Indy loves Haiti: local charities abound

  • 12 min to read
Indy loves Haiti: Spotlight on local doc


On Jan. 12,

2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti. An estimated 3 million

people were affected, and a global outpouring of charity donations, good will

and volunteers flooded Haiti. Locally, more than half of Indiana households

donated to relief efforts. But, this is not a story about the earthquake nor is it

about the millions of dollars raised. This is a story about one woman's love

affair with Haiti and how that affair has impacted her home city of

Indianapolis and the world.

"You should come to

Haiti with me!" Amy King said with such sincerity and enthusiasm I thought

it might propel her right off her seat at Calvin Fletcher's Coffee House, as we

sat and chatted on a blustery January evening.

King wore an over-sized

fleece pulled over her scrubs. She'd just come from the VA hospital where she

works as a nuclear medicine technologist in the radiology department.

That's her job in one world,

but in another world, Amy inhabits a small village in Haiti. She volunteers on

a medical mission, leading responsible tourism trips, visiting orphanages or

simply enjoying some rum and freshly caught lobster.

"Trust me," King said. "I

want to live here and I love the convenience that America affords and I love

the fast Internet connection. I'm way more efficient here, but Haiti has, even

in the midst of chaos, what matters: family, tradition, colors, dancing, music,

more family, working together."

I asked her if her heart was

in Haiti and she answered in a dreamy, drawn out, "Yeahhhhhhhhhhhh."

Connecting everyone

King brought that passion

back to the States in the form of the web site Provocate-Haiti, which features

a vast amount of articles King and others have written, on everything from the

history of Haiti, to local initiatives in Haiti, to recommendations for books

about Haiti.

"This web site is how I've

taken the last two years of chaos in my mind and it's actually becoming

something, like this real idea of having the local community work together to

help this global initiative," King said. "The future idea, when I don't have to

work at the hospital every day and I can do this and really spread this idea,

it would be so every state could have a Provocate idea."

In addition to this web site,

King is active in social media, including Twitter and Facebook.

"I love networking probably

more than anything on earth," King said. "As soon as I meet someone, I connect

with them on Facebook and connect them to the people who I think they could

have great synergy with. When I meet someone, I can't just talk to someone and

have a normal conversation. I immediately see what they have to offer and what

they need or what the need is and I immediately am in my head connecting them."

Via Facebook and Provocate-Haiti,

King compiled a list of approximately 300 people and organizations that were either

working in Haiti or had an interest in Haiti in doing so.

In the process, she forged

and facilitated relationships that have changed the way groups in Indiana are

working in Haiti. As King is fond of saying, there are "10,000 groups in Haiti

doing 10,000 different things," — she means this figuratively, of course

but her goal is to connect those groups.

"There are three huge water

groups working in Haiti and none of them knew that all three of them are right

here in Indianapolis," King said. "It just so happens that one of them does

purifiers, huge water purifiers, that can give water to a community of 5,000.

And another does bucket filtration for individual houses.

"So, it ends up that they

complement each other perfectly, but they didn't even know the others existed.

Whenever a connection like that is made, it makes me so happy. It's like the

fuel that keeps me going."

Read more about Amy's

personal life.

Warning: The next part of this story contains a dramatic image of doctors helping an earthquake victim that some readers may find disturbing.


On a medical mission

Amy began going to Haiti in

2007 when she joined St. Thomas Aquinas for a medical mission in Belle Riviere,


"I love what they

did," King said. "They take a team in and it's not evangelizing at

all. It's only medical care."

While there, King worked as a

triage nurse. She and about a dozen others worked side-by-side with Haitian

nurses and doctors for five days at St. Thomas Aquinas' twin parish, St. John

Marie Vianney in Belle Riviere.

"I went with the idea

that I could check Haiti off the list and maybe next year go on a trip with the

Timmy Global Health," King recalled. "(I wanted to see the world) and

I wanted to do it through a medical mission because that was my career — and

still is."

However, the plan of checking

Haiti off the list quickly morphed into something else.

"I went on the first

medical mission and, I can not explain it, but something happened and I totally

fell in love with the country," King said. "Everything went right."

King returned to Haiti with

St. Thomas Aquinas in 2008 and 2009. But, in 2008, not everything went so


On Friday, Feb. 15, 2008, the

group flew from Indianapolis to Atlanta to Miami to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, but was

stuck at Toussaint L'Ouverture International Airport because Haitian customs

had confiscated their supplies. The supplies weighed almost one ton and

included important medicine and equipment for a team of 17 medical


On Saturday, the group was

still waiting. Haitian customs wanted documents from the Haitian minister of

health, who was out of town for the weekend.

