Jan 12 2011
By Jenny Eaton Dyer, Ph.D.
One year ago today, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit the poorest nation in our hemisphere: Haiti. More than 300,000 people died, and more than 1 million Haitians were left without shelter or work. With the subsequent onslaught of Hurricane Tomas and cholera, thousands more have lost their lives.
Former U.S. Sen. Bill Frist, M.D., arrived in Portau- Prince immediately following the disaster with a medical mission team for the victims of the earthquake. Hundreds waited for emergency surgery at Baptist Mission Hospital where the team worked day and night for the trauma patients. Within hours of his arrival, the doctor- senator sent back blog postings and photos to his Nashville-based global health organization, Hope Through Healing Hands, sharing the stories or both horror and hope of so many who had survived.
One of his patients, 16-year-old schoolgirl Rouite Tisma, had been found alive under the rubble of her schoolhouse. Knowing she had been at the school, her frightened father searched the site, calling her name for any sign of life. He finally heard a small sound from beneath the collapsed stone building indicating she was still alive. Three days later, they dug her out of the rubble. Her right leg was crushed, and her left forearm and hand swollen. But she and the family rejoiced that she was simply alive.
‘Network of mutuality’
How does the extreme poverty of Haiti affect Tennesseans? The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.’’ Even in this landlocked state, there is a robust global health community addressing emergency relief, prevention of disease, education, extreme poverty and sustainable health care in developing nations.
Hope Through Healing Hands’ Tennessee Global Health Coalition boasts more than 60 in-state members, including nonprofit organizations, churches, universities and corporations who touch lives in almost every country in the world.
At the time the earthquake hit in Haiti, the coalition had been in existence for six months. Yet, even in that short period, the partners were able to quickly and efficiently communicate with one another the needs, intentions and goals to begin the work of relief.
Mobile Medical Disaster Relief inoculated thousands of Haitian children against tetanus and diphtheria. Soles 4 Souls committed to providing more than 1 million pairs of shoes to Haitians. And Sweet Sleep shipped beds, mattresses and linens for children newly orphaned, for a clean, safe place to sleep.
On this anniversary of one of the most devastating earthquakes in history, we are reminded of King’s “inescapable network of mutuality.’’ Wonderful local groups and individuals are changing lives in forgotten corners of the world, albeit quietly, from right here in our own backyards. Tennessee’s volunteer spirit is alive and well.
We applaud the global efforts of these groups on behalf of Tennessee and the United States, using health as a currency for peace. In this increasingly globalized world, these countries are our neighbors in the world village, and addressing poverty — whether in Pulaski or Port-au-Prince — means a better, safer world for us all.
Jenny Eaton Dyer, Ph.D., is the executive director of Hope Through Healing Hands.