2:05 p.m., Sept. 2, 2009----“My first trip to Haiti was to deliver soccer equipment I had collected as an Eagle Scout project in my hometown of Ramsey, N.J. A family friend had told me how the Haitian children played soccer with a rock or coconut, so when I brought balls, jerseys and other equipment to a village, the children were thrilled, and I felt I had achieved something,” said Matt Watters, a junior at the University of Delaware.
His next trips to Haiti during the past two summers as an emergency medical technician with the St. Boniface Haiti Foundation hospital left him with different feeling. He was doing hands-on medical procedures, basically learning on the job --helping with a cesarean delivery, caring for premature babies, digging a wooden spike out of a woman's leg, learning Creole so he could give talks on HIV/AIDS, and other challenges -- and at times, he confessed, he felt frustrated and helpless.
“While you help patients as much as you can, you know they are going back to a life of hunger and unhealthy conditions, and there is little you can do about it,” Watters said.
“Even something as basic as water is lacking. Children spend hours and walk miles a day to collect pails of drinkable water for their families and rummage for food in the garbage. Haiti is only 120 miles from the United States and the hospital was only 20 miles from the Dominican Republic but the difference is overwhelming,” Watters said.
The St. Boniface Haiti Foundation is a ray of hope, however. Founded by the parishioners of St. Boniface Catholic Church in Quincy, Mass., the foundation is trying to make inroads into the extreme poverty found in Haiti through healthcare and other initiatives.
Watters has undertaken a special project to help the foundation raise $25,000 to build a health clinic in a rural fishing village.
“St. Boniface has received grants for staff and programs from AIDS foundations and other organizations, but there is no money to actually build a clinic. The grants will fund staff for years and the foundation has been given land to build on so the effort is sustainable, but what they need is an actual building to house the clinic to serve the population who live miles away from the hospital,” Watters said.
Watters said he plans to talk to student groups on campus to interest them in the project. “It is just a step, but I want to do anything I can to help the Haitians, especially the children,” he said.
Watters said he loves being a student at UD, which has given him many opportunities, including being able to major in neuroscience and biochemistry and also study political science and economics. He also enjoys being an RA at Christiana Towers.
Watters said he plans to attend medical school and is interested in medical policy and economic issues involving third world countries. He has applied for scholarships and fellowships to visit other poor countries, such as Chad and Bangladesh, to learn firsthand how they manage medical care.
Article by Sue Moncure