not directly affected by the 2010 earthquake that nearly destroyed Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital, the community was thrown for a loop last summer, when an outbreak of cholera hit the village.
Considering their misfortunes, it would be easy for the people of Fond Pierre to despair. Powell says, however, that their religion continues to push them forward.
“These people have a lot of faith and a lot of hope,” she said. “They refuse to give up.”