Feed Haiti Wenatchee Packathon gives us hands-on opportunity to alleviate hunger
The Wenatchee Valley community has a special relationship with Haiti that has seen countless medical professionals spend time volunteering to alleviate suffering in that impoverished country.
The suffering that comes with hunger and poverty has increased significantly in the past few years, Dr. Dale Peterson tells me, and he’s organizing a unique community event — Feed Haiti Wenatchee Packathon — that offers us an opportunity to make a powerful difference.
On June 18-19 at Pybus Public Market, community volunteers will gather in shifts to convert huge bags of rice and beans into individually packed meals to feed families. Haitian music will be playing
As Peterson put it, this volunteer project is a way to be personally involved in alleviating hunger, one family at a time.
We can have confidence that this work will be used as intended because the Catholic organization, Haiti Health Promise, will handle the donation and the delivery through their warehouses and medical outreach programs.
“All outreaches are great,” said Peterson, “but this one is personal — from our table to theirs.”
This is important because so often giving to relief efforts is rather impersonal and I think that keeps us disconnected from human beings and their suffering.
The last few years around the community of Milot, Haiti, the people are going hungry. Malnourished children come down from the hills to the nutrition center that Haiti Health Promise has established and “we get them up to speed,” said Peterson. Their families are encouraged to come back and pick up food.
Peterson’s love affair with Haiti goes back to 1986 at the urging of a fellow urologist who was working in the country. He has such vivid memories of flying into Cap-Haitien with suitcases full of medical equipment. The hospital he was working in was, to say the least, primitive. Imagine doing major surgery in a hospital that had no blood bank. “We didn’t lose anybody, but it was close,” Peterson said.
There wasn’t much of a nursing staff, so Peterson had to check in with patients himself throughout the night. He recalled that the recovery area, such as it was, had an oxygen tank in the corner. For the most part, doctors got by with stethoscopes and blood pressure cuffs.
Peterson remembers being on edge all of the time and thinking himself that he would never come back to the country,
But as he was finishing up his final shift, the hospital administrator knocked on his door and said there was a line of patients in the outpatient area and asked if Peterson could speak with them.
He vividly recalled the first patient, a 26-year-old woman who’s child had died during birth and because of complications had been incontinent for two years. “I heard myself saying, ‘I can fix this, but I can’t do it this trip, because I’m leaving for the states tomorrow. I’ll be back.’”
It was a promise he made to each patient.
Six months later, he returned to Haiti and began the work of alleviating suffering and offering hope. Peterson, a devout Catholic, continues to live his faith and his values to this day.
The people of Haiti are so poor, have so little, but are so grateful, he told me.
“I find joy in going there,” said Peterson. It not only helps people who live in desperately difficult conditions but it also “ministers to our hearts” as human beings, he added. “We are called to help the poor and sick — that’s our Biblical role as humans,” said Peterson.
Following in his footsteps, Dr. Wally Gibbons and Jeff Monda made numerous trips with other medical professionals from the valley over the years. Now we can join with that extended family of volunteers from our community and do something meaningful that will help relieve suffering and offer hope.
To register as a volunteer, go to classy.org and search for wenatchee packathon. You can also financially contribute to the effort at the same site. He’s raising $35,000 to cover the costs. Let’s make this wonderful effort a success. This is a family friendly event from ages 8 to 98.