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Dr. Adam Sarbin (at left) and his medical team, which includes Jenny Baldwin, R.N.
Rachel Russell, R.N.; Dr. Peter Whitehead; Dr. Kitty Humphreys; and Carey Cole, F.N.P., arrive in Haiti earlier this year. Photo courtesy of Project Starfish Haiti
Friday, July 12, 2013
It was a movement driven by a single devastating event in 2010. Dr. Adam Sarbin, a pediatrician with Physicians to Children at Westlake and a Smith Mountain Lake resident, remembers it vividly. He was watching coverage of the earthquake in Haiti unfold, and he knew something had to be done.
“When the earthquake happened, I felt similarly compelled to do something,” said Sarbin, who had previously worked in a medical clinic in Texas after Hurricane Katrina.
Sarbin got in touch with Angels Mission Haiti in Salem, a faith-based non profit that arranges medical care for Haitian children.
“They said, ‘ We’ll get you into the country, provide you with a place to stay and do the work, if you’ll assemble the team and gather the supplies,’” Sarbin said of his conversation with Angels Mission staff. “I had no experience doing any of that. This was organizing a whole team.”
Sarbin gathered the necessary supplies and medicine.
“Within three to four days, we had 13 people who wanted to go,” he said.
By the time they reached the island, a month had passed since the earthquake. While there weren’t a lot of trauma cases, Sarbin and his team saw many patients in need of care.
“We saw minor injuries that had not risen to the level of needing hospitalization,” said Sarbin. “A lot of it was just general medical stuff where people weren’t able to access care.”
Sarbin documented his experiences in emails back to his family in the United States.
More than a week later, the team returned home, but Haiti remained in their hearts.
According to the group’s website, “We quickly developed a love for the country and its people, and in 2013, we decided to develop a more sustainable structure for continuing to meet the medical needs of people living in Haiti. Thus, Project Starfish Haiti was born and continues to deliver medical care to a country still recovering.”
The name, Project Starfish Haiti, goes back to a parable about a boy on the beach who was tossing live starfish back into the ocean after they’d washed ashore. The boy is approached by a man who, looking around, sees thousands of starfish on shore and asks the boy why he’s bothering to help save them because they all cannot be saved. As the boy picks up a starfish, he looks at the man and replies that while he may not be able to save all the starfish, it matters to the one tossed back into the ocean.
The same concept, said Sarbin, applies to what he’s trying to accomplish in Haiti.
“We basically feel like we can’t help everybody, but we’ll help as many as we can,” he said .
Right now, money is the most-needed resource. The team’s goal is to eventually have enough money to set up a permanent medical clinic in under-served rural areas and to help subsidize travel expenses for the medical team members, said Sarbin.
A fundraiser on June 23 at Parkway Brewing Company with food from The Landing and Bruno’s GastroTruck brought in a little more than $2,000.
“It’s a great start, but there’s a long way to go,” said Sarbin, who anticipates that there will be a fundraising-campaign kick-off soon. “It’s truly one of the most impoverished countries in the world. It’s just incredible; you can’t believe it until you see it.”
Project Starfish Haiti is currently applying for non profit status. In the meantime, the organization is working with Angel Missions Haiti to manage the donations they receive.
As Sarbin talked about providing care for the Haitian people, he reflected back to 2010 and the event that brought him to the tiny nation.
“It’s interesting that the earthquake occurred on my 45th birthday,” said Sarbin. “It makes you wonder if this is my wake-up call.”
Project Starfish Haiti donations can be earmarked and mailed to: Angel Missions Haiti, 4071 Barley Drive, Salem, VA 24153. For more information, email Projectstarfish.email@example.com or visit www.projectstarfishhaiti.net or www.facebook.com/projectstarfishhaiti.
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