Nurse Debby Papperman remembers an extremely dark night in the jungle, on her first mission trip to Haiti last April. She was in the back of a truck with a group of volunteers, returning to a small village for the third time that day with basic medical supplies.
She and the others, including Laurel Crain, 17, of Petersburg in Upper Township; and Jonathan Spriggs, 17, of Cape May Court House, did as much as they could. The teens fetched medicine from the truck for Papperman, as she diagnosed bronchitis, yeast infections, worms and impetigo, she said.
"I saw rickets (caused by Vitamin D deficiency) and kwashiorkor, a severe protein malnutrition I had only seen in books," said Papperman, a teacher and school nurse at Cape Christian Academy in Cape May Court House. "I felt very honored to be with these teenagers on the back of that truck that night."
Their mission, organized by Cape Christian Academy, wasn't even a medical one. They were there to help in the rebuilding process after 2010's massive earthquake, and to distribute rice. But the Cape May County volunteers had offered to help a group there get medical supplies to the village. The experience convinced Papperman to organize a medical mission.
She and husband Thomas Papperman, an obstetrician/gynecologist, will go back to Haiti Oct. 20 to 29 with about 15 other Cape May County residents. The Dennis Township couple will work with two groups based on the island: Mission of Hope Haiti, and Feed My Sheep.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas. Life expectancy is 62, and with a population of 9.9 million, each year there are 266,000 births and 45,000 deaths of children younger than five, according to UNICEF. Rural people especially need medical help, as they are least likely to have improved water supplies or sanitation.
"(Mission of Hope) expects to send us into the field to do mobile medical clinics," said Thomas Papperman.
"At (Feed My Sheep) we'll be helping a nurse who goes into the villages by herself," said retired Middle Township High School science teacher Valerie Lazowski, of Dennis Township. "To have someone with her is a blessing."
All of those going are Christians, but they worship in many different congregations throughout the county. Some, like the Pappermans, have medical expertise. Others are teachers, construction workers, social workers and more. They will all support the medical efforts.
"I'll do whatever they need me to do," said Dottie Wood, of Upper Township. "At 75, a mission trip has always been on my bucket list."
The group has been collecting medical supplies to take with them, Lazowski said. They are still seeking basic first aid supplies, vitamins, cough syrup, and painkillers such as ibuprofen.
"One of the big things we're collecting is vitamins," said Lazowski. "If we could get teachers to give vitamins to every kid, every day in school ... we could actually affect their health."
She said the group will also be taking medicines to de-worm domestic pigs, which will have a positive effect on human health. The animals live so closely with the population, children often become infected with worms from the pigs.
The group held a yard/bake/craft sale at the Daughters of America Hall in Middle Township Aug. 11, raising more than $1,000, Lazowski said. Monetary donations would be welcome to help buy and ship medicines, and to rent a van and hire a driver.
Teenagers Crain and Spriggs are returning, as is Dennis Sexton, of Sea Isle City and Shamong Township, Burlington County.
Sexton was inspired to go on the first trip as a tribute to his godson, Valerie's son Thaddeus Lazowski. The 13-year-old was killed with his father, also Thaddeus, in a weather-related small plane crash at Woodbine Airport in 2009. Sexton was so affected by the destruction he saw, he felt he had to go back, he said.
Debby Papperman wasn't supposed to go on last April's trip to Haiti. She didn't even think it was a good idea.
"I thought we should be doing missions here in America," she said. But then someone who had signed up couldn't go, and she stepped in as a substitute at the last minute. "I saw such a need. I told my husband, I have to go back."
In addition to her husband, this time she's also taking 11-year-old son Jimmy, who has raised more than $300 to buy 24 soccer balls and pumps for children in Haiti.
Contact Michelle Brunetti Post:
Donations of money and prenatal or adult vitamins, cough syrup, basic first aid materials and medicines such as ibuprofen, etc., may be sent c/o Valerie Lazowski at Ocean View Marine Services, 32 Siskin Lane, Cape May Court House, NJ 08210 or contact Shannon Allen at, email@example.com. Checks can be made out to Petersburg United Methodist Church with Haiti in the memo.
Both Mission of Hope Haiti and Feed My Sheep enable donors to sponsor children in their programs for $25 to $35 per month. Visit mohhaiti.org or