Nurses Trapped In Haiti Crowd Fund Their Own Rescue
By Chaunie Brusie
A country is so desperate for healthcare that it’s forced to revolt against its own government. A city filled with broken glass, burning tires, and businesses looted, their contents spilling over into the streets. And a group of volunteer nurses, trapped by literal barriers from the very airport that could give them their freedom.
Sounds like the opening scene to a very action-packed movie, right? Except, it’s not a movie—it’s the real-life scene in Haiti right now and the real-life nightmare for a group of Canadian nurses trapped in an area called Petit Paradis. Eight nurses: Lisa Sturdy, Lauren Davey, Charline Ramgotra, Kirsten Nieminen, Marie Nieminen, Tracy Hotta, Aundrea Trevors, and Katherine Fitzo'Niel, are currently staging their own rescue mission, thanks to a fundraising page and a whole lot of hope and prayers.
Volunteer Mission Turned Nightmare
The nurses are part of a group that traveled to Grand Goave, Haiti to volunteer with a foundation called Hope Grows. With an initial goal to assist on the compound’s school, church, clinic and feeding program as well as the community, the nurses’ goal soon switched to surviving as the area around them disintegrated into civil unrest and unsafe conditions. As CNN reported, the civil unrest erupted after Haiti residents called for the resignation of President Jovenel Moise in response to the country’s inflation and allegations of corrupt government activities.
Street protests, demonstrations, and riots have been going on for over a week in the area, intensifying after Moise addressed the country holding steadfast to his refusal to step down. The country-wide clashes have resulted in several deaths (count currently unknown, according to CNN) as well as a group of missionaries and the nurses being trapped. Angela Spahr, 27, from Scottsdale, AZ, an RN who recently returned from a medical mission with CHAMPs in Haiti, tells Nurse.org that she witnessed violence during her time there, as well as “countless” roadblocks that began on February 7th.
Hope Grows Haiti Foundation posted an update about their situation, explaining that the nurses are running out of personal medications and that the threat of further violence escalation in the area is ever-present. They are also being forced to ration food, water, and fuel as they are unsure when they will be able to get more supplies. Even cell service is expected to end shortly, as in that area, the cell towers run on gas and in the riots, all of the gas stations were burned down. To make matters even more pressing, the Canadian embassy has been closed throughout the crisis, so communication with the nurses’ home country has been extremely limited.
“The need to evacuate before all communication is lost and food and water is gone is imperative,” the update concluded.
A Rescue Mission
With the danger around them growing every day, the nurses’ initial mission to help has now become a rescue mission. A GoFundMe was started by a woman named Lauren Kennedy to raise enough funds to rescue the nurses since they are unable to reach the nearest Haitian airport safely.
As the fundraising page explained, the nurses are stranded because the airport is located in Port-au-Prince, an hour away from their mission site and right in the middle of the violence. Additionally, actual barriers have been set up on all of the roads leading to the airports. “It is unlikely we will pass those barriers without being harmed,” the nurses explained in the fundraising page. “If we made it to Port-au-Prince, they can keep up hostage.”
And although Air Canada added a flight to Montreal to help Canadians get out of the country, the problem for the nurses is actually making it to the airport. With the flight on Monday, their only option would be to travel into Port-au-Prince Sunday, when the riots are paused, but then wait in the streets for the flight, putting them at extreme danger. As a solution, the nurses hoped to hire a helicopter to fly them directly to the airport in time for the flight on Monday.
Nurses in Waiting
The GoFundMe fundraiser for the nurses has shattered the initial fundraising goal of $9,000 and as of Monday morning, has raised a total of $19,436 in only a matter of days. The fundraising has officially closed, with a note explaining that any excess funds raised outside of the money needed to get the nurses home will be donated towards Hope Grows.
As of Friday, February 15th, Hope Grows posted an update that all eight of the nurses were safe, but still “very anxious to get home.” An update is expected when all of the nurses are safely home.