Haiti is one of the oldest nations in the Western Hemisphere, but it’s also the poorest. And that translates directly to the nation’s medical conditions: “Deplorable,” says Dr. Frederick Landenwitsch, a family doctor practicing in the small town of Claysville, Pa. “There is no internal medical structure.”
Landenwitsch, a 1979 graduate, became familiar with the medical conditions in Haiti about four years ago when he volunteered at a medical clinic in LaCroix, a small village near the center of the island country. The clinic has midwives and nurses but has to rely on visiting doctors a few weeks each year. After his fourth trip to the clinic, he decided to help raise money to build a residence in the village to attract a Haitian doctor and dentist.
His fundraising effort? Pedaling for money. In January, Landenwitsch and a friend bicycled from San Diego to St. Augustine, Fla. For 28 days, the pair battled headwinds, attacking dogs, flat tires—Landenwitsch had seven—and logging trucks that hugged the shoulders so close the riders practically got splinters. They bedded down in hotels along the way, but when they couldn’t find a hotel, they pitched a tent and dined on peanut butter, crackers and Milky Way bars.
Their effort, though, was worth it. In the end, their 3,000-mile journey, which they documented on their web site, www.tourdesaints.org, netted $58,000 toward the residence.
“Haiti is beautiful and sad, yet its people are full of hope, faith and life,” Landenwitsch says. “They are incredible survivors. Who would not feel privileged to help?”