Wingate medical students travel to Haiti
After hearing about the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti in January of 2010, which left over 3 million people in need of emergency aid, George Collins, a physician’s assistant for OrthoCarolina felt called to do something. He spent the summer organizing Bless Back Worldwide, a non-profit organization that provides the framework to continue people in need overseas.
He organized an initial trip in February with a medical group from the Charlotte area including a group of Wingate University physicians assistant students. “The trip was so impactful to those that went; we knew we had to go back,” Collins said. “Every year I want to take more and more students with me.” This is exactly what Collins did. His stories excited a number of students and another trip was planned. Seniors Anita Hoyt and John Marlowe were among the group of Wingate University physicians assistant students that went.
Hoyt waited an entire year after the earthquake hit before getting her opportunity to go and serve. “I did everything I could to help with fundraising, prayer and supplies since I couldn’t go after the earthquake,” Hoyt said. “It was difficult to raise support money but I didn’t give up faith. Funding came through at the last minute and I was able to go and serve.”
Financing for the trip came to be around $1700 per student. This became difficult for the Wingate University group and it narrowed to be only 6 students from the graduating class. “I really had to be pushed into going,” Marlowe said. “I kept letting little obstacles keep me from committing but eventually I decided to go and am so grateful.”
A new experience
It took the group almost 24 hours to get from Charlotte to the orphanage in Les Cayes where they volunteered. This included driving to Atlanta, flying to Miami, flying to Port au Prince and then driving to Les Cayes.
“The drive to Les Cayes was the scariest for me. The roads are full of people, animals, damage from earthquake and there is no speed limit. I kept worrying that we would someone then have to face the wrath of the crowd,” Marlow said. The volunteers were transported by bus along dirt roads full of potholes, and at one point actually drove through a river, since there is no longer a bridge standing. They stayed in an orphanage and worked during the days.
“Although I had signed up to work in the hospital in surgery, the bigger need when we arrived was to attend to the orphans at the clinic,” Hoyt explained. “At first I was disappointed but God was in control and I wasn’t. Every morning, as I walked down to the clinic from the guest house, I had kids clinging to me and telling me their names. Almost every child had malnutrition, dehydration, or worms. We hung out with the kids and sang worship songs and just loved on them. I truly believe that was the best medicine they needed.”
Marlowe described his experience and the impact it had on him and on everyone who went. “Seeing how little the orphans have and knowing what we have at home and what we take for granted was something that we all talked about,” he said. “The orphans were so happy just to hold our hands and have someone pay attention to them. I have been a paramedic here in Charlotte for eight years so I have a lot of experience with hospitals in this country, and things are very different there.”
The group saw patients over several days that had very little care provided to them by the staff due to a lack of resources, Marlowe said.
“There aren’t enough words, pictures or videos to express what you go through as an individual and as a team,” Hoyt explained. “I’m not sure if I made an impact, but I’m sure that it was all in God’s plan and it will be revealed eventually. I will always remember the faces of all the kids that came through the clinic, worshiped with us and walked me to and from the clinic. I was so thankful to be a part of God’s work.”
“George Collins has done such an amazing thing in a little over a year,” Marlowe said. Collins and the Bless Back Worldwide Organization have huge plans for the future. He is eager to return to Haiti several times a year, bringing along more volunteers to offer help and continue to do what is needed to make a difference. As for the students who volunteered on these medical mission trips, they will never forget these experiences and the people that they helped. “I think we all see great things being done by and through George,” Marlowe said.