I am not an Asheville native. My daughter, dog, and I moved to North Asheville in 2010, and, like most others who migrated here, I came because it is a phenomenal place to live and raise children. I practice family law, and between raising a child and forging ahead in my career, finding balance in my life is a constant battle.
Part of finding that balance is giving back to the community — both locally and beyond. In late 2014, I became involved with Consider Haiti, which is a grassroots organization with a focus on health care and sustainable nutrition for children in several small, more remote villages in Haiti. The board members and people involved with CH are all local doctors, nurses, attorneys, small-business owners, parents — it is a wide cross section of wonderful people from the Asheville area.
After I made the commitment to go to Haiti in March 2016 to assist with four pediatric health care clinics in these villages, many people asked me why I was going all the way to Haiti to help children when there were children who needed help in Asheville and in our country. Before I went to Haiti, I really didn’t have a good response to that question.
Now that I have been twice, which included a trip in March 2017, I can answer that question with clarity. Nothing that happens in Haiti would ever happen in the United States. The depth of human suffering is unimaginable. In the mountain villages where we hold pediatric clinics, we are the only health care these children receive each year. There is no hospital or doctor’s office; there is no one who routinely comes up to check on these children. It is us.
In the United States, children don’t die of malnutrition. An HIV-positive baby whose mother died in childbirth would not be left to die because the father has no way to get formula or health care for his baby. An 11-year-old little girl would not be dying of scoliosis that was never treated as a baby. This would never happen here.
So my answer to that question now is that yes, we should give what we can on the local level. It is important to keep Asheville and its citizens healthy and happy so that our children and their children can enjoy it for generations to come. But as humans, we have a duty to care for all, particularly those innocent children who deserve a chance at life, regardless of where they live.
Consider Haiti has opened my eyes, and it is my sincere hope that my experience will be the catalyst for more people in Asheville to look beyond our borders to help those who need it.
— Brenda Coppede
Editor’s note: To learn more about Consider Haiti, visit www.considerhaiti.org.