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Reflections from our 2015 Haiti Mission Team

Reflections from our 2015 Haiti Mission Team

We want to share the reflections brought back by our STAR Physical Therapy 2015 Haiti Mission Team that recently returned from their trip.  Incredible love and care provided by Ashley, Zach, Megan, Heather, Tina, Shanita, Tom and Karen.  So honored to call these folks co-workers and friends.

“Words can’t describe the perspective this trip has brought me. I’ve been to third world countries, but have never seen poverty like this. I’ve also never seen such tangible grace and love bestowed by LiveBeyond and my fellow participants upon the Haitians.

Voodoo wasn’t just something you hear of in New Orleans, it was a real (and often dangerous) part of these people’s lives resulting in burns and sometimes even death. Poverty and starvation wasn’t something simply seen on TV – it was encountered daily. We fed people (those under a BMI of 18) each day and almost 75-80% of those who came to clinic received food. We had a chance to help 5 young children daily with PT. One young girl was even able to walk by the end of the week who had not done so in 4 years! We were also able to love on countless others who were shunned because of physical or mental disabilities.

The medical care, food, and prayer we had a chance to provide there blessed and humbled me much more than I think it did the ones I provided it to. The most rewarding part of it all was aiding LiveBeyond in lifting the people we encountered out of their oppression, if even for a moment, and saying ‘there’s more to this life than this; there’s a God who loves and cares for you beyond your wildest imagination, and He sent us to tell you that’. Thank you for allowing me to be a helping hand to serve those in Haiti; it was an immense blessing and privilege to do so.” – Ashley Theobald


“It’s very difficult to summarize my experience with LiveBeyond in a couple of paragraphs as opposed to a 30 minute conservation, but here goes!

I had originally planned to go on a mission trip to West Africa in Fall 2014 with my church, but after the Ebola crisis took hold, the trip fell through. It was to be my first international mission trip, and I was pretty bummed that it wasn’t going to work out. When the partners of STAR approached me about the mission trip to Haiti shortly after my trip fell through, I knew it was God speaking to me to be his Hands and Feet elsewhere. And be his Hands and Feet we were.

Haiti is a country of such extreme poverty and despair. It has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world. The political system is morally bankrupt. Because of the voodoo culture and religion, people with disabilities and special needs are shunned, neglected, abused, and thought of as “cursed”. But Dr. Vanderpool and his wife, along with all the Live Beyond staff, are slowly transforming the region of Thomazeau into God’s kingdom. Their organization has reduced the infant mortality rate in the area by 2/3 in a two year period, and their at-risk program is taking people out of desperate, dire situations and transforming their lives through proper medical and nutritional care. While the STAR team was there, we got to experience part of that transformation. While our main role was working with identified children with disabilities who had never seen a physical therapist before, we all got to experience much more than that. We were able to make and distribute food bags for the desperately hungry, treat skin infections on the sick, and pray for the hopeless. We lived beyond our comfort and care, so that others could live beyond their circumstances. It’s an experience that is hard to convey in words, but I truly learned what it means to serve the least of these for His greater purpose.” – Zach Jarrell


“How do you put into words an experience that profoundly changed you? Our week in Thomazeau, Haiti was humbling and heart-breaking. We saw what starvation, extreme poverty, and oppression looks like…they now have faces and names (Annette, Mazy, Lancy, etc). We were given the opportunity to help the people of Thomazeau overcome their oppression, hunger, and disease. While we may not have eradicated disease or hunger, we were able to be beacons of hope and light in the darkness. Matthew 25:40 says, “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’” Our objective was to help the people of Haiti “Live Beyond” oppression, poverty, hunger, and disease.
We provided physical therapy to five amazing kids with physical disabilities. These kids do not have the luxury of American medical intervention to improve their functional ability, so in six days our STAR team created a plan of care to help improve mobility and independence that can be performed on a consistent basis. Our hope is our plan of care can be used with other clinicians and staff in Thomazeau to optimize self-sufficiency as they grow. We were able to further serve the community of Thomazeau in different aspects of clinic outside of physical therapy (intake, wound care, labs, prayer). I had the chance to work in wound care and intake. Every person I encountered, child I held, face I washed, and family I prayed for was genuinely thankful to be treated with dignity and respect. In six days, I came to truly understand what Matthew 25: 40 means…what it takes to be the hands and feet of Jesus. My experience in Haiti was inspiring, eye-opening, and life-altering. What I have learned from the people of Thomazeau I now carry with me in my practice. I am thankful to work for a company whose mission is service to others, so we may be the light in the darkness. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” (John 1:5 NLT)” – Megan Hemmingsen


“The time I spent in Haiti was one of the greatest blessings in my life. It wasn’t an experience of luxury, comfort or relaxation; on the contrary, it was just the opposite. In fact, the entire week was quite uncomfortable. By this, I am not necessarily referring to the physical comforts that we are all used to that were obviously lacking in a third world country, but instead of emotional discomfort in my own heart. It’s out of this place that I find myself now reflecting on my life and the choices I am making. I believe this to be a good thing because a reflective life is a purposeful life and for me, having a surrendered spirit that desires to walk from God’s leading, back in the forefront of my mind, is a very positive thing.
Prior to Haiti, I thought I knew what poverty looked like. The faces of poverty, in my very American skewed view, were the families that offered food stamps to purchase their weekly groceries, or the moms and children that my family has sometimes served at a local homeless shelter, or maybe even faces that I haven’t seen but purchased school supplies or Christmas gifts through a church campaign. There is nothing wrong with these acts in fact; I plan to continue to do these things as I am able. But while in Haiti, I saw people that were not just hungry but starving, I saw physical oppression and heard stories of spiritual oppression that I didn’t know existed. I learned the names of these people and traveled to their homes. I treated their children and cared for patient’s skin lesions. I prayed for them and watched them pray. I watched them worship without boundaries and with a passion that would rival any American worship service. The Haitians I encountered have so little and so much to fear, but those who know Jesus walk not in fear, but in joy, thankfulness and with purpose. Their faith is strong and they believe that the battles they are facing will be conquered. Many of them were grateful to the point of tears for the Americans who have decided to walk along side them.
Thank you for this amazing opportunity to love and serve the Haitian people.

