Helping those in need becomes a family affair

Vacationers flock to the Caribbean, but when Lisa Hageman made tropical travel plans for her family, she had a different kind of experience in mind.

Hageman, manager of the Backus Hospital Preventive Health Initiative, traveled to Haiti with her husband, Ken, andyounger daughter, Annie, in June as part of a week-long medical mission, delivering care, supplies and health education to people in one of the world’s most impoverished countries.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I talked to the family and thought it would be great if it was something we did together,” said Hageman, who connected to the mission program through an annual health fair she attends on behalf of Backus at a Haitian church in New London.

The family spent a week in Petit-Goâve, a city of about 170,000 people located about 50 miles southwest of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. The Hagemans and other members of the mission team setup each day at a local school where patients would come to see doctors and a dentist for various conditions. Hageman worked alongside Haitian nurses, meeting with patients and giving them needed medications after their doctor’s visit while her husband and daughter helped organize medications and supplies.

“There’s such a high incidence of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease there. A lot of it can be attributed to nutrition because their diet is very high in sugar and salt with a lot of it fried food. Many people are still cooking with charcoal,” she said.

Ken Hageman said he was struck by the town’s poor living conditions, a lot of which he attributed to government corruption and high unemployment rates. Even with these desperate conditions, the Hagemans agreed the people of Petit-Goâve expressed tremendous gratitude for the mission team’s presence. Annie Hageman, a recent graduate of Bacon Academy in Colchester and freshman at Skidmore College.

“I think we made a difference for the people who live in this one small city. But there are so many complicated issues there like corruption and unemployment; there’s so much more to do,” she said.

—Steve Coates