Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world with 80 per cent of its population living under the poverty line. Without access to adequate food, water or sanitation, they're exposed to diseases that could easily be prevented.
Fifteen percent of children in rural Haiti die before their fifth birthday. Others are left alone, following the death of their mother at childbirth. But local volunteers are trying to improve the well being of children and mothers in this region. Drive through Jeremie, Haiti, and it's easy to see why the people here struggle to care for their basic health needs.
"They enjoy seeing us down there," said Emergency Room Nurse Sheri Platek. "They're smiling and happy but when you talk to them you realize how hard their life is."
A hard life nurse Platek saw firsthand in October. She and other Avera McKennan health professionals go there each year. They bring supplies, medicine and help out the local nurses.
"We go down there and teach and we set up an outpatient clinic up on the mountain village," she said. Volunteers say the Haitian people have a proud and resilient spirit despite a life of extreme poverty.
Nurses like Kathy English say they see their efforts pay off each year they return. She was there to help prevent deaths from childhood malnutrition. Many children die each year from preventable diseases.
"That was very hard to see," she said. "Children born in this country would have gone to live their lives out."
Each year, a select group of about 13 Avera employees volunteer to go to Jeremie. The employees pay their own way and spend approximately one week. Many return every year.
To make a donation to the Haitian Health Foundation, please call the Avera Health Foundation at 605-322-4759 or visit the foundation website at www.avera.org.
If you have questions call 877-AT-AVERA or visit this website: www.averamckennan.org