Sunday, the group was still

held up. They decided to visit Holy Angels hospice to spend time with children.

The next day, Monday, most of

the staff of the medical mission stormed in to the Minister of Health's office.

He referred them to the Director of Pharmacy, who referred them to the Director

of Protocols, who referred them back to the Minister of Health.

"I can't even make this stuff

up," King wrote in her journal. "(We) decided we couldn't get the meds back

because we couldn't show proof of some expiration dates."

They attempted to contact the

U.S. Embassy, but it was closed because of President's Day. Resigned, they gave

up for the day and went to Petionville for dinner. On the way back, the car was

pulled over by police and one of the authorities pointed a machine gun inches

from King's face. Luckily, the documentation they had on hand appeased the


On Tuesday, a few people from

the medical mission went back to customs where they were told they could have

their supplies, but they'd have to pay a tax. They decide not to. On Wednesday,

one of the men on the mission negotiated the release of the group's supplies

for $156 U.S. dollars.

They decided to scrap the

idea of going to Belle Riviere and made plans to travel to the slums of Cite

Soleil the next day and directly distribute medical help and medicines.

The area where they worked

was rife with gang members, but many Haitians still sought the group's


"(There were) burns,

shingles, goiters," King wrote. "They were grateful, we were thankful. So

exhausted, so fulfilled!"

Read about Steve Zentner, a

local doctor who's been going on medical missions to Haiti since 1966.


The quake

"On Jan. 12, 2010, I'm out

walking my dog, an evening just like this — snow on the ground, sun

setting," King said. "I get a message from my grandma and she says 'Amy, turn

on the TV there's been a really bad earthquake that hit Haiti and it's

devastating.' And I was literally glued to the television."

What King saw: a

phantasmagoria of razed buildings and pleas for help, bodies and blood, screams

and sirens.

It was another blow in a

series of unfortunate events that began unfolding in 1492, when Christopher

Columbus claimed the country for the Spaniards, who subsequently exploited the

land and people for gold and slaves.

Centuries passed and Haiti

saw more foreign rule, occupation, exploitation, debt and disease. All of this

only compounded the worlds' — and King's — desire to help.

"I got my name on a list to

get down to Haiti and I actually got down six days after the earthquake with a

team of surgeons," King said. "Honestly, my medical skill set was not enough to

help the patients at that time. What I was really able to do, and this has been

the pivot point of my life, I started posting about what was happening on

social media and getting connections and posting about our needs. I was getting

incredible positive response and incredible traffic to the site as well.

Literally, the earthquake changed my life as far as social media goes."

After returning home, King

was emotionally drained. One of her godchildren had died in the earthquake and

she attended the burial while in Haiti. Images of broken, dead bodies stuck in

her mind.

"Since the earthquake I've

grown up so much," King said. "Haiti's been my teacher. It's been the best and

the worst parts of my life."

Regardless, King pushed ahead

with an idea she had. An amateur photographer, King decided to host an

exhibition featuring her photographs of Haiti. Her first show was in March at

the Athenaeum, only two months after the earthquake. Her second show was in May

near Purdue University's campus in West Lafayette.

"I have had two art shows to

raise awareness," King said. "Again, advertising through social media and then

telling the story through pictures. I was raising money to go right back to


Every cent King profited went

straight to Haiti.

It was at her art show at the

Athenaeum that she met Provocate's founder and IUPUI SPEA visiting professor,

John Clark.

"He said, 'I have this idea

that I'd love to do,'" King recalled. "Over half of Hoosier households donated

(after) the earthquake in Haiti and that kind of blew his mind because he's

been working in international affairs his whole life. The more he was asking

around, the more he found out how many people work in Indiana, in Indianapolis

and in Haiti.

"So he said, 'I'm really

looking to spearhead this organization that would organize all the various

groups because I love nothing more that to support the independent local

community and I have this global initiative that I love with all my heart and

soul.' To connect the two, and using a term of John Clark's, which is 'glocal,'

global and local, it just hit."


Launching Provocate-Haiti

The idea of Provocate came to

Clark after 20 years of working at large think tanks like the Hudson Institute,

which was located in Indianapolis until 2004.

"I realized there is an awful

lot of talent and brainpower working around the world and the community and if

you could mobilize those people, you could have a think tank," Clark explained.

