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Utah-based Healing Hands for Haiti clinic reduced to rubble

Published: Friday, Jan. 15 2010 12:14 a.m. MST

Except for a guesthouse, the Healing Hands for Haiti clinic was destroyed by the quake. Some staffers are missing. (Lucien Duncan) Except for a guesthouse, the Healing Hands for Haiti clinic was destroyed by the quake. Some staffers are missing. (Lucien Duncan)

The Healing Hands for Haiti clinic is rubble. The apartments the group owned are flattened. Far worse, two tenants are believed to be trapped in the wreckage.

Of the buildings where artificial limbs, medications and hope were freely dispensed by the Utah-based organization, only the guesthouse in Port-au-Prince is relatively untouched.

And while some staffers have been accounted for, others are missing, according to Susan Gleason Pierre-Louis, a Salt Lake woman who for several years lived on those grounds as a program director. Her husband, Farnel, is Haitian.

Two days after an earthquake annihilated parts of Haiti, those who love the island country and watch from afar say they're beginning to get answers, both joyful and heartbreaking.

Except for a guesthouse, the Healing Hands for Haiti clinic was destroyed by the quake. Some staffers are missing. (Lucien Duncan) Except for a guesthouse, the Healing Hands for Haiti clinic was destroyed by the quake. Some staffers are missing. (Lucien Duncan)

"My family is OK," said Alda Honore, of Taylorsville. "But my mom said they have no houses left. My mother, his mother, our brothers and sisters, none of them have homes now. They sleep outside and can't get anywhere. There are too many people on the street. They have nothing."

She and her husband, Hernandez Honore, came to the United States from Haiti a decade ago because his native country was no longer a safe place. He'd once served as a bodyguard to the mayor and as head of a security force. But politics made his situation very precarious.

Dr. Jeff Randle, a rehabilitation specialist who founded Healing Hands for Haiti after serving an LDS mission there, is clearly both tired and a little rattled as he talks about the destruction of the clinic and compound. Over the course of a dozen years, the charity went from a small fly-in-and-treat volunteer organization to a full-time operation with its own clinic and pharmacy, located on six acres. And while Americans and Canadians continue to volunteer regularly, there's now also a native staff trained to meet the dire needs of their fellow countrymen for rehabilitation.

Except for a guesthouse, the Healing Hands for Haiti clinic was destroyed by the quake. Some staffers are missing. (Lucien Duncan) Except for a guesthouse, the Healing Hands for Haiti clinic was destroyed by the quake. Some staffers are missing. (Lucien Duncan)

With the exception of that guest house, "the buildings are completely gone or unusable," said Randle. "I think we have some electricity from a generator, but I don't know if we have water. The clinic, the physical therapy shop, the warehouse, the pharmacy, it's all gone."

Will he rebuild?

"Right now, looking at the images on CNN, I think we've got to. Haiti barely functions at the best of times. At these worst of times … I believe we will see much more death in the aftermath than in the quake itself."

That fear, he said, is driven by the inability to get supplies to people, the inaccessible roads. He expects civil unrest, infections, people starving. And he's scrambling to find his own way to Haiti so that he can provide treatment to some of the wounded and worn. One of his first priorities will be digging into the wreckage that used to be a pharmacy to see if any of the medications are usable, because they are desperately needed, he said.

Except for a guesthouse, the Healing Hands for Haiti clinic was destroyed by the quake. Some staffers are missing. (Lucien Duncan) Except for a guesthouse, the Healing Hands for Haiti clinic was destroyed by the quake. Some staffers are missing. (Lucien Duncan)

Wednesday, Farnel Pierre-Louis was able to reach his sister, who assured him she believed their mother is alive. But he has not been able to get through since and his mom's whereabouts are still unknown. Calls Thursday went unanswered.

e-mail: lois@desnews.com. TWITTER: loisco

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