Given the number of major international organizations seeking donations to aid the people of Haiti, some readers may be curious as to why we at U.S. 1 decided to send our modest $500 donation to Albert Schweitzer Hospital (HAS) in Deschappelles, 70 miles north of the earthquake’s epicenter near Port-Au-Prince.
HAS was not damaged structurally in the earthquake, but in the aftermath the influx of earthquake victims has stretched the hospital well beyond its 120-bed capacity. Even once patients are treated, many remain at the hospital because they have no homes to return to.
But, as is often the case around U.S. 1, it was not just the hospital’s current dire situation that caught our eye; it was also the compelling story of the hospital’s origin.
In the 1940s, William Larimer “Larry” Mellon — an heir to the Mellon family fortune — was living comfortably in Arizona when he happened to read a Life Magazine story about Dr. Albert Schweitzer, who had opened a hospital in the impoverished African nation of Gabon.
Inspired, Mellon, 38 years old, tremendously wealthy, and without a college degree, befriended Schweitzer and enrolled in medical school. His wife, Gwen, began training to become a lab technician. They traveled across the Americas in search of a needy area to open their hospital. Ultimately they discovered a former Standard Fruit Company complex in Haiti’s Artibonite valley that became HAS’ home.
The hospital opened in 1956, and the Mellons worked there for the rest of their lives; Larry died in 1989 and Gwen in 2000. Like the poorest natives, their ashes are interred in cardboard boxes in the hospital’s cemetery. Their memory lives on among the natives, and their goal of returning human dignity to a destitute area seems more important now than ever before.
Of course, HAS is not the only organization worthy of donations. And many area companies have already contributed to Haitian relief efforts. Please see our list of donations from area businesses on page 19 of this issue, and please send news of your company’s efforts to firstname.lastname@example.org. Somewhere, perhaps, a middle-aged reader may be inspired.