The winter holidays are a time where students and teachers alike can pause from the hustle of school life and relax before the upcoming semester. However, some use the break as a time to discover new passions, travel, or find a way to create change in the world. This January, North Carolina Virtual Academy (NCVA) teacher Casey Flack found a way to do all three of these things when she visited Haiti!
Casey, an 8th grade special education teacher, volunteered in northern Haiti for a week as a medical assistant in what she described as a “life-changing experience.” She went on the trip through Haitian Heritage & Friends of Haiti (HHFOH), a grassroots organization based out of Charlotte, NC. “Their goal is to improve the quality of life for the Haitian community in the Carolinas, as well as in Haiti itself.”
HHFOH is currently working on building a medical clinic out of shipping containers to offer low-cost care. Until the medical clinic is opened permanently, the organization facilitates medical mission trips every six months to open mobile clinics in various rural areas throughout northern Haiti.
“Medical assistance is a huge need throughout the country,” Casey explained. “Currently, there is one doctor per 1,666 people, and about 40% of the population lacks access to basic health care and nutrition services.”
A typical day for Casey would involve getting up around 7 a.m. and travelling with her group 20-30 miles to their location: a one-room, open-air church in Grison Garde. Every morning, crowds of people line up in their Sunday best to visit with medical staff.
“They would sit for hours, sometimes in rain or the cold just to receive medical care…just to feel better,” Casey said.
Casey’s role as a medical assistant included distributing medications, cleaning medical instruments, and performing miscellaneous tasks as needed. The language barriers required the team to work through interpreters, and they were also allowed to provide hands-on training to individuals in medical school.
Casey said one of the most eye-opening aspects of her trip was whenever she was fully immersed in the Haitian culture. “There is something about Haitian culture that’s extremely resilient,” she said. “You can see their perseverance in every aspect of their life – they’re working odd jobs for $1/day but still have the most positive outlook on life. It left a huge impact on me as an individual.”
Casey says the flexibility of working in a virtual school setting allows her to think outside the box and support her passion to serve. “It provides me structure as a professional educator,” she said. “I am able to work around life commitments, as needs arise.”
Casey hopes to travel back to Haiti next January to volunteer with HHFOH.