Haiti relief organization hosts annual fundraiser Sept. 23

Community Health Initiative, Haiti provides medical services to island nation

A Community Healthy Initiative, Haiti surgical clinic in Haiti. (Submitted photo)
A Community Healthy Initiative, Haiti surgical clinic in Haiti. (Submitted photo)

CEDAR RAPIDS — A Coralville-based organization is hosting an event this weekend to raise money so it can continue providing health services in rural Haiti.

The Community Health Initiative, Haiti’s fifth annual fundraiser, “CHI 360, A Benefit for Haiti,” takes place at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Cedar Rapids Country Club, 550 27th Street Dr. SE.

Those who attend can participate in live and silent auctions to raise money for the organization while connecting with other area philanthropists.

“This is the most important fundraiser we do all year so that we can continue the work that we do,” said Annie Vander Werff, executive director of the Community Health Initiative, Haiti.

The organization, founded in 2012, was created as a not-for-profit service organization to address the health needs of rural Haitians. Most of the organization’s work takes place in Arcahaie, located in the Ouest department of Haiti.

Although Hurricane Irma devastated parts of the Caribbean last week, Haiti seemed to escape the worst of it.

According to the Miami Herald, the storm skirted the country’s northern coast, destroying farms and flooding communities. However, initial reports showed that Irma did not cause the kind of damage and flooding many had feared.

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Theresa Rager, marketing and communications coordinator for Community Health Initiative, Haiti, said residents who live where the organization does its work mostly experienced heavy rain and winds.

Community Health Initiative, Haiti’s goal, Vander Werff said, is to create “self-directed communities in Haiti.”

“We are there to provide dignity and boost the economy so it would ultimately take over itself and we don’t need to do it anymore,” added Jill Roeder, president of the Community Health Initiative, Haiti board.

Vander Werff said the organization has five medical clinics and two surgical clinics each year that are each a week long. Community Health Initiative, Haiti also has hired Haitian staff that work to fulfill other standing projects, such as preventive health care services and establishing access to clean water.

“A lot of what comes out of (the annual) fundraiser pays for Haitian staff for the whole year,” Roeder said.

Terry Dewald, a chemotherapy infusion nurse with McFarland Clinic in Ames, has traveled to Haiti once a year since 2013 to volunteer in the treatment center at the medical clinic.

“I definitely see people being healthier,” Dewald said. “The No. 1 thing is that blood pressure is under control.”

According to data from Community Health Initiative, Haiti’s Helping Babies Breathe program, which was established through a partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics, positive impact can be seen over the years.

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“Of the nearly 200 moms who have participated in the program, 50 percent of them reported feeling healthier after birth, or not sick, as compared to their counterparts who did not go through the program,” the organization reported. “In addition, all babies born by mom and coach have lived.”

Roeder said Community Health Initiative, Haiti’s next trip to the island nation will leave from the United States on Oct. 14.

For more information about the fundraiser or to donate, go to chihaiti.org.

The Miami Herald contributed to this post.

IF YOU GO

What: CHI 360, a fundraiser for Community Health Initiative, Haiti

When: 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23

Where: Cedar Rapids Country Club, 550 27th Street Dr. SE

Tickets and donations: chihaiti.org

l Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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