Brighter Smiles at Rainbow House
After seeing dental professionals for the first time in their lives, 74 Haitian children have bigger and brighter smiles today.
The story begins with a pilgrimage to Haiti by 2 dozen parishioners and friends of the Church of the Nativity in Burke, Virginia. In August 2001, the group spent a week in Haiti, learning first hand about the conditions in this destitute country and the needs of its people. Its pastor, Fr. Richard Martin initiated Nativity's Operation Starfish® in 1998. Operation Starfish® has galvanized the parish into a ministry of aid to the poor in Haiti. In five years, over half a million dollars have been raised to fund medical and housing projects for Haiti's poor. Three parish pilgrimages have been made to see the results of Nativity's work there.
This past August, Nativity parishioners visited Rainbow House for the first time. Rainbow House sits high in the hills overlooking the slums of Port-au-Prince. It is an oasis of care for 35 children with HIV/AIDS. It is run by a young Canadian woman and her Haitian husband who have dedicated themselves to the care of children who are otherwise ostracized from society because of their illness. The Rainbow House staff also provides an outreach program to over 100 children who can live at home.
The heart of one of Nativity's parishioners was particularly touched by what he saw there. Bill Hummel, on his return from Haiti last August, committed his energy and skills to a number of efforts to improve the situation at Rainbow House and support the couple who is operating this facility.
Bill's latest initiative resulted in a dentist and two hygienists accompanying him to Haiti in April, 2002. In just a few days, the dental team treated 74 children. The children were from Rainbow House and nearby orphanages. Some, like Charline (photo above) just did not smile because of their broken, misaligned teeth. Now Charline's smile can light up the room. Bill said, "Charline was so self-conscious about her broken teeth. One was right in the middle, up front. Now she has such a beautiful, wide smile!"
According to Hummel, the problem is immense. Nearly a quarter million children in Haiti are orphaned due to HIV/AIDS. Those touched by Rainbow House at least have food, shelter, basic medical care and education. And because of Bill and his friends, they have now had some basic treatment of their dental problems. Before leaving Haiti, Bill also arranged continuing follow-up care for these children. He found a local dentist to provide continuing services and left behind some dental equipment and supplies for this dentist to use.
When the next Nativity pilgrimage visits Rainbow House in August, 2002, the participants will be treated to even brighter smiles, thanks to Bill Hummel and his dental friends. They have made a difference, one child at a time, in the lives of the poor.