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Bahr making Haiti mission trip

September 27, 2013
By Michael Tidemann - Staff Writer , Estherville News

On Oct. 19, Deb Bahr's life will change forever.

In a way, it already has.

On Oct. 19, she'll see firsthand things she's only heard of.

And on Oct. 19, she'll likely be challenged more than she ever has in her life.

And on Oct. 19, she'll find a piece of herself she never knew was there - a piece of herself given through the eyes and souls of others.

Bahr, OB coordinator at Avera Holy Family Hospital, is going to Jeremie, Haiti with 13 fellow Avera employees. They'll depart from Sioux Falls, S.D., flying first to Miami then to Port-au-Prince then take an island hopper to Jeremie on Haiti's southwest corner.

The medical facility they'll be going to was founded by a dentist in the 1980s and continues to be supported totally on donations.

There they'll find villagers who have hiked eight to 10 hours waiting patiently in line - waiting for hours, likely - as the medical teams scramble to treat them. Bahr said women and children will be the emphasis of this mission trip.

The team will do breast exams and take biopsies and pap smears which will be forwarded to Avera McKennan in Sioux Falls.

In one of the most politically unstable countries in the Western Hemisphere, and definitely the poorest, children as young as 6 are enslaved. Many children won't live to see 5, with tetanus, polio and malaria rampant. Bahr said it's common to see a woman bearing a dozen children with only five surviving.

The Haitian Health Foundation, which runs the facility, receives 97 percent of monies donated - an unbelievable percentage in the NGO world. People can adopt a family for $25 a month which provides shelter, food, education and helps support a small business.

A cement house can be built for $600 - something that's essential in a land where many homes are built of leaves and brush.

A bathroom that can serve several families - a necessity for proper sanitation and to protect ground water sources - and it costs just $175.

And the improvements are visible. As just one example, Bahr said women have been breast feeding later, resulting in fewer children.

Each worker - who pays his or her own way - will bring a 50-pound pack of supplies plus a carry-on with OTC medicine. They'll live within a compound.

"I think it's going to be overwhelming," said Bahr. "It's already made me much more aware of how lucky I am and what I have."

Bahr said monetary donations are more important now because the money is needed for prescription medicines.

The all-volunteer medical mission started 10 years ago, with groups going twice yearly. People don't have to work for Avera to go. Anyone who joins the mission, though, is responsible for the $800 airfare from the mainland and $65 a night to stay in the compound. There are also expenses for parking at the airport and the airfare from Port-au-Prince to Jeremie.

A benefit bake sale and silent auction will be held from 8-11 a.m. Monday, Sept. 30 at the Coleman Room at the hospital with proceeds going to help with expenses for the trip. They're also collecting new athletic shoes for girls ages 13-19 until Oct. 6. The shoes can be dropped off in the hospital lobby. Soccer, traditionally a boys' sport in Haiti, is quickly becoming a sport for girls who are getting better educational opportunities as well. Dr. Alexander Pruitt has even donated soccer balls for Jeremie.

Bahr gives particular credit to Sister Patrick Murphy who encouraged her to go and who was very supportive.

Donations may also be made at Avera Holy Family Hospital in Estherville.



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