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Homeward bound

"Homeward bound" Continued...

Issue: "Tour d'America," June 18, 2011

The desire to change Haiti drove Saint-Ange-the recent Liberty graduate-to college in America. With limited educational opportunities in Haiti, Saint-Ange pursued a scholarship program that the Turnbulls founded after returning to the United States in 2004.

An arrangement between the Turnbulls' private foundation and scholarship funds from Liberty covered the costs for Saint-Ange-and the other students in the program-to study at the school. (As many as eight students participate in the program at one time, and they must pass an English test when applying for admission.)

The students come from local churches in Haiti and promise to return when they graduate. (They also return home during summer breaks.) While many international students stay in the United States after graduating from college, Mr. Turnbull says Haiti desperately needs educated citizens who can serve the country: "Haiti has plenty of pastors but too few educated lay leaders who understand ethics, responsibility, and accountability."

Saint-Ange agrees, and he plans to take his understanding of information technology back to Hinche, his small hometown in central Haiti. The graduate says he most enjoys database management and networking-areas that need massive improvement in a country with fledgling infrastructure, especially in rural areas: "We don't have many people who have these skills."

When Saint-Ange arrived in Lynchburg in August 2006, his own skills were limited: He knew how to check email, surf the web, and use the basic functions of Microsoft Office. Two years later, he completed an internship with World Vision in Haiti, working with the Christian organization's computer systems. "My goal was to figure out what Haiti needs most," he says.

Without the scholarship program and the Turnbulls' mentoring, Saint-Ange says he doesn't know how he would have studied in the United States. Financing would have been nearly impossible for his family: Saint-Ange's parents work as meat sellers in a local market, and neither progressed beyond grammar school. But the Christian couple worked hard to make sure their children completed high school in a country where education isn't free. Saint-Ange says his parents are proud of him, but he quickly adds: "I'm proud of them, too."

When he returns to Haiti later this year, Saint-Ange hopes to find a computer-based job in Hinche and serve in his local church. He says the development of local churches is crucial because education without morality is "even worse than having no knowledge." "We need education, but I think what people need most is to be God-fearing," he says. "That can bear fruit."

Saint-Ange hopes to bear fruit that will help his country progress, and he says staying in Haiti is a central part of that effort. "The more we have people leaving-especially people with knowledge-the worse it is for Haiti," he says. "I'm very excited about someday having my name on the list of people who did something wonderful for Haiti."

Cardinye Brevil hopes to be on that list, too. The nursing student from Fermathe is in the Turnbulls' scholarship program and is set to graduate from Liberty in December. She's already spent a summer working at the BHM hospital, learning from Haitian nurses and doctors.

Brevil says that experience taught her the advantage of Haitian nurses treating Haitian patients. "The problem [with foreign workers] isn't just with translation," she says. "It's with the way people see things. I think if they hear it from me-being a Haitian-they might be more open to it."

Jean Claude Bernard-a Haitian doctor who has worked at BHM for more than 35 years and oversees the hospital-is grateful for visits by medical mission teams who help perform surgeries in specialized areas. But Bernard's Haitian advantage was obvious during late evening rounds at the Fermathe campus in January: The doctor moved from bed to bed, speaking in Creole with ailing patients and worried family members.

Bernard noted that many patients come to the hospital from rural areas and have little health knowledge. That means they often wait until their condition is critical before making the trek for help.

For example: In an open-room ward, a limp, 9-year-old girl lies on a bed, surrounded by family members. She barely moves except for occasionally fluttering glassy eyes that don't focus. A tube running from her nose drains yellow fluid into a silver pail on the bed.

A large bandage across her abdomen reveals the problem: appendicitis. By the time the girl's family brought her from her rural home in the surrounding mountains, she was suffering a high fever and her life was in danger. But an emergency surgery saved her life, and by the next morning the child was stirring in her bed and locking eyes with her mother.

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