Dispatches from Haiti: Quiet Heroism

This is a continuing series on the devastation and reconstruction of Haiti. As the story fades from the front pages of newspapers and ...

This is a continuing series on the devastation and reconstruction of Haiti. As the story fades from the front pages of newspapers and trending topics on Twitter, we will endeavor to provide a continuing look at what is happening on the ground.

Samuel Abelard is an unlikely hero. The graying 54-year-old father of four has been quietly lending a hand as he and his fellow Haitians rebuild the pieces of their broken lives. He has been working at an International Medical Corps-supported mobile medical clinic in two classrooms of a small Port-au-Prince teacher's college ever since it was set up following the Jan. 12 earthquake.

From the start, Mr. Abelard, as he is respectfully known to all, has kept the clinic running. He is the pharmacist and the storekeeper, steadily keeping track of new medications and other donated supplies that come in, noting what gets used and alerting the medical staff when replacements are required.

International Medical Corps volunteer physicians and nurses say they rely on him for just about every support function they need. They know the order he maintains increases efficiency and thus helps them see more of the hundreds of local residents from the working class Bolosse neighborhood who crowd outside each morning to get treatment.

But that's just part of Mr. Abelhard's contribution.

"He's a leader," summed up Diana Rickard, a physician from UCLA who recently completed a two-week stint at the Bolosse clinic. "The local nurses and other staff all look up to him and come to him for advice."

Mr. Abelard notes that keeping the clinic's small pharmacy organized isn't all that different than the storekeeping he did prior to the quake. And he learned the basics of medicine as a boy from his father, who was a pharmacist for nearly 20 years. Rickard says he's obviously eager to build on that base.

Before the earthquake, he had a steady job as the storekeeper for a restaurant in
the United Nations compound not far from the Port-au-Prince airport, but that all ended in a few terrifying minutes on the afternoon of Jan. 12. The U.N. building collapsed and with it, the restaurant.

Several miles way, his family home was badly damaged, too. His wife suffered a fractured pelvis and requires a walker to get around, and the family now lives in one of the hundreds of tent settlements that have sprung up in Port-au-Prince. Mr. Abelhard's eldest daughter, the family's only other wage earner, lost her job too when the school where she worked as a teacher collapsed.

Still, he considers himself lucky because all his immediate family survived.

Like so many Haitians, he lives today in makeshift surroundings, mainly on emergency food distributions. Although he says his family depends on him for income and that he hopes one day to return to his job at the United Nations restaurant, he stressed that he plans to stay at the clinic as long as he can make a difference.

"People need me here," he said, quietly. "This is where I belong now."

Communications Officer Tyler Marshall is with International Medical Corps' Emergency Response teams in Haiti and reporting for GOOD on his experiences and the people he meets along the way.