Haiti Update: News from Union's Relief Team

Union College’s fourth Haiti relief team returns to Lincoln

Updated on March 23, 2010

After spending a week in Haiti, a team of 34 volunteers connected to Union College returned to Lincoln early Saturday morning. The team, which consisted of Union College students, faculty, parents and medical professionals, spent the week staffing public health clinics, assisting staff at the Adventist Hospital of Haiti, and building up infrastructure for volunteer housing facilities.

The trip included a day-long bus ride over rough roads into the rural north part of the country near Cap-Haitien to operate a mobile clinic at a donated residence. The trip took much longer than expected, so the group only stayed for one day before returning to the Port-au-Prince area. The rest of trip volunteers worked in the local public health clinic and also provided basic health care and fun for children at nearby orphanages. Several of the medical professionals spent most of the week working in the Adventist Hospital of Haiti.

Jason Warren, a senior nursing major, found the experience to be good training for his life calling, to ultimately work in a developing country. “We did a lot of clinics, taking blood pressure and vitals, and interviewing patients through an interpreter,” he said.

Brittany Nunez arrived in Haiti just two weeks after the earthquake with Union College’s second relief team to the decimated country. In Haiti again over spring break, she saw people were returning to normal lives. “But what is normal?” asked the senior international rescue and relief major. “Normal is walking barefoot through the trashy street and buying food off the ground at a dirty market where dogs and cats wander through everything. It’s finding a tarp to tack up to fix leak in your tent.”

Nunez found that even among so much need, helping even a few made a difference. “When I came back the first time it was hard to see school work as meaningful,” she said. “I jumped at the chance to go back because I wanted to make a difference in even a few people’s lives.”

Kylie Schnell, a junior education major felt called to go to Haiti since the first images of the quake crossed television screens in January. “’I’ve got to go to Haiti,’ I told myself. I wanted to love those kids and hug them and tell them it will be okay.”

Without IRR or medical training, Schnell did not go on the early trips to Haiti. But the time frame of the trip, originally planned as a mission trip to Belize, allowed more students to go. “We were able to do a lot with children, which was good” explained John Thomas, assistant director of the international rescue and relief program who led all four Union teams to Haiti. “A lot of adults in the northern area had never seen anything done for children before and they were very impressed.”

Part of the group stayed at base during the trip north and built bunk beds for sleeping quarters used by volunteers at the clinic, hospital and other nearby aid organizations. During the rainy season the ground in the tent sleeping quarters stays quite damp, so volunteers appreciate being able to sleep on a dry bed above the ground.

Like the other volunteers, Nunez knows that Haiti’s problems are far from over. “We can help with a stomach ache and headache,” she explained. “But when we leave, the chronic problems are going to resurface. They need long term health care and so much more.”


You can help fund Union’s relief effort in Haiti by giving a tax-deductible donation via credit card. To designate the Haiti trip, please select “other” as the gift designation and then type “IRR Haiti.”

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