Three students are going with a group of 10 to Haiti on a medical mission. The group leaves Sunday, April 6 and returns Monday, April 14.
Lexi Crocker, 15, a sophomore at Moose Lake High School; Mitchell Weller, 16, a junior at Barnum High School; and Richie Parzy, 15, a sophomore at Barnum High School, will accompany their grandparents as they make their annual trek to Haiti on a medical mission.
"We have seen our grandmother going on medical missions since we were younger," said Richie. "We asked when we could go. She told us when we were 15 or 16."
Richie and Mitchell are grandsons of Joan Guite, one of the people who takes part in the medical mission trip each year. Lexi is the granddaughter of Marilyn and Charlie Cluka, who also have gone each year, although Charlie will not be going this year. Marilyn is the coordinator.
"They were 10 or 11 when I first started doing this," said Joan. "I saved up some money for them so they could go this time."
The kids also earned funds through fundraisers, such as selling sweet corn. Funds were also raised from selling ARCO coffee at pancake breakfasts and from donations.
Thrivent Financial for Lutherans matched the funds raised at the breakfasts, said Joan.
She also sold jam made from berries at her husband's berry farm.
"My grandparents have been going to Haiti since I was 5," said Lexi. "They went to Nicaragua first. They took a foster daughter. She just loved it."
Joan explained about the medical mission.
"We work out of a village called Little Guinea," she said. "This year we will be going to other villages, too. We will haul all of our medications and buy more down there to boost their economy. It costs more to bring an extra 50-pound bag so we are each bringing one. There will be little room for personal items."
Lexi explained they will share room in a suitcase for a small amount of clothing, and they will rinse out their clothes often.
"We have been trying to get the kids to think about what the food will be like when we are there," said Joan. "They will have a lot of rice and beans. If they get any meat, it will be a small piece of beef or chicken."
Space is also needed for snacks. Richie and Mitchell said snacks will be more important than clothing to them.
The medical mission will be signed off by a local doctor, and the group will work under the direction of a doctor in Haiti. Joan and Marilyn are both nurses. Joan is retired.
"We will have jobs in the pharmacy, and we will be checking people in," explained Richie. "We will weigh them, and check their blood pressures and temperatures."
"We will play with the kids and keep them busy," added Mitchell.
Lexi said they will also be counting out pills and packaging them for patients.
The students will also interact with Haitian students in their English classes one day while they are there.
The group will stay at Jacob's Well, a Christian youth camp run by missionaries.
"Pastor Valcin and his wife, Betty, are trying to make the camp self-sufficient," said Joan. "They have planted fruit trees, like pineapple, mango and bananas. They plan to sell the produce and help the village by hiring workers. The trees were planted fairly recently. I don't know how long it will be before they start bearing fruit."
The group will fly to Port au Prince, and then be flown to Cap-Haitien. From there they will be taken in an open truck to Little Guinea.
"A lot of people walk to the clinic," said Joan. "They really need our help."
The group doesn't carry narcotics. Most of the medications are common pain relievers.
"If we get someone with a broken arm or leg, we like to have something that we can give them," said Joan. "We always feel safe and secure. People are very cordial to us. We have developed friendships over the years."
Joan explained the students are not going on a vacation. They are going to work and learn about service and about giving back. They will also be speaking to the Haitian teens about resisting temptations that young people face.
Voodoo is still practiced in Haiti. The group will minister to the people about Christianity.
"There used to be 13 voodoo priests there," said Joan. "It is now down to one. Those who have turned to Christianity are young Christians. We hope that there will be interaction between them and the members of our group."
The students are pleased they are about to leave on their long-awaited trip.
"I think it will be a really good experience," said Richie. "We will get to see what the rest of the world is like. Instead of seeing it on the news, we will be there and see the way they do things down there.
"We will appreciate everything that we have here after we get back."
"This trip will teach us to put other people's needs before our own," said Lexi. "We will see what other people need to do to survive. I am looking forward to making an impact there and helping.
"When my grandpa went down there, it changed his life. He quit his job."
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance," said Mitchell. "We will get to do what many people don't get to do. Kudos to my grandma for paying for this trip."
Donations are still being accepted for the trip. People can deposit funds in an account at First National Bank in Moose Lake under Joan Guite – Haiti.