GCU Praised for Response to Earthquake in Haiti

March 16, 2010 / by / 0 Comment

Photo provided by Jean Marseille.

By Doug Carroll
Communications Staff

Jean Marseille of Phoenix has seen plenty in his work as an intensive-care nurse at Banner Good Samaritan Hospital. But nothing prepared him for the devastation he witnessed on a weeklong relief trip to his native Haiti in the wake of the January 12 earthquake.

Marseille, whose wife, Alicia, is a GCU Enrollment Manager, was on a plane to the Dominican Republic only days after the earthquake hit. From there, he bused into Port-au-Prince, where the Rev. Rick Frechette, a Roman Catholic priest, runs the free St. Damien Pediatric Hospital and a nearby orphanage.

“When I got there, it was like nothing I had seen before,” says Marseille, 37, who grew up in the same orphanage. “All the buildings were damaged, and people had no place to go. I saw so many injured. There were things they couldn’t show on TV.”

Marseille got busy, helping a team of a dozen volunteer doctors who saw more than 700 patients a day and worked around the clock with little rest.

To support relief efforts coordinated by Frechette in Haiti, more than $25,000 was raised by GCU employees, students, alumni and friends — a sum that was matched by the University, for a total donation of more than $50,000.

“What GCU has done has helped so many people,” Marseille says. “It’s amazing what it did to step up and meet human needs. This was a very Christian thing to do. The response was quick.”

The hospital, which ordinarily sees children suffering from tuberculosis and HIV, also began treating adults in the aftermath of the earthquake. Because of a lack of pain medication, only Tylenol could be given to many post-operative patients.

“I didn’t have anything to give them (for their pain),” Marseille says. “The people were so strong, it made me cry.”

Marseille says the biggest continuing need is for shelter. The rainy season has arrived in Haiti, and the potential for the spread of disease has increased dramatically. Because it can be difficult to route the donation of goods through the Miami office of Friends of the Orphans, Marseille says financial donations have the most immediate impact. (Go to www.friendsoftheorphans.org for more information.)

Alicia Marseille, who works in GCU’s Tempe office, says Haiti’s critical needs — in health care, education and business — create an opportunity for short- and long-term mission work across several disciplines.

“As children get older and transition from the orphanage, there’s a need to find jobs for them,” she says.

Jean Marseille says he is still haunted by the images of his ravaged homeland.

“When I was leaving, I felt sad that I couldn’t do more,” he says. “I felt I was abandoning them. I had only a week off from work. I was able to go and help for a little bit, but it was sad to see so much suffering.”

He worries about the Haitian people in light of the overwhelming health-care challenges that lie ahead.

“Without the follow-up medical care, many of these people will die,” Marseille says. “We won’t see the impact of that. It won’t be covered (in the media).”

Reach Doug Carroll at 602.639.8011 or [email protected].

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