Denie's medical training being put to use in Haiti
It's been a long week for Detroit Lakes residents John and Mary Lee.
When news of the devastating earthquake in Port au Prince, Haiti, hit the worldwide airwaves Tuesday, they were understandably anxious.
Miquette Denie, a young Haitian who lived with them while attending DL High School on a Rotary Exchange scholarship in 2000-01, and returned to live with the Lees while obtaining a nursing degree at Concordia College, is a Port au Prince resident.
In the 24 hours immediately following the earthquake, the Lees were worried, but comforted by the thought that communication would be difficult during the initial chaos.
As another day went by and they still hadn't received any word from Haiti, the Lees started to fear that Denie hadn't survived the catastrophe.
"We didn't hear anything for 48 hours, and then last night (Thursday), we finally got an e-mail from a woman, a friend of Miquette's who is a nurse volunteering down there (in Haiti)," said Mary Lee. "She said she had seen her and she was alive.
"So we wrote her back to make sure this was the truth -- and she wrote us right back to say that she'd seen her and hugged her."
The e-mail said that Denie was "working extremely hard, day and night, to rescue people, get them out of the rubble and give them (medical) care."
The woman said Denie had been dubbed "GI Jane" in recognition her tireless efforts.
"She's pretty determined, pretty high energy, and she's a survivor," said Lee of her friend Denie. "I can see her climbing into all kinds of situations to help people."
Lee said she and her husband have been receiving hundreds of calls from friends and family, anxious to hear some word of the fate of the woman who had touched so many lives in the lakes area. Denie is a frequent Detroit Lakes visitor, especially since forming TeacHaiti (www.teachaiti.org), a charitable organization dedicated bringing better and more accessible education to the children of her country.
The board of TeacHaiti is mostly DL-based, and Denie returns to the community once a year to raise funds for TeacHaiti's ongoing educational mission.
"We expect to see her (Denie) again in June," said Lee. "That's the plan."
The board of TeacHaiti will be meeting this week to determine how best to proceed with its mission. Last year, the organization served as a conduit for donations to help with cleanup efforts after the devastation of Hurricane Ike.
That won't be quite as easy this time, Lee noted. Previously, Denie had taken the donations and used them to purchase food, clothing and supplies for direct distribution to hurricane victims.
This time, however, there aren't any stores or markets where she can purchase the needed items.
"She can't just go to the shops or markets and buy these things to help people get back on their feet, because the shops are gone," Lee explained.
But the important thing, she added, is that Denie and her family are alive and well, and the school where she works was not one of the buildings toppled in the quake.
The school is closed for the time being, however, so Denie is able to concentrate her efforts on assisting with the rescue and treatment of earthquake victims.
In the coming weeks, Lee said, TeacHaiti will be working to determine how to best help the families of the students who attend school through the organization's scholarship funding.
"Those things will come in the weeks ahead, but for today, I think there's just such a need for water, food and shelter, medical care and antibiotics, and those are all going to have to come from outside (Haiti)," Lee said.
The organizations best equipped to assist in the relief effort right now, Lee feels, are those that have the resources to bring food, water, antibiotics and other needed supplies into the country quickly.
The Red Cross, Lutheran World Relief, Catholic Relief Services, World Vision, Doctors Without Borders and Oxfam America are just a few of the organizations poised to provide assistance as quickly and efficiently as possible.
A Lake Park woman is currently in Haiti assisting directly with the relief effort -- but it was her participation in another charitable mission that brought her there.
Diane Levin was taking part in a mission trip to Haiti when the earthquake hit earlier this week.
According to Levin's daughter, Anne Braseth of Audubon, the mission group from Moorhead's Trinity Lutheran Church was working in a town about 50 miles away from Port au Prince when the quake hit.
"They felt the earthquake there, but no one from their group was injured at all," Braseth said. "Everyone is fine and they're continuing to do whatever they can to help."
The mission group was initially set to fly home from Port au Prince on Monday, but because of damage to the airport from the quake, "they were initially unsure when they would be able to get home," she added.
Currently, the group is planning to fly out of the Dominican Republic on Sunday, Braseth said.