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Haiti mission expands from education to health care

Hot Springs Catholics have supported schools for 10 years, now offer medical care

Published: April 28, 2018   
Three doctors and three nurses represented St. Mary and St. John churches of Hot Springs during a medical mission to Haiti. The mission previously only focused on education.

HOT SPRINGS — A group of doctors and nurses from St. Mary and St. John churches in Hot Springs cared for than 600 Haitians during a recent mission trip.

The team was in Haiti from Feb. 26 to March 2 to care for infants, pregnant women, school-age children, young adults and the elderly. The three doctors attending were Dr. Ron Koler, Dr. Ferrell Hass and Dr. Matt Hulsey, as well as nurses Candace Koler, Abigail Koler and MaryAnn Hass.

The Catholic churches in Hot Springs have had a mission in Haiti since 2007, three years before the devastating earthquake that shook the island in January 2010. The mission does its work in the northern area of the Centre division, about 60 miles north of Port Au Prince.

Missionaries traveled 13 miles north of the capital city of Hinche to the town of Colladere. The Central Highlands or Centre was the epicenter for the outbreak of cholera in October 2010 that killed more than 10,000 Haitians. It was determined to have originated with U.N. peacekeepers from Nepal stationed near the village of Mirebalias. Centre was the area hardest hit by the cholera.

The primary focus of Hot Springs mission has been education in Colladere, Campeche and Copeal. Over the past 10 years, the mission has made great strides in education by paying teacher salaries, buying books and other supplies and building a dormitory for teachers who otherwise would have to walk as much as 13 miles each day to get back to their homes.

In addition, the mission has partnered with Feed My Starving Children to feed the school children a healthy meal each day. In seven years, FMSC and Hot Springs Mission Haiti have supplied thousands of hot meals to children.

The recent medical mission was the first of its kind undertaken by the mission. Its primary focus was to see villagers, many of whom have never seen a doctor, examine the school children and to study the feasibility of continuing to deliver health care in this remote area. Doctors discovered that high blood pressure is a big problem with young and older adults. This condition was not expected with the population that gets exercise and has little obesity.

Organizers said the team of physicians and nurses came back from Colladere inspired to do more. Delivering health care in such a remote area far from medicines and supplies presents many challenges. The group is now studying ways to continue with the medical mission and formulating a strategy to expand the services. Anyone in the medical profession who is interested in joining the medical mission team is asked to call Candace Kaler at (501) 282-6778.

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