Two White Rock women returned from a humanitarian mission to Haiti this summer with much more than memories and photos.
Project Aftershock founder Laura Mawhinney and friend Christina Bailey are working around the clock to ensure the world doesn’t forget about the devastated Caribbean country still reeling from the 2010 earthquake, after visiting in June.
After seeing the appalling conditions in the tent cities – the third time for Mawhinney since 2010 – the two women were determined to help, even after their 10-day mission wrapped up.
Through fundraising and grants, the duo have been raising funds to provide medical relief to the thousands struggling daily.
“Someone needs to adopt Haiti. It can’t make it on its own,” Mawhinney said.
While they have both been working on providing relief to as many people as they can, the opportunity to directly change a life for the better presented itself this summer in the form of a man named Robert, whom they met on their mission.
The father of two walked into the compound where the two woman were stationed providing medical relief, wearing rolled up pink shorts, caked with blood, a gash on his face from being struck by a car three days prior and other severe injuries sustained by rubble that fell on him all those years ago, trapping him for days after the earthquake.
“At first, we didn’t know what to do. He was so broken,” Mawhinney recalled. “That was the most pain and suffering I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of pain in the 3½ years I’ve been going.”
The two women, who are both heavily involved in their local church, saw Robert as someone sent from God that they were to help.
After praying with him, the girls sent him home with all the provisions they could offer him, with plans to check on him later.
In the spare time they had when not helping other injured and sick Haitians, Mawhinney and Bailey thought about what they could do for Robert.
“You can’t save everyone. You almost go in with this wall. Then I realized I had two cheques from two different friends for about $500,” Mawhinney recalled. “I ran up to Christina, and I screamed ‘I’m going to sponsor Robert and his kids.’
“You see someone who is living like that and as a human, you need to do something.”
After finalizing the details on how the money would come to Robert (funds cannot be given directly or else people may fight over the money, Mawhinney explained),. the duo decided to pay him a visit and share the news.
Upon entering the crowded make-shift home, both Mawhinney and Bailey were drawn to a baby.
“The eyes, I knew we had seen them before,” Mawhinney said.
After meeting the mother, it clicked. They had met before.
Prior to meeting Robert, Mawhinney and Bailey had been taken to a mother who had been severely injured after rubble crashed down on her and her family when the earthquake hit. The young woman was nursing her infant child with a shattered leg that had a temporary rod holding it together.
“The medics must have put it in, but when it came time to take it out, they may have left. So it was just left there,” Mawhinney said. “She was in so much pain, but she wanted us to take a photo of her baby all dressed up.
“She was still so full of life”
While there was not much they could do for the mother and baby, other than provide medical supplies and food, they planned to check on her before they left.
As they soon found out, Robert and the woman had married after both lost their spouses in the earthquake.
“We were shocked as his new wife was the lady with the baby who we just couldn’t get off our hearts from days earlier,” Mawhinney said.
Now, through the help of a church situated in the Haitian tent city in which Robert resides, Mawhinney and Bailey send money over to their adopted family.
Through the money from Mawhinney’s Marine Drive thrift store, Robert and his family have moved from living under a tarp to an apartment with water and electricity. The cost is $500 per year.
Mawhinney and Bailey are currently working to save up for the $1,000 surgery Robert’s wife requires to remove the iron rod in her leg.