By Sharon Salyer Herald Writer
Samuel Fertil bypassed two seats in his medical school classroom in Haiti, one in the front and one in the middle, before choosing one on the side.
It was a Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010. Fifteen minutes later, a magnitude 7 earthquake stuck, killing 37 of the 64 people in his classroom — including everyone in the two areas of the room where he had considered sitting.
He walked home that day to find his mother lying dead in the doorway. His father was trapped inside. Fertil carried him on his back for more than five miles to a hospital.
About one month later, Jamie Hatleberg, 42, a nurse at the Providence Regional Cancer Partnership, made her first trip to Haiti. Fertil was one of the students who worked with Hatleberg and other volunteers at a Haitian hospital.
“When I met Samuel, it changed my life,” Hatleberg said. She made herself promise: “I’m not going to leave you here living under a tent when you have a dream to be a doctor.”
It’s been two and a half years since she made that promise. On Saturday, Hatleberg will participate in her most ambitious project yet to benefit Haitian students.
She and Everett psychologist Kira Mauseth, 34, a fellow volunteer who has made eight trips to Haiti, are sponsoring a silent auction at Everett’s New Life Church. Their goal is to raise $20,000 to support the educational and training goals of nine students they have met on their trips.
The items at the silent auction, which include Haitian art, a dinner and sailing trip and a three-day stay at a cabin in Leavenworth, are valued at $10,000.
Mauseth, who teaches in the psychology department at Seattle University, has helped train nearly 600 Haitian volunteers to assist people with post traumatic stress disorder.
One day about nine months ago, Hatleberg called Brutus Riche, a Haitian who has worked as an interpreter for volunteers. He told her he had received an email from another American volunteer who was sponsoring him and wanted to sponsor other students, too.
Hatleberg asked for her phone number. Not only did the woman share the same area code, the woman, Mauseth, lived just down the street. “We live just four blocks from each other,” Hatleberg said.
Both shared a goal of finding ways to help a nation that even before the temblor was ranked one of the most impoverished in the Western Hemisphere.
“There are so many problems in Haiti, you have to start with individual successes of students who know what they want to do,” Mauseth said. They identified nine students, including Riche and Fertil, who showed promise and determination.
Fertil’s current out-of-pocket medical school cost is $2,000 a year. He also needs money for a laptop computer, rebuilding his demolished housing and transportation costs for a year.
Pictures and biographies of each of the students will be displayed at Saturday’s silent auction.
Among the experiences the students have overcome include being kidnapped, being used as a child servant or slave, living on the streets and being abandoned as an infant. Their goals are to work as physicians, counselors, a pastor and an engineer.
“In terms of development… Haiti won’t get fixed by Americans,” Mauseth said. “Haiti needs to get fixed by Haitians.”
Every year Hatleberg goes to Haiti she said she meets people and sees their dreams and hopes. “That’s our goal,” she said. “To help these people. Haiti has a place in my heart.”
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; firstname.lastname@example.org.
A silent auction to benefit the education of nine students in Haiti is scheduled from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday at the New Life Church, 6830 Highland Drive in Everett. Tickets are $15, which includes appetizers and soft drinks. RSVP to: email@example.com.