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Weyburn man encourages charity after helping in Haiti

North Weyburn resident Lowell Peterson took the "trip of a lifetime" when he travelled to Haiti after a devastating earthquake rocked the country. Now, he is encouraging others to do the same.
Lowell Peterson sat with a sick young girl during his stay at a medical clinic in Port-au-Prince.

North Weyburn resident Lowell Peterson took the "trip of a lifetime" when he travelled to Haiti after a devastating earthquake rocked the country. Now, he is encouraging others to do the same.

Lowell spoke at the Weyburn Free Methodist Church on May 16 to inspire others with his story about helping-out at a clinic in Port-au-Prince, Haiti soon after the 7-magnitude earthquake devastated much of the country in January.

"I am sure that if you had the chance half of you would have gone," said Lowell to the audience at the church. "Just look for the ways that God can use you."

The Free Methodist Church is doing their part with the Help Haiti Heal Fund. The church has had two fundraisers so far, including a tea and dessert sale after Lowell's talk.

The church would also like to get a group together to travel to Haiti to do mission work. They plan to have their first meeting about the trip in June. Anybody interested can speak to Missions Coordinator Bev Alexander.

"Hopefully we can get a team together," said Alexander. "We hope to be able to rebuild a school."

As for Lowell, he travelled to Haiti with a medical team gathered by former area resident Dr. John Bailey, retired dentist living in Dallas, Texas. The group travelled care of the Caris Foundation, which sends volunteer medical teams to disaster sites around the world.

As the only team member without medical training, Lowell's job was to see to the physical aspects of their work at the tented clinic the team was assigned to. He ran the generators, fetched necessary medical supplies and clean drinking water, which was in constant need in the hot, balmy weather of Port-au-Prince.

"I was just a slug from Canada that flipped the breakers on, but the doctors and nurses were the real miracle workers," said Lowell.

The clinic had been set up by a Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) from the U.S. Army, who had since pulled-out after responding to medical emergencies immediately after the earthquake. Lowell's team worked on physiotherapy, wound care and treated dehydration and malnourishment.

"Treating infection and treating people for potential infections was one of the critically important things we did," Lowell said.

The clinic was adjacent to one of many "tent cities" that popped-up across the country after the earthquake had toppled buildings and crumbled homes.

"There were thousands of people living in the tent city," said Lowell. "Apparently, there's over one million people living in tent cities."

The clinic was surrounded by razor wire for security purposes and guarded by a squad from the 82nd Airborne Regiment based out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Lowell related a story about two doctors that had been kidnapped from a clinic without protection while he was in Haiti. One of the doctors was returned safely before he left for Canada.

"Security is a major problem there," said Lowell.

The team had to be careful about what they ate while in Haiti, as well, surviving mostly on army rations, such as squeezable cheese and pre-made meal packets.

"It was actually pretty good," Lowell chuckled.

Lowell discovered that he also had to be careful about making donations while in Haiti. While taking their daily ride in the back of a truck to get from the clinic to the two-bedroom apartment the 12-member team was set-up in, Lowell attempted to hand-out his leftover rations, inciting a mob.

"I gave a packet to one little boy, only to have another little boy tackle him for it," said Lowell.

Although Lowell gave his clothes, sleeping bag and books he had brought with him from home to different people in Port-au-Prince, he hopes that he left something more important with the people of Haiti - hope.

"When I wasn't caring for their medical needs, I was caring for their spiritual needs," said Lowell.

Lowell handed-out foam Frisbees and suckers to the children he met.

"It did bring a lot of joy," Lowell assured.

Lowell spoke about the many patients at the clinic that touched his heart and how he was able to help them. He found a private space and an empty cot for a young woman who had been sexually assaulted by a group of men; crafted custom-made crutches for a 2-year-old boy that had his foot amputated; and gave a pair of his gloves to a man who had lost a finger.

"He leapt up and gave me a big hug," Lowell reminisced.

Although Lowell saw widespread devastation in Haiti, he has hope for the future of the country.

"The people are actually quite resilient," said Lowell. "It's their country that's been rocked."

Lowell said that Haiti has a long road ahead of them tearing down damaged buildings, cleaning-up and rebuilding their country.