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A Sense Of Community From the Ozarks to Haiti

A Sense of Community, December 5th 2011.

All this week, the KSMU Sense of Community Series highlights “Healers” in the Ozarks.  This morning we met Dr. Keith LaFerriere, a Springfield plastic surgeon who recently returned from Viet Nam where he volunteered his services for the Face to Face Program.  Now, we hear from Dr. Jon Roberts, a family practice physician for 34 years in Mt. View Missouri, currently with the St. Johns Clinic there.  Jon Roberts volunteers every Monday night at the Good Samaritan Care Clinic in Mt. View, a free care clinic where on average, 40-60 patients are treated on the only night the clinic is open.  Roberts first medical mission abroad was in 1988 with a trip to Thailand, and to date, Dr. Jon Roberts has participated in 18 medical missions abroad.  Ten of those trips have been to Haiti.  The first of those was in 2004.

Dr. Jon Roberts: “Right now I go with 2 organizations mainly. One is Samaritans Purse, and most recently Harvest International.  They both are non-denominational, and I think the trip before last to Haiti, we had 8 different denominations represented by the people from Southwest Missouri who went on the medical and construction mission trip.  We have a maximum of 20 that can go on each trip.  Same for the construction mission trip.  We try to take one medical mission trip a year, and one construction trip a year.   We go to the same locale, Les Cayes, it’s the third largest city in Haiti.  We get to know the same area, and work with the same missionary family there.  The Ray family from Canada runs a Sunday school program there and brings in 1200 children each Sunday morning.  This is an area where we operate a clinic and see a number of children.” 

“I work at a hospital in Les Cayes, a small 60 bed hospital.  I work with a surgeon from Grand Rapids Mi. who actually goes to Les Cayes one week each month, and he has also been going there since 2004.  I think we saw around 2000 patients the last week we were there this year.  The main problem in Haiti right now is all related to poverty.  With poverty comes poor nutrition, poor hygiene, inadequate drinking water; which is what led to a cholera outbreak in November and December of last year.  I worked at a cholera hospital in Port- Au –Prince with Samaritans Purse in December.  A 240 bed hospital was put up in 2 weeks.  We were running 90-110 patients a day there.  Many of them were near death when they got there, but we didn’t lose one single cholera patient there that week.  You know, you do the best you can, and just deal with it.  I think even 34 years in medicine in the U.S. doesn’t really always help you deal with what you see in a 3rd world country.”

“We’re so fortunate to live in a rural area in Southwest Missouri.  Not only for what we have but the type of people that live in this area.  And I live in an area that’s overly receptive to wanting to know about the trips to Haiti, and how individuals here in Mt. View can make a difference.  Since going to Haiti in 2004, we started the construction team that goes, the medical team.  We participate in an AIDS feeding program there.  One of the churches in Winona Missouri has taken on an orphanage to support.  Jon Leamy, the MSU Soccer Coach has been a very big supporter of what we do, and along with Evangel University, Drury, SBU and MSU-West Plains, they provide us with used soccer balls, basketballs and volleyballs.  We take them to Haiti when we go on our trips and with other athletic equipment donated, are used to teach young people about AIDS awareness in the school system.  Our area hospitals, Cox, St. Johns, St. Johns-St. Francis provide medical and surgical supplies to the Les Cayes hospital.  We are getting ready to have our 3rd well drilled in the Les Cayes area.  So not only do we go to do one week of construction, and one week of medical, we’ve got our community involved and we feel like we can make a difference, especially when we go back to the same area in Haiti.”

“It has really been a blessing for me.  I think we’ve had 48 individuals from the Ozarks who have made the trip to Haiti, some with 4, 5, or 6 trips now.  And I think every one of them feel just like I do.”