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Michelle spent over a month in the Dominican Republic working on AmeriCares Haitian earthquake relief efforts and Dominican medical aid programs. After the 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated Port-au-Prince on January 12, 2010, thousands of desperate Haitians fled their destroyed homes and crossed into the Dominican Republic, urgently seeking medical aid, shelter and safety. Working during the height of emergency relief efforts in January and February, Michelle met a young earthquake survivor named Sarah who still touches her heart today. Here is Sarah’s story.
During my visit to the border city of Jimani in the Dominican Republic, I experienced firsthand the strength of the Haitian people and the compassion of their Dominican neighbors. I witnessed the dedicated staff at the San José Nutrition and Formation Center nurse a 2-year-old earthquake survivor back to health.
The Center wasn’t even officially opened when the earthquake struck, but a local priest helped organize it as a makeshift emergency hospital, serving the earthquake’s most vulnerable survivors – children.
During my visit, a young girl about 2 years old was brought in by a stranger. He provided little information about the girl before leaving her behind; he knew only that both of her parents had been killed in the earthquake. The little girl had been rescued from beneath the rubble of a collapsed home.
No one knew her name or age and, whether from trauma or shyness, she would not speak very much. The nurses decided to call her “Sarah” and remarked on her sweet nature as she never cried. Sarah always smiled at the nurses who would cradle her.
Sarah continued to quietly play and smile. She loved to “play house” and would rub clothes between her hands. When asked what she was doing, she would say “washing clothes!”.
Doctors at the Center soon noticed that when Sarah tried to play with the other children, she walked with a severe limp and often needed to hold onto objects for support. Sarah knew only vague baby words in Creole, and could not express or explain her pain, she never cried.
When doctors took an x-ray of Sarah’s leg, they discovered immediately that she had fractured her leg in multiple places. They quickly reset her bones and fit her with a full leg cast. I was happy to hear that volunteer doctors expected Sarah to make a speedy recovery.
As AmeriCares continues to support people in need in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, we look forward to helping many young children like Sarah grow up to be happy, healthy adults.