It all started in 2003 for Partner Bill Lewis. His church was heading to Haiti for a mission trip, and Bill volunteered to go. He packed his bags, flew to Haiti and landed on a puddle jumper airplane whose landing strip was a compilation of dirt and grass. The goal was to build as many cisterns as possible so that the people of Haiti could have a better system for water. Reflecting on his experiences, Bill notes that every single day families traveled to and from the watering holes carrying bulky canisters filled with unpurified water so that they had something to drink and bathe with. The team got to work building the tanks right away, and the results have saved lives.
“Over the course of several years, we have built over 45 clean water cisterns which are delivering safe, clean water to over 7,000 people. Waterborne disease in areas where clean water is available has dropped to minimal amounts, including cholera, typhoid, diphtheria, and childhood diarrhea,” said Bill.
Bill’s next journey to Haiti was in 2010 after the devastating earthquake that left much of the country in shambles. He picked up a little of the creole language and helped join a team that built a local hospital, giving many who have injured a place for treatment and refuge. The devastation was evident, but the people of Haiti remained thankful for the contributions.
In March of 2017, Bill returned to the country again. This trip was based in Mombin Crochu, an impoverished town about 60 miles north of Port-au-Prince. Traveling with a pastor, a surgeon, and a handful of nurses and health care workers, Bill and the team were set on improving the quality of life for people who would otherwise not have received the same level of healthcare.
“During that week, the team performed 31 surgical procedures (including 5 major surgical cases), supplied glasses to over 70 people, treated 255 people at the local hospital for various illnesses, delivered over $1,000 in medicine and vitamins, and traveled to the mountains to treat patients that could not be seen in the hospital,” he revealed.
Bill provided assistance by fixing crucial medical equipment, aiding the nurses during surgery, calming down patients during procedures, and leading the team to a mountainous region that otherwise would not have received medical care. While he was there, Bill recalls a moment that impacted him greatly.
“We had a set schedule of who we were going to see. One of our cases involved a two-year-old girl who was badly burned when she knocked over the family cooking stove. Because there was no specialist in the area, her toes were amputated. This would not have happened in the U.S.,” he explained. “In addition, her skin grew back in a condition that resulted in the leg being bent in a contracted position. She would never have walked, and we knew we had to help her. Our team was able to release the leg and perform a skin graft. Her life will be immeasurably better.”
Bill also describes a teenager who was terrified to get treatment. The boy desperately wanted help but was afraid that the newcomers would amputate his legs, a procedure that the doctors in his country wanted to perform. His limbs were filled with infection and were completely raw due to parasites from the water. The teen eventually let the team treat him using a specialized medicine, and his legs showed a remarkable difference in just four days.
“When you go there and see how much we have and how little they have, it gives you a different perspective on life. I have so much that it is important to me to help others with so little. The people in Haiti are so happy and so nice, and they need just a little bit of help here and there.”
Whether it is creating a cistern, constructing a hospital, or being a reassuring presence for someone in need, Bill has a heart for Haiti. Every time he leaves, his luggage becomes a little lighter from the clothes and shoes he leaves behind for the villagers; his heart a little lighter too. Bill plans on continuing his efforts in Haiti.
“The work being done here is changing lives, and the care within the hospital itself is ongoing. These projects have impacted and will continue to impact, lives for the future, long after we have gone.”