Campus News

Bethel students spend their break differently by providing relief for Haiti

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Senior Joel Hartsell plays with a few kids from Annie's Orphanage (Photo by Shane McNeeley).
Senior Joel Hartsell plays with a few kids from Annie's Orphanage (Photo by Shane McNeeley).
“I saw children running around half-naked with torn shirts,” said sophomore Katie Ratering. “Children wore the same clothes every day. Families got about one meal a day, some not even that. People ate the hard corn intended for animals. At the market they sold cookies made of flour and dirt baked together. There were no garbage cans, the beaches and sides of the roads were packed with garbage. The marketplace was huge, hundreds of people trying to sell food with flies swarming them or other products. Some people lived in the marketplace, it was their homeless shelter. I saw children running the streets unattended.” This was the scene Ratering experienced during her trip to Haiti over spring break. She said she knew she had to go after hearing about the earthquake the day it happened in chapel. “I felt God tugging at my heart. I wanted to go on a missions trip for Spring Break, and thought, why not Haiti?” Ratering said. After that she decided to go with the Northwest Haiti Christian Mission. On her trip she was able to help out behind the scenes during surgeries that were performed by her team members, counted pills for a pharmacy, delivered meals to the elderly and was able to help out at a deaf school. Ratering found working at the deaf school exciting because she could use her major to help their culture. Ratering had a great experience and plans on going back some day after college, but she wasn’t the only student from Bethel who went to Haiti over Spring Break. Seniors Shane McNeeley, Nick Bartlett and Joel Hartsell were able to go, but the trip almost ended before it began. Many of the different organizations they tried to go with fell through. Two weeks before Spring Break they were set up with a team. According to McNeeley God really wanted them to be there so everything worked out in the end. Bartlett said the poverty aspect of Haiti greatly exceeded his expectations. “Haiti before the earthquake was a mess, then you throw in the earthquake on top of that,” said McNeeley. “Right now, I think it’s around 1.4 million people have lost their homes.” Bartlett said many citizens are still scared. “People are still scared to sleep inside,” he said. “People are still sleeping in tents. They say, ‘we have never had food or clothes, but we have always had houses. Now, we don’t even have houses.’” According to McNeeley some of the parts he saw weren’t as bad as they showed on the news. He said every two or three buildings were either severely damaged or collapsed and part of this was because of the building structure. All of the buildings are made up of cement blocks plus there lacked building codes unlike the ones in the States. With a massive earthquake there is obviously going to be some damage. “We saw buildings that were completely pancaked,” said McNeeley. “It’s hard to look at it and say there are still people inside of there. There is no way they got people out.” McNeeley and Bartlett saw one mass grave. Bartlett said it had at least 230,000 people in it and McNeeley said it was on the side of the road. They dug a hole, threw some the bodies in it, put garbage on top of them, and then threw some rocks on top. “I kept thinking there are a lot of rocks,” said McNeeley. “It’s very overwhelming. I can still picture it and me wondering, ‘I wonder if there are people under there.’” McNeeley, Bartlett and Hartsell’s main goal was to help rebuild wells while they were there, but that goal ended up changing. They still helped with them, but they also did other things. They did some reconstruction and painting on the first few days. “It was a need that needed to be done, but I think there is always a part of you that wants to do something greater,” said McNeeley. They also helped transport patients in the hospital, talked as best they could with the people of Haiti, and played with kids in a couple orphanages. In Annie’s Orphanage they met a boy named Giovani who had been trapped in a building for four days. Two cylinder blocks were pressed against his skull leaving two holes in his temple. He lost his whole family. His brother died on his arm and had begun to decay. So they amputated Giovani’s arm because of the disease. “The kids are starving for love and attention,” said McNeeley. “It took five minutes to make friends with them. One of the most beautiful and hardest things was when a kid named Simon told me he loved me. It only took a moment to realize what I needed to say back to him.” All four of the students who went to Haiti were impacted in just one week’s time. “It puts things in perspective for how good we have it,” said Bartlett. “The poor in America have nothing on the poor in Haiti, but God is definitely working there right now.” McNeeley agrees and said, “You can’t walk around after coming back form a place like that and not see things differently.”
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