“Most eat only one meal of rice a day,” says Moore. Food is so scarce that “babies lick clay cakes — literally pottery clay mixed with sea salt. It helps take away the hunger pangs so the babies can sleep at night,” he says.
Moore first learned about such abject poverty when he answered a simple request from a local pastor. “He asked me and my good friend Pat Kut to set up a medical clinic in Haiti. With my experience as a firefighter and emergency medical technician, and Pat’s experience as a doctor, we decided to do it,” recalls Moore.
“Once I saw how horrific the problems were, it was impossible for me to turn my head,” he says. That trip was in February 2001. Since then, Moore has made 48 more journeys to several remote villages in the northwestern mountains of Haiti.
“No other missionaries go there, because it’s a 10- to 12-hour drive in blistering heat,” he says. “There are no real roads in Northern Haiti.”
On their first trip, Moore and Kut provided medical treatment to more than 3,000 people in 18 days. “They walked 30 to 40 miles just to see us. We treated everything from tropical diseases like malaria to a host of skin infections and dehydration,” says Moore, 54, a sales associate with Rowling Real Estate Inc. in Fort Gratiot, Mich.
With a need so great, Moore knew he’d have to come back often. He returned twice before realizing he needed a more organized financial effort. “The first two trips cost me $10,000. We brought medical supplies, bought food, even paid $400 for a cow so the people in the village could eat,” says Moore. “I just couldn’t turn my back on the people I’d come to know.”
Thus was born Harvest of Haiti, a nonprofit humanitarian outreach program staffed almost entirely by Moore and Kut that treats close to 3,500 people per year.
“Harvest of Haiti means there’s a lower infant death rate in the villages we serve. It means we don’t see as many people sick with waterborne diseases,” says Moore. “Our organization means people are healthier, and that’s a good feeling.”
The first year, 2001, Harvest raised $15,000 through private donations. As time went on, “more people jumped on board, and [last year we had] our best year and raised $31,000,” says Moore.
That allowed the program to buy a building in the village of Anse Rouge that has been transformed into an orphanage, now home to 32 children. Harvest of Haiti also has provided surgery free of charge in the United States for five Haitian children born with deformities.
Moore says the most dramatic results of his efforts come from an inexpensive $25 water filter. “We’d see all these dehydrated people and tell them to drink more water, never thinking that the reason they didn’t was because of waterborne disease,” says Moore. “So three years ago we started providing $25 water filters that purify 40 gallons of water a day. The results are amazing.”
The water filter is a 4.5-foot-high rectangular container filled with washed river gravel. Water is poured into the top, purified through the river gravel, and comes out through a spout into a bucket.
“In one village where we used to see huge amounts of malaria-associated anemia, we no longer see it,” Moore says. To date, he has installed more than 450 water filter systems and drilled two wells.
In addition, he solicited the King Benevolent Fund, a nonprofit Christian organization, to provide up to $275,000 worth of donated antibiotics and other medical supplies for each trip, freeing up Harvest of Haiti to spend its money on water filters.
The most telling illustration of Moore’s dedication to his Haitian undertaking is his adopted daughter Chrismene.
“When I look at her I see a beautiful child who now has access to everything she didn’t have in Haiti, and that makes me feel I did the right thing by adopting her,” says Moore.
When Moore met baby Chrismene in 2002, he didn’t know she’d change the course of his life. “Her mother brought her to our clinic and expected us to fix her cleft lip and palate that day,” he says. “I knew that, in Haiti, children are shunned for birth defects. So I made a promise to her mother that I’d get her help,” says Moore.
A few months later, after arranging for surgery in Michigan, Moore went back to the village to bring the child to the United States on a medical visa. Chrismene lived in Moore’s house for four months while she recovered from the successful surgery. “We got very attached to her and didn’t look forward to bringing her back, but I knew I had to,” says Moore.
However, when he brought her back, Chrismene’s mother said she couldn’t afford to feed the child and begged him to adopt her. “I knew her fate would be sealed if I left her, so my wife and I agreed to raise Chrismene. We know she has a mother and father in Haiti who care about her a great deal, and eventually we’ll bring her back to Haiti so she can re-connect with them. But, for now, I’m just happy she’s here with us,” he says.
Moore also is continuing to help Chrismene’s parents. He spent $1,500 to rebuild their house and secure extra land so they could grow vegetables.
Moore’s adopted daughter is now six years old. “She’s a joy,” he says. “In Haiti, her mother would’ve struggled to give her even the basic things like food and a bed.” Moore often is asked to adopt more children, he says, but “I’m in my mid-50s. I just feel good that I was able to take one child out of hell and give her a chance.”
In addition to Chrismene, Moore, who has a teenage daughter and teenage son, has given thousands a chance to have a better life.
“One of my greatest success stories is about a little girl who had severe burns from falling into a fire pit,” says Moore. Because of unsanitary conditions and infection, children in remote Haitian villages often don’t survive these types of burns.
“We spent hours treating her and teaching her father how to do it. We gave her a huge dose of antibiotics and walked away praying she’d make it,” Moore says. Two years later, the girl’s father brought her into a Harvest medical clinic. “There wasn’t a scar on that girl’s body,” says Moore. “She was absolutely beautiful.” That experience made him realize the depth of what’s possible when one person decides to make a difference, Moore contends.
“I know their lives are a lot better because of Harvest of Haiti,” says Moore. “And it’s not just my help. It’s the countless donations and the dedication of time that allow us to do something lasting.”
Contact Moore at Rowling Real Estate, 3745 Pine Grove Avenue, Fort Gratiot Twp, MI 48059; 810/985-9597; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Harvest of Haiti at the above address and phone number.