HAITI: The Kaiser Permanente Experience—Part 1


Sarah Beekley, MD

Fall 2010 - Volume 14 Number 3


HAITI: The Kaiser Permanente Experience—Part 2: Personal Stories

Our cause is health, our passion is service, and we are here to make lives better. This is the social mission of Kaiser Permanente (KP), and the personal mission of the staff whose stories are shared in this collection of essays. Each volunteered their time, sacrificed their personal safety and comfort, and challenged themselves to extend well beyond their normal limits both personally and professionally. And each of them would say that they gained more than they gave.

Why is volunteering such an elevating human experience? Why is being of service to someone who cannot repay you so profoundly rewarding? Perhaps it is legacy, knowing that one has truly made an invaluable contribution to the lives of others. Perhaps it is mastery, the challenge of testing one's expertise, resilience, and resourcefulness in an unfamiliar and austere environment. Perhaps it is gratitude, the recognition that we live and work in a community of extraordinary wealth and privilege, and that with this privilege comes the opportunity, even the responsibility, to give back. Perhaps it is just the human desire to connect in an authentic and noncontractual way. These stories give us a glimpse into the many factors that motivate us.

Every physician and nurse who worked in Haiti did so because colleagues and family at home made it possible. These stories are written both to inform and to express gratitude to the many silent partners that made this work possible. Many are extracted from letters, blogs, or e-mails written while in Haiti or soon after returning to the US. They are written to honor the people of Haiti, suffering or healed, living or dead. They are written to acknowledge the courage, the sacrifice, and the skill of those who continue to dedicate themselves to making lives better.

Because the desire to share the stories was as great as the outpouring of compassion , this collection is being published in two parts. This first part is an introduction and commentary on the experience, the need, and the organization of answering the need. The second part, in the Winter 2011 issue, will be the personal stories, triumphs and failures of some of those who traveled to Haiti whose lives were changed.


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