Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti

Saving Lives, Changing Lives

Thursday, July 1, 2010

This year marks a centennial of a sort for HAS; it is the 100th birthday of Larry Mellon, and it was observed here in Deschapelles with several days of celebration, along with the 54th anniversary of the hospital.

In the past several years, the locus of the HAS birthday events has shifted from being held inside the hospital to out in the community, in order to ensure that both employees and local residents can share in the reflections about the hospital’s achievements. Our closest partners at the community level, the Organization for Economic and Social Development (ODES) has served as the official host and coordinator of the events, with the active support each year by Mme LeGrand Mellon, the widow of Billy Mellon.
The day-long celebration on the 26th was preceded by a week of evening musical events in the outdoor pavilion of the Belizaire-Mellon boutique, which exhibited models of new products emerging from the crafts shops in ceramics (brilliant new colors), cotton rugs, and furniture (new, contemporary designs, along with the antique reproductions).

On the day of the birthday, a large crowd convened in the Catholic Church at the end of the corridor, in a ceremony which was led by the lay pastor, Vanes Dutreuil, who is also our surveyor. This was followed by a parade up the corridor, led by the Fanfare brass band, and the brightly-uniformed young coordinated marchers. After circling the hospital, the crowd returned to the ODES site, where they were welcomed with a prayer from Pastor Sonnal (returning from New York for the event), and several musical selections interspersed with reflections from the oldest HAS alumnus, a community leader, Mme Billy (LeGrand, in her Deschapelles persona), and your Managing Director.

Special guests of the day’s celebrations were a large number of people who were in the process of receiving and using new limbs from the Hanger Clinic. Many of them walked down the road from their residence in l’Escale, on their new prostheses or crutches. This is almost the half-year marker since the January earthquake, which caused the injuries suffered by many of the patients. The day, however, was a day of celebration and liberation, led at the end of the program by a rap which was written and performed by two of the patients.

In observing the 100th birthday of Larry Mellon, the point was made that when he was young, his mother always read to him from the Bible at night, and one of the passages which she frequently chose was the one which notes that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter Heaven. Larry recalled those verses when, later in life, he was presented with the opportunity to establish a hospital in Haiti.

The formal events were followed by several popular soccer matches on the HAS field; in the first one, an inexperienced but disciplined team of girls from Deschapelles beat a well-equipped team from Petite Riviere, and the under-13 boys from Deschapelles battled an older-looking team from Verettes to a 1-1 tie. The large screen TV on the basketball court which was showing World Cup games went virtually ignored as the feisty locals were cheered on by their neighbors.

A long day came to an end, having covered the gamut of emotions from celebration, thoughtful reflection on the losses which have been sustained recently, and the joy which comes with a return to mobility.

If the hospital and the community can pause at the half-way marker of the Year of the Earthquake with such grace and humor, it bodes well for many joyful celebrations to come.