When she made her first trip to Haiti, Carolyn Dikes thought she’d be helping the island nation recover from a magnitude 7.0 earthquake that struck in 2010.
The physician assistant, one of the founders of Team Redwood, said her idea was that she and her teammates will work themselves out of a job. But eight years after the earthquake and 10 visits later, Dikes says “it just seems like every year it’s more and more and more.”
“I didn’t think I’d be going back,” Dikes said of her first visit to Haiti. “But (our) translators asked us to do this.”
Dikes and nurse Laura Roberts returned from Team Redwood’s latest trip to Haiti on Jan. 25. While there, the 11 member team, which consists of medical providers from Texas, Napa, Redding and Del Norte County, visited nine orphanages and provided care for hundreds of adults and youngsters.
The translators Team Redwood works with are connected with an orphanage, school or feeding program the team visits, Dikes said. This year Team Redwood delivered about 1,020 pounds of food to each orphanage. Team members administered more than 1,100 doses of Albenza, a drug used to treat roundworms in children and adults, handed out sunglasses and reading glasses and tested the water supply at most orphanages.
Team Redwood also delivered care packages to each orphanage that included fungal shampoo and medicine to treat tinea capitis, a fungal infection of the scalp. The care packages also included toothbrushes and toothpaste, a large first-aid kit, Ziploc bags with assorted sizes and styles of bandages, hydrocortisone creams, anti-fungal creams, Neosporin, puzzles, books, manicure kits, regular shampoo, conditioner and lotion, medical lotions and flash cards.
Team Redwood also held first responder classes at each orphanage, which drew 25-30 people each day who are then able to train others. On future visits, Dikes said, Team Redwood will work with Deliverance pour Tous, a faith-based relief organization in Haiti, to focus more on train the trainer courses rather than holding community clinics. She noted that while it’s needed, there other relief groups hold community clinics.
“We’re going to work really really hard with this group on getting more train the trainer type programs,” Dikes said. “We talked about possibly having a couple of days where they can spend an hour at each station and we can rotate those.”
Team Redwood would still visit the orphanages in Haiti.
“We’re still going to do a food drop, we’re still going to worm them (and) we’re still going to fluoride their teeth,” Dikes said.
This year with only 200 doses of fluoride, Dikes and Team Redwood decided to provide treatment to a church in Fontamara associated with one of their drivers, Omega Sully. After providing fluoride to hundreds of orphanages for several visits, Dikes said most of the children she sees are virtually cavity-free, while the youngsters at Omega’s and Johnny’s, another orphanage in Fontamara, have quite a few cavities.
There are also those youngsters they see at each visit to monitor their growth and development, Dikes said. A 10-year-old boy at Life Christian Orphanage in Port-au-Prince named Davidson is one of them.
“He had extra-pulmonary TB, which means (tuberculosis) that goes outside of his lungs,” Dikes said, adding that Davidson is on chronic steroid therapy. “It was in his brain, his liver and his heart, several organs. We’ve been able to keep him on his chronic annual medications every year and now he looks like a normal kid.”
Dikes said malnutrition leaves many of the youngsters Team Redwood visits with stunted growth. They are also often infected with worms, she said, which contributes to the malnutrition.
“We load up those cups and there’ll be trays and trays and trays of worming medicine and trays and trays and trays of Gatorade,” she said of the worming stations the team run. “They get one worm dose, Gatorade and a sticker. It’s amazing to see them before you give them the Gatorade, cause they’re all just kind of tired and mopey and sitting around. Then you rehydrate them with this Gatorade and suddenly you have 100 happy jumping yelling playing kids.”
Dehydration is also a big problem for people in Haiti, Dikes said. But after several visits, the number of people Team Redwood has treated for dehydration has decreased, she said.
One of the highlights of the trip this year helping Omega Sully with his feeding program, Dikes said. Sully feeds about 200 children every month and fed the Team Redwood volunteers. Team Redwood members also found itself the judges in an Iron Chef competition among their translators.
“They decided they would host us for lunch at each orphanage,” Dikes said.
“We had to decide who made the best beans and rice and who had the best Creole sauce,” Roberts added.
“It was a tie between Omega’s and Mexny’s,” Dikes said, referring to an orphanage the team visited in Canaan. “Mexny’s mother and her staff cooked for us there and they are vegan. They had these wheat balls — they look like meatballs, but they were wheat balls — they were really good.”
Although each Team Redwood volunteer pays their own way to Haiti, the organization holds fundraisers all year long to replenish its pharmacy and purchase food and supplies. Donations are accepted by clicking on a PayPal link at teamredwood.org.