Mary’s Woods Nurse Fulfilling Dream to Serve Abroad

Mary’s Woods Nurse Fulfilling Dream to Serve Abroad

May 26, 2015

Dani Jones with Haitian Orphans

Dani Jones with Haitian Orphans

Dani Jones always wanted to do international healthcare. As a child she longed to help the underprivileged and dreamed of doing humanitarian work in Africa.

Years later, now a geriatric nurse at Mary’s Woods, she had no idea her life’s calling would lay not in Africa but in the Western Hemisphere ─ at the heart of one of the world’s poorest nations.

“Last summer, I was looking for opportunities to do some international work,” she said. “I wanted to go to the Dominican Republic, but the program was full. Then I learned about an opportunity in Haiti, a country which I wasn’t all too familiar with, aside from knowing that it had been devastated by an earthquake five years earlier and that many people lived in poverty.”

But it wasn’t until she traveled to Haiti with a medical volunteer team from West Linn named Project Helping Hands that she fully understood the scope of the poor living conditions that affect most of the 10 million inhabitants of the Caribbean island.

“My eyes were opened to the extreme poverty, malnutrition and the lack of hope that Haiti is afflicted with,” said Dani. “It’s really hard to comprehend the daily struggles the Haitians endure, until you actually travel there and live under such meager conditions.”

Upon triaging a group of orphans at a community clinic on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, her team members discovered that the orphanage, which was little more than a two-room plywood shack, lacked adequate drinking water, food and clothing. “It was dismal,” she said of the orphanage. “Making matters worse, malnourished children had to walk two hours a day just to collect clean drinking water. My team realized we had to do something to help.”

Before leaving the country, the team pooled their resources and purchased a goat and a chicken for the orphanage. Though she knew it wasn’t enough in the long run, it was a helpful contribution in a community where “every little bit adds up.”

She has since returned to the Caribbean nation twice, on each occasion bringing relief to communities in need. “On my first trip, I befriended two Haitian translators who wanted to start a school in their village. When I returned in November, I brought them books, reading materials and chalk board paint.”

She returned to Haiti most recently in March, when she revisited the orphanage. Depleting her personal savings account, she was able to purchase a 125 gallon water catchment tank and bring 17 growing children a box of undergarments and socks.

“Mary’s Woods employees have a proud history of volunteerism and support from fellow employees,” said Mary’s Woods CEO Marvin Kaiser. “Dani’s effort is such a beautiful representation of the spirit and commitment of the Mary’s Woods community to the well-being of every person no matter where they live.”

While Dani’s work is purely altruistic, and she is driven to help the less fortunate, perhaps it was a moment of unexpected helplessness during the last visit that impacted her life the most – working with a woman who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

“I was involved in a Hospice case in a small town,” she said. “A 58-year-old woman was seeking pain medication for a cancerous tumor that had spread throughout her body. In the United States, her tumor would have been removed at a very early stage and her odds of survival high. She could have lived well into her 80s. But in Haiti, there aren’t enough hospitals or doctors, let alone adequate medical treatment. Though I was able to find one of the medications we use in the States, there was no pain medication available.”

The woman died the next day in her home.

It was an awakening moment for Dani and solidified her personal vision of how to help Haitians. “The people have struggled through adversity their entire life,” she added. “They should not have to struggle through their death.”

Dani’s desire to serve the Haitian people is an ongoing journey. She plans to return soon and continue her work with Haiti’s aging population. “I want to share my knowledge in hospice care, and help care for and administer medications for the dying in Haiti.”

In the meantime, she is following a path in healthcare that has brought her to Mary’s Woods, where she embraces every minute of the day. “I feel fortunate enough to work for an organization that supports my mission and sees the importance of goodwill in the world,” she said. “Caring for past generations of civil leaders like our Sisters is an honor for me.”