Queens Hospital Center, Jamaica, hosted an event Thursday recognizing employees who helped people in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010, scheduled in time to celebrate Haitian Heritage Month.
A group of doctors and nurses from Queens Hospital Center traveled to Haiti within the same month the earthquake happened, and several times since then. They provided medical assistance and performed surgeries, among other things.
Dr. Jean-Daniel Desrosiers is a surgeon at Queens Hospital Center who was born and raised in Haiti. “I have roots in Haiti,” Desrosiers said. “Even though I moved here, Haiti hasn’t left me.”
He said he wanted to help partially because he felt he owed something to Haiti. Desrosiers was educated for free in Haiti, where he became a surgeon. He has been to Haiti three times since the earthquake and plans to continue to travel there to help.
Like many, Dr. Jean-Bernard Poulard said the destruction he saw in Haiti was unbelievable, but that did not lessen his motivation.
“It’s a normal thing — it’s a natural response to help,” he said.
Poulard is also a surgeon who went to medical school in Haiti. He said he was the default leader of the staff.
Dr. Stanley Pierre, a general practitioner, said, “Seeing it on TV was nothing.”
Pierre also went to medical school in Haiti and only moved to the United States 12 years ago.
Gretha Fievre, a registered nurse, said the first time she cried in Haiti after the earthquake was when the U.S. Army physician in charge gave the staff a tour of the area. She explained how she kept her composure while tending to people in Haiti.
“When you’re in a time of crisis, there’s a human nature in you that makes you do things that need to be done,” Fievre said.
She left Haiti when she was 19 years old to come to the United States. She is the founder of Health and Education Action League for Haiti (HEAL Haiti), a nonprofit organization that aims to improve Haiti’s healthcare system. Fievre is also working toward building a nursing school in Haiti.
Immacula Samson is also a registered nurse who traveled to Haiti. Samson was in the United States when the earthquake happened, but her husband and son were in Haiti in the guest house they were building. Her son, 13 years old at the time, was trapped under three stories of the house for six hours, but he survived.
“My body was here, but my mind, my soul, was in Haiti,” she said. “I didn’t see my loss, I just came to help.”
When asked how long she expected the restoration would take, she said, “I don’t think I will be able to see it, but we should not be discouraged.”
Fievre and Samson visit Haiti every year.
The ceremony also featured Patricia Brintle, a self-taught artist from Haiti who was invited to showcase her paintings. Brintle is famous for her Haitian-inspired paintings with deep symbolism.
“I felt grateful to have been given the opportunity to do this — to take part in such an important event,” she said. “When I was invited I had to select what [art] was the essence of Haiti.”
After the earthquake, Brintle gave her artwork to people in Haiti. She is also the president of the nonprofit coorperation From Here to Haiti. Her paintings will be displayed in the main atrium of the Queens Hospital Center.
Charles Antione Forbin, consul general of Haiti in New York, was also present, handing out medals to the honorees. A native of Haiti, he has been back 10 times since the earthquake to help.
In response to the event, Forbin said, “I am very deeply touched. Any event that would be good for the country [Haiti], I would participate in.”
A smile spread across Desrosiers’ face when he recalled his reaction to learning of the ceremony.
“I was very humbled by it because I didn’t go there to receive an award,” he said.
Many of the honorees said the event also served as a reminder that Haiti is still in need of help. During their short speeches, many like Forbin, urged the audience to contribute to the healing process.
“I can’t say we are 100 percent recovered, but I can say we are over 50 percent recovered,” he said. “We’re on a good path.”