PORTLAND -- It’s human nature. After the initial shock of a natural disaster passes, we tend to forget about it. Often these tragedies happen in a different part of the world and seem removed from our daily lives. But after visiting Haiti, one Portland woman just couldn’t forget what she saw and felt.
“Patients would come and walk for miles and they would be waiting in line literally for hours,” recalls OHSU Nurse Practitioner Charmika Schuster. She was shocked by what she saw in Haiti after the devastating 7.0 earthquake. Scenes of hunger, disease and despair were evident everywhere - not days after the quake or even weeks, but a full year after the shaking stopped. That was the first time Charmika visited Haiti, but it wouldn’t be the last.
“You go there and see the needs and, to me, to witness the needs and not do anything about it is worse than not doing at all,” said Charmika the day before she left for Haiti, her third trip in the past 18 months.
Among the supplies Charmika gathered for the trip were drugs for the mobile clinic and vitamins for the orphanages, and smaller things for children like colored hair bands. Holding one up, Charmika said: “This will be like an Ipod to a Haitian child.”
Charmika will join with other medical professionals to take health care to some of Haiti’s most neglected and dangerous slums. “That’s where the help is needed and you know we go where other teams won’t go.”
They will also train local Haitians to become community health workers so people have a place to turn for help when the volunteers are gone.
It’s not where most of us would choose to spend our vacation time, but Charmika is drawn back by the people she has met, like the young mother she met with a starving and seriously ill child living in a dark 3x6 shack.
“It was the most horrific thing I think I have ever seen,” says Charmika.
She knows she can’t do enough to help everyone, but she feels that doing nothing is not an option.
“The need is massive there, and it can be overwhelming. But for the one or two people you do help, you’ve made a difference for them.”
Charmika’s organization “Global Mustard Seeds” is becoming a non-profit and hopes to eventually expand beyond Haiti to other struggling countries.