Ann Arbor church members raise money for Haiti "step-by-step" with Dexter-Ann Arbor run
Dexter resident Deb Hutton has been to Haiti several times — even making a couple trips after the devastating earthquake struck the Caribbean nation earlier this year.
But it was her most recent trip last month with fellow members of the First Presbyterian Church in Ann Arbor that really struck a nerve for her.
"I was hopeful there'd be so much put together by now," Hutton said. "It's still chaotic."
Hutton and others were participating in a medical mission trip in Haiti as part of decade-long effort by the church to help people there. Now, the church has redoubled those efforts to raise awareness and money for the need in Haiti.
That includes putting together a team of more than 40 people to raise money by running in the Dexter-Ann Arbor Run on Sunday.
The church's team, called Team First Pres, has raised more than $3,000 this year toward its efforts through the run and other fundraisers.
In particular, the team is raising money for an organization called Pazapa, which appropriately means "step-by-step" in Creole. The Pazapa Center for Handicapped Children in Jacmel, Haiti, is a school meant to help offer treatment, education, and support to help disabled children integrate into the community.
"People have found a lot of different ways to participate in this," said Rev. Jenny McDevitt of the First Presbyterian Church, who will be running the half-marathon. "I’ve been really surprised by how mnay folks have come out for that. It’s been really insprising from our congregation."
Theirs is one of 11 teams that have officially registered in this weekend's annual run to raise money for a variety of causes. The Dexter-Ann Arbor Run also has three official causes it will donate to - including the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, Hope Medical Clinic Inc. and the Michigan Blind Athletic Association.
Pazapa was destroyed in the earthquake but was able to offer assistance to families in need of food and tents. The organization is raising money to offer additional support to families and to eventually build a new facility, said Pinckney resident and church member Sue McKenzie, who serves on the U.S. board for Pazapa.
"The services available to people with disabilities there is so little compared to what's available in this country," she said.
Rebuilding is still a long way off, and help from the church will need to be a long-term investment, McKenzie said. "Haiti isn't ready for rebuilding," McKenzie said. "They haven't even cleared the rubble in most places. They are really still in shock."
Church members said they worry the problems in Haiti are being forgotten while they grow increasingly problematic. For instance, hurricane season is approaching, which will likely cause standing water and more mosquitos - thus more disease and death among people already displaced from their homes and jobs, Hutton said.
A psychologist by trade, Hutton was offering classes during her recent trip in techniques for handling anxiety and stress without medications, which can be limited in consistent quantities. Standing before one class, she said one might never guess how greatly the psychological impact of the earthquake was still affecting Haitians, who she described as "stoic."
But after asking around, she learned many of them suffered post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms like nightmares, flashbacks, trouble eating or sleeping, and anxiety. It struck her that the ongoing impact of the earthquake would be hard for the typical American to understand, but compared it to the level of trauma on New Yorkers following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"Its population has had its homes destroyed, work places destroyed, maybe lost limbs and have lost family members or friends," Hutton said. "The human body is not equipped to handle that kind of stress all at one time."