On Saturday, August 14, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake devastated Haiti, leaving more than 2,200 people dead and 300 more missing. Last week, the region also faced then–tropical storm Grace, adding to the devastation of the earthquake as people searched through debris and rubble for their loved ones.
Duchity, a small village in Haiti, has experienced death, injuries, and homelessness due to the earthquake. It is located in the country's southern peninsula, 103 miles west of Port-au-Prince. Julie Spielberger, a researcher at the University of Chicago, has on several occasions worked at the medical clinic there, assisting local doctors as part of a mission so that the clinic can provide care year-round.
“(I’ve been to Duchity) three different years, I went in the spring (of 2013) just for a week to work in the clinic. And I worked in the pharmacy and helped with intake for when families were coming into the clinic, and just helped manage the flow of people and things like that,” she said.
Spielberger said she became interested in traveling to Haiti because of a Haitian babysitter her children had growing up, someone she became very close to. She was able to make her 2013 trip to Duchity through a medical mission facilitated at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Naperville, which is a “twinning community” with Duchity’s local church, Ste. Marie-Madeleine. St Thomas helped to build the clinic in Duchity over two decades ago, and has sponsored yearly medical missions to the village.
Spielberger, who moved to Hyde Park in the ’70s, is a researcher at Chapin Hall, an independent organization that is affiliated with the University of Chicago. She received her Master’s Degree from the University of Chicago and her doctorate in child development at the Erikson Institute, an affiliate of Loyola University. Her work revolves around doing research and evaluating programs for children and families. She also serves on the board of the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club.
Spielberger described her first trip to Haiti as wonderful; though the area is poor, the resilience and warmness of the people is what made her want to keep going back. “They were just so generous, open, and giving people with a lot of dignity,” she said. “And very, very family-oriented, very caring people. So I just felt really blessed to be in that environment.” She added that the area is full of beautiful scenes such as palm trees, greenery, mountains and blue skies.
The last time Spielberger visited the village was in 2016. Due to the many natural disasters that have since hit the country and because of COVID-19, Spielberger says it may be a little while before they go back, but her husband is optimistic about possibly returning in the fall.
Spielberger says though Duchity has experienced some tragedy due to the earthquake there haven’t been too many deaths, but there are people who are sleeping outside of clinics, very fearful of being indoors in case of aftershocks from the earthquake. Transportation is also sparse in the area. Spielberger has read that a truck load of supplies were able to get through but is unsure if helicopters have been able to make their way through as of yet.
“One of the people that reported from the area said that there's a lot of fear, but also a lot of hope. I think they're really resilient. These people have to deal with a lot of natural disasters, plus the poverty and political chaos of the country as a whole,” said Spielberger.
St. Thomas the Apostle Church is taking donations by mail and online to help the people of Duchity. According to the church, 100% of the funds received will be used to directly help the village.
The Center for Love and Hope, an organization created by a couple 5 years ago to improve health and education in Duchity is also accepting donations for the cause. You can mail a check or donate on their website.