By Diane Emeott
On Monday, March 21, Joe Miller got a call from a representative at Samaritan’s Purse in Boone, NC describing a bedbug problem at one of the relief camps in Haiti. The mission organization run by Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son, was trying to solve the problem themselves, with no success.
Miller and his son John Paul offered to go. “It got traction pretty fast,” he said. There were vaccinations for typhoid, tetanus, hepatitis A & B, and precautionary malaria pills to take. The day before their flight, they were in Miami trying to fast track passports.
Tuesday, March 29 at 6 a.m. they boarded a six-seater Cessna 310 from Mission Flights International, flying out of Ft. Pierce. “It was just us and the captain,” said Miller of the four-hour flight with no bathroom.
Landing in Port-au-Prince they were amazed at what they saw. More than a year after the Jan. 10, 2010 earthquake that killed 222,000 and made 1.5 million homeless, the Palais National [Haitian “White House”] was still in ruins, with crumbled concrete. There were mountains of trash in the streets. Filthy water was running through the garbage onto the streets. “That’s the reason they have cholera. If they had any sewer system, it hasn’t been repaired,” said John Paul.
“There were blue tarps everywhere, not just to cover Commissioner Joe Miller and son John Paul help relief workers and visit orphanages in Haiti. Miller, owner of a Deerfield pest control company, was called to assist with bedbug infestation. the roof — they are the house!” said Miller. “There’s so much dust that when it rains, it’s so muddy.”
“Really, it is such a beautiful country – if they had some more resources,” John Paul added.
It took the team two hours to make the 30-minute drive to the south camp where they would be working. “We hit the ground running,” said Miller, “we started work that afternoon.” [At night, they were helicoptered to the north camp to sleep, then back again the next day.]
They brought 15 boxes of supplies –$4,000-$5,000 of which was donated. The Millers also donated their services.
They worked on the nurses/ doctors/administrators tent to steam out the cubbies used instead of dressers to store belongings. “This is ground zero for the camp. There was the fear that anyone coming to visit the tent would bring the bedbugs back to 100 beds. With the military-style tents in close proximity, the last thing you really want is to have bed bugs,” said John Paul.
They trained four to six Haitians who helped with the eight-hour initial treatment, on what to look for. They also installed preventive devices so infestation won’t recur. Visits to six orphanages found zero bedbugs – but they did have rat droppings on the children’s blankets, Miller said.
He picked one baby up off the floor. “The lady who had the orphanage had her in her arms, put her down and she fell over on her side. She wasn’t feeling well, she had a runny nose.” There were 16 kids at one orphanage – all under the age of 6 – with one head lady.
John Paul said he was “a bit overwhelmed – but encouraged,” by the Haiti experience. “People are living with dirt on their feet but they’re not complaining. They’re smiling. And the kids didn’t get to go to McDonald’s! … I’m humbled by these people. It gives good perspective.”
Miller said he was glad they got the call. “These people [doctors/nurses/administrators] go out in the field every day. They’re dealing with cholera, who knows what else. We wanted them to have some comfort when they get home. To some extent, we ministered to the people who were ministering to the people of Haiti.”