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Volunteers reflect on lessons to and from young Haitians

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By Rikki King
Herald Writer
EVERETT — With skills came confidence.
The ability to set a broken bone. How to use a fire extinguisher. The way to staunch the flow of blood from a wound.
Eight volunteers from Everett spent nine days in Haiti in May teaching first-aid and disaster response skills to young people.
They are still reflecting on the lessons from that trip, and a fundraiser for Haiti is set for next week.
The trip was organized by the Everett-Port Gardner Rotary, the Healing the Children charity, the city of Everett's Community Emergency Response Team and the Green Cross trauma and disaster response group.
They traveled to an isolated mountain village outside the capital city of Port-au-Prince, which was devastated by an earthquake in 2010.
The village, called Merger, has no hospital, no police officers and no paramedics, said Mary Schoenfeldt, who works in emergency management for the city of Everett.
The village population has more than doubled as people fled the capital after the earthquake, she said.
The villagers wanted help establishing emergency response centers — central locations for supplies and those with needed skills in case of another earthquake or other disaster.
They asked for a program that would boost confidence in young people and give them something productive to do, Schoenfeldt said.
The volunteers targeted those aged 12-17. The idea was that the teens could share what they learned with children and grownups in the village, she said.
Seventy-five young people showed up for class every day. Some walked for hours to get there. Adults from the community also lined the room.
They taught the teens how to keep an injured person breathing, how to check someone's circulation, how to free people trapped in collapsed buildings.
The teens spoke French Creole, so the volunteers used translators, hand gestures, charades, and lots of pictures and visuals to communicate, Schoenfeldt said.
“With each thing we taught, there was a story,” she said.
One of the girls was 9. She had broken her wrist a few years ago. The injury was never treated or splinted, leaving her hand unusable. A local pastor had been among the earthquake rescuers.
The volunteers left behind donated supplies, such as bandages, medical ointments and fire extinguishers.
Before, there was a single fire extinguisher in the village, and the owner didn't know how to use it, Schoenfeldt said.
At the end of the trip, the volunteers chose seven teens to be emergency leaders in their community going forward.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449;
The Haiti Hoopla
The fundraiser and silent auction is set for 5 to 8 p.m. Aug. 28 at Port Gardner Bay Winery. Tickets are $25.
The city of Everett's next Community Emergency Response Team class is scheduled to run from Oct. 1 to Nov. 22. Classes are 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesdays.
More information: 425-257-7965.

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