Delavan men help in Haiti
For LeRoy Himebauch and Tom Reichert, flying into Haiti felt like entering a war zone.
“It was controlled chaos,” said Reichert, the school liaison officer with the Delavan Police Department.
“I think many of them were experiencing shock, still not knowing their life has been turned upside down,” Himebauch said of the victims. “The routines have disappeared. Children are out of school. Those who had jobs have no jobs. Those who had houses have no houses.”
The men returned to Delavan this week.
Himebauch, who retired from the FBI and is a Delavan municipal judge, went with Reichert to provide basic aid after Haiti was hit by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that has reportedly left at least 150,000 people dead in the western hemisphere's poorest country.
The Delavan men arrived Jan. 19, seven days after the deadly quake.
“We went right to work that night, getting bandages, helping doctors get everything categorized so we could get a clinic right away in the morning,” Reichert said.
They were helping treat people with dehydration, malnutrition, trauma and crushing wounds.
“There was a woman that had been buried in the rubble for three days,” said Reichert, a former EMT. “They finally got her out, and there was no medical treatment for her. Somehow she found her way to our clinic, and the surgeon decided her fingers had to go because of gangrene.”
The men were based in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.
Reichert is affiliated with Friends of the Children, a Delavan-based organization operating since 1998 that provides medical and dental assistance to poor communities in Haiti. He has been going to Haiti since 1998 with the organization.
Himebauch is affiliated with United Church of Christ, which partners with CONASPEH—the National Spiritual Council of Haitian Churches—an umbrella of 6,000 churches through Haiti. His first trip to Haiti was in 1995, and he has traveled to the country about nine times.
“They're hard-working industrialists, very patient, family-oriented,” Himebauch said. “But very, very poor.”
Work seems to have no end.
“On Saturday and Monday, we teamed with Missionaries of Charity, a group formed by Mother Theresa, and set up clinic in one of their courtyards behind an HIV/AIDS hospital,” Reichert said. “Right next to that was a soccer field.”
“I called it 'sheet city,'” Himebauch said, describing improvised sleep accommodations for the injured. “There must have been hundreds of people living there.”
There were mothers with babies, victims without homes and Haitians with little to look forward to.
“We cleaned them up, gave them antibiotics, gave them medicine,” Reichert said. “As the clinic slowed down, we would go into the soccer field, look for patients and help bring them.”
Himebauch and Reichert praised the efforts by the international community, which they said has been generous in aiding the Haitians. But it will take a while for things to get back to normal, and those on the ground will have to take it as a day-by-day affair.
“They need to survive today, and hopefully tomorrow will be better,” Himebauch said.
For information on how to help Haitian relief efforts, call LeRoy Himebauch at (262) 949-4571 or Tom Reichert at (262) 949-6530.