Thank you for the opportunity to represent STAR Physical Therapy to a population of people who probably still have no idea what a physical therapist is.  Instead, they saw the members of our team as a group of people willing to leave the comforts of the American life to love and serve the people of Thomazeau, Haiti. What they unfortunately probably do not realize, but I am attempting to communicate to each of you, is that I gained far more than I gave from this amazing week and I am extremely grateful.” – Heather Large


“Looking back on our mission trip to Haiti, it warms and breaks my heart at the same time. We returned to Nashville from Thomazeau on Februrary 13th, however I left a piece of my heart in Haiti that will forever linger with me. I have a profound new look and approach on life and gratitude that will last a lifetime.

We opened clinic in Haiti for a week and served the people with water, food, medical attention and prayer. In the afternoon we would visit those in the community that couldn’t physically make it to the clinic. We gave all the love and strength of our hearts to the people of Thomazeau, but the love we received in return was incomparable. I’m a better person because of my experience in Thomazeau. I will carry my experience with me daily. I now desire to do better with my time, with my money, with my prayer, and with my heart. It was an extremely humbling and rewarding experience that I will always be grateful to STAR Physical Therapy and LiveBeyond.

Haiti taught me the true meaning of Luke 6:20-26. Although I know our trip was only a small glimpse into the world of oppression and hunger, it sparked a fire in my soul to continue to care for our brothers and sisters and to continue to serve the Lord with my life.” – Tina Pezeshk

Watch Tina’s mission video here.


“As we rode the 2 hour ride from the airport to the Live Beyond campus, the van I was in filled mostly with STAR employees was silent for most of the ride. I think we are all in just taking in what we were witnessing in the city of Port-au-Prince and Thomazeau. The people there do not have much but the things they do have they make the most of it.  As we arrived we were greeted by the Vanderpools and the Haitian staff who were dancing and singing for us.  It was amazing and we immediately felt so welcome!

Each day there was so rewarding but the days the clinic was open were extra special.  It was great to see so many taking full advantage of the free care that they received.  I personally do not have any medical background besides administrative duties, but I was able to help out with many different stations that we had set up at the clinic and it was great.  From taking blood pressure and temperature, to helping in the lab and also helping with maternal health.  Each day and each area was such a blessing to be a part of and witness.  Not only were the nurses, doctors, therapists, etc. more than willing to help out with anything but the patients were so happy and grateful.

We had church service each day and devotion each night and it was a great time to reflect on the day to discuss what we saw and what we learned.  I took away many quotes and bible passages but the one thing that has stuck with me the most is that during devotion someone commented and said they loved how passionate the Haitians were during church service.  We all agreed and Dr. Vanderpool responded with “because God is all they have to believe in and they don’t have back up plans.” – Shanita Mayes


“Best of Times, Worst of Times…

As Dickens said, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness. In Haiti we were witness to sharp contrasts to our own experiences. I had the benefit of Karen’s previous trip with LiveBeyond but little can prepare you for the stark contrast in living conditions and all that we take for granted. Once we landed and took the bone jarring drive to the LiveBeyond compound, we immediately saw how difficult life is for the people of Haiti. With little electricity, no running water or indoor plumbing Haitians face many hardships.

When the STAR team met with the larger group of 35 Doctors, Nurses and Nurse Practitioners, we had a brief orientation and the next day began preparing the clinic and assembling the food packages for distribution. Each day, the clinic would draw in hundreds of people, arriving on a flatbed truck. Elderly, babies, workers, mothers, children, hungry and thirsty. Each with a different need. Following a basic exam they would be assessed, treated with respect and the highest standard of care, they would leave with a prayer, many with a food packet and most with an improved condition. As volunteers, we would take different defined roles. From intake, skin conditions and treatment to prayer and food distribution, it was a hands-on, all out, up front and face to face experience with people that could give little in return but a smile and a “merci”.

The clinics during the day kept us busy, but it didn’t stop there. We went out each day on outreaches, into communities and Haitians homes where there were extra special needs, an at risk population of those physically and mentally handicapped and we would provide food and attention. This is when you see the most incredible needs and those with absolutely nothing. I was stunned to see how tough it was for these special people. But being with them, giving crackers, wiping mud from their faces strikes you at a profound level. It is hard to describe, but knowing that the work being done, the care provided is literally saving people’s lives was overwhelming. Reducing a fever, treating an ear infection that rescues a child from seizures and brain damage. This was our work and while it was a week of our time, it meant a lifetime for those we took care of.

Would I go back? Absolutely. Would I recommend this experience? You bet. Everyone would walk away with a strong sense of doing work that has eternal consequences. Did we make a difference? For the country of Haiti, for the millions in need, probably very little. But for one baby girl with a temperature of 103.8 and a starving Mom, she was healed and fed and is on the road to recovery.” – Tom and Karen Clark