Jennifer Schuetz, an assistant trainer in the Beloit College Athletic Department, recently applied her sports medicine skills to a completely different sent of circumstances: volunteering with Friends of the Children in Haiti. There, along with 13 other volunteers (including her parents) Schuetz spent two weeks opening and providing services in a free clinic.
Friends of the Children is a non-profit organization founded by Schuetz’s parents, Tom and Cyndy Schuetz, and several other people in 1998. The group supplies medical and dental services twice a year to the small Haiti mountain village of LaMontagne.
Schuetz’s first opportunity to participate on a mission came right after the infamous 2010 Haiti earthquake. For years, she had watched her parents go on these biannual trips to LaMontagne. She had seen pictures and heard extensively about it, but it did not compare to seeing Haiti in person. Schuetz was especially shocked by how much was destroyed, especially when it came to navigating rubble-filled roads.
On both of the trips Schuetz took to Haiti, she worked in a pharmacy and assisted with wound care. Most people who came to the clinic had high blood pressure or tropical diseases, like scabies and malaria.
While in college, Schuetz had done some volunteer work, like building houses for Habitat for Humanity. “But nothing compares to the experience in Haiti,” she says.
One of the most difficult things was dealing with death, she says. Often, extremely sick people would come in and there would not be much that the volunteers could do to help. A particularly hard case on Schuetz’s latest trip was when she saw a set of twins who were six months old, but weighed only six pounds. After they were sent to a larger city, Schuetz learned that they had AIDs and were unlikely to survive.
“That’s the difference between cultures,” she assesses. “They [Haitians] accept death as part of life, but we don’t. That’s the hardest thing about going down there.”
Though working at the clinic was difficult, it was also rewarding.
“The most enjoyable thing for me,” Schuetz reflects, “is knowing that I’m making meaningful change.”
Schuetz does not have concrete plans to return to Haiti soon, but hopes to return on another Friends of the Children mission one day.