Fundraising dinner benefits Haitian child nutrition program

MINDEMOYA—It is a tradition and a way of life on Manitoulin Island; when a call comes to help those in need, Islanders come out in droves to help and this was the case this past Monday as a Haiti fundraising dinner was held at the Mindemoya Missionary Church. While organizers had hoped for a gathering of between 80-120 members of the public, their goals were exceeded by a total of $5,452 in donations (through a free will offering) being made by the 175 people in attendance.

As reported previously, a local group of 12 medical and construction personnel are headed to the Haiti clinic Dr. Tiffany Keenan founded in Bas Limbe. The fundraising dinner was held specifically to raise funds to feed children who are living in poverty.

“I certainly did not expect to have this many people here tonight,” stated medical team organizer Huguette Ray (a registered nurse at MHC is Mindemoya). “I had hoped we would get 80 people here tonight, but there must be at least 150 people sitting here this evening. It’s fantastic.”

Ms. Ray, a member of the Haiti Team 2014, introduced the rest of the members of the team including registered nurses (RN) Debbie and Glenn Hallett, Larry and Laura Watson (RN), Dr. Mike Bedard, who spearheaded the project, paramedics Bill Cranston and Monic-Rochon Shaw, nurse practitioner Tara Rollins, RN Angie Panton, Dr. Nick Jeeves, and Michelle Noble (RN).

As visitors filed into the church hall the sounds of Haitian music could be heard, and the room was filled with the savoury smells of delectable Haitian food. Ms. Ray also had a display of many items she had brought from her birthplace for the evening, adding to the taste of the Haitian evening.

Monic Rochon-Shaw explained to the gathering, “here’s why we are doing this tonight. All the members of our team will be paying for their own trip to Haiti. We are not raising funds for our trip. What we are raising money for this evening is that Haiti suffers of malnutrition, it is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, and we are raising funds for medika mumba, which in Haitian means ‘medicinal peanut butter,’ for children. One-hundred percent of the funds being raised tonight is going towards that.”

Ms. Rochon-Shaw pointed out the medika mumba has an 85 percent success rate in boosting children’s nutrition and weight. “The prior nutrition bars they had provided for children in this program always used milk-based products and they only had a 25 percent success rate (in providing the necessary nutrients for a child to grow bigger).

“And the 85 percent success rate is carried out in an incredibly short period of time,” said Ms. Rochon-Shaw. She explained that children see an average weight gain of four grams/kilograms per day per child taking the medika mumba. Each child goes through a 6-8 week treatment.

“The cost for a child to be part of this 6-8 week program is $100 per child,” said Ms. Rochon-Shaw. “

On a video screen, everyone in attendance had the opportunity to see a before and after photograph of young Haitian child Marie-Ange, which showed the benefits of her having been on the program. “She was two-and-a-half pounds when she was presented for the program, and after having gone through the program she was 20 pounds,” said Ms. Rochon-Shaw. She noted that the young girl had been in the program at the same time as both her sister and her brother.

“Both of their parents had worked two weeks to get the $1.60 it costs to get the kids in the program,” pointed out Ms. Rochon-Shaw, explaining with the program parents are expected to share in some of the costs.

“I would like to thank all of you for being here this evening,” said Ms. Ray. “I can’t thank the members of the Mindemoya Missionary Church and volunteers enough for all you have done for this evening. When Monic brought forward the idea of holding this dinner here, the church decided to put on the dinner. They have cooked, did all the work, and I would like to thank the church members and volunteers who put on this fantastic dinner.”

“The best part of the medical team going to Haiti in January is that there is a construction team going as well,” said Ms. Ray. “When Larry Watson found out about the trip and our team, he said ‘yes,’ he wanted to lead the construction team. So Larry, Mike Bedard and Glen Hallett will be the construction team on our trip.”

“One thing we have done is open a bank account with all the Bank of Montreal locations on Manitoulin Island, in mine and Monic’s name,” said Ms. Ray. She pointed out, “in the two weeks it has been opened we have received $1,000 in donations…it is so touching that people are so generous in helping people from Haiti.”

A 15-minute video was then played, explaining the work the Haiti Team 2014 will be carrying out in Haiti.

Ms. Ray has a personal connection to the mission, as she is originally from Haiti and is anxious to return to offer her skills to help improve the medical health of the community.

The dual purpose team will be setting out to assist Haiti Village Health (HVH) meet their mission aim of providing “sustainable care for the Bas Limbe region in Haiti by employing local medical and support staff and providing them with the training, tools and support to allow them to be self-sufficient by 2015.”

The organizations website states that the vision of HVH is for “the provision of sustainable medical care and evidence based public health initiatives that improve the health of all members of the communities in the Bas Limbe region of northern Haiti.”

“Our approach is to provide education and material support for medical staff and community health workers while meeting reasonable objectives and targets,” the website continues. “We aim to improve maternal and child health and reduce maternal, neo-natal and child mortality in line with Millennium Development Goals.”

Specifically, the Mindemoya relief mission is focussed on four key goals: to provide outpatient medical care through a general medical clinic, to ensure access to clean water and sanitation for all households in the Bas Limbe region, to decrease childhood mortality and to improve maternal health.

“We will be helping out at the clinic in Bas Limbe for 10 days, serving people in a five mile radius,” said Ms. Rochon-Shaw. “The Haitian doctor who is there will be dividing us up into teams and we will go out into the communities. And all the doctors and nurses on the team will report back to the Haitian doctor at the end of each day.”

“This whole project idea started with Mike (Bedard),” Ms. Ray told the Recorder. “He was the one who really wanted to go to Haiti to undertake this project. Now there are 12 of us going, and we will be meeting another doctor from Minnesota Dr. Brett Nienaber on the visit.”

The dinner itself, which was made up of many Haitian dishes on the menu, was in a word, delicious.

Tom Sasvari