Provocate helps create a

local infrastructure to talk about 'glocal' issues. Provocate also seeks to

connect people to issues that they're passionate about and educational and

entertainment opportunities.

"It gives them an opportunity

to make themselves better and smarter," said Clark.

In the summer of 2010, King

and Clark jointly launched Provocate-Haiti and, over the next year, everything

seemed to come together perfectly for them.

They partnered with the

Haitian Association of Indiana to launch Creole classes; King met with senator

Lugar and his staff; she met with congressman Carson and his staff; she lobbied

for Haiti at the CARE conference; she helped launch the Midwest premiere of New

York filmmaker Alexandia Hammond's documentary Strange Things: Children of

Haiti at the IMA; she helped organize

Bloomington's Haitian film festival; she held another art show in January; and

ever since the beginning of Provocate-Haiti, King and Clark held monthly

networking meetings.

Somewhere in all of that, she

made another trip to Haiti in May of 2010 to do art therapy with her mother at

an orphanage in Cap-Haitien.

"It was obvious she had the

energy and the experience from her trips to Haiti," Clark said. "She had the

trust of these different groups. Everybody trusted Amy. I told her Provocate

was at her disposal. So, in some ways, I've always thought that Amy saved me.

It would've just been overwhelming [for me], a source of defeat and depression,

doing what she does naturally."

Partnering with Village


In the midst of the flurry of

activity that King and Clark experienced in 2010, King forged a relationship

that would re-define her involvement in Haiti.

In mid-2010, King met with

the owners of The Village Experience in Broad Ripple, sisters Kelly and Anne


"You can go into their store

and they have art pieces, jewelry pieces, kitchen wares from 35 different

countries around the world, and they didn't have Haiti," King said.

"We had several destinations

we were involved in," Kelly Campbell said. "Amy came to us and said we need to

do more Haiti. At the time, I wanted to go to Haiti and couldn't find an outlet

that was wasn't religion-based or medical."

Kelly and King worked

together to plan a trip based on responsible tourism.

"Responsible tourism means traveling the world in a manner that gives

back to the communities you are visiting," Kelly wrote in an article on

Provocate-Haiti. "It involves leaving a positive footprint and forging lifelong

relationships. The Village Experience finds locally owned and operated hotels,

looks for family-run restaurants, works with tour operators employing locals,

and helps artisans to more fully develop their handicrafts for resale."

And that is

what they did while they were in Haiti in

April of 2011.

Their experiences included assisting with rebuilding projects; spending a day

learning about micro financing and how local Haitian women had started their

business thanks to a small loan; and visiting the Arts Creation Foundation for

Children, whose artwork is now for sale in the Village Experience.

The trip's

success enabled King and Kelly to take their first group of responsible

tourists to Haiti the following month.

"I want to tell you that the energy of every single

Haitian that we met was palpable," King said. "Because they're so excited to

show off the beautiful side of Haiti. They're so excited to see 10 tourists

come in and buy their products and their crafts and their rum and their lobster

fresh from the beach that you can watch them cook. It's income-generating. It

is pumping money in to the economy while also enjoying the beautiful parks."

King still works closely with

the Village Experience. The team is planning future trips to Haiti.


Tourism and adventure sports

King's most recent trip to

Haiti involved pairing responsible tourism with adventure sports. Through

Facebook, King connected with a group called Travelcology, a "sustainable,

engagement marketing agency that connects people, passions, and projects through

brand-integrated adventure and volunteer travel experiences," according to

their website.

King saw potential for a

project. In January of this year, she coordinated a responsible tourism trip

for 13 people that included professional mountain bikers, hikers, backpackers,

kiteboarders, surfers and more.

"We had a woman who had just

done a 3,000-mile rickshaw race across India, who is an ESPN freelancer and has

worked for Tour de France and the Olympics," King said. "We had a guy named

Jeff Evans who was just on a reality show called Expedition Impossible, and he led a blind man to Mount Everest — he

made the Guinness Book of World Records. We had a professional kiteboarder. We

had several triathletes. We had an adventure filmmaker. We had a travel writer

for Lonely Planet and Bradt travel guides. We had, the main guy Philip, he's on

the board of directors for the chamber of commerce in Manhattan."

As always, the group stayed

in local hotels, ate at local restaurants and used local guides to transport themselves

and all their gear. The athletes set out to experience the wonders that Haiti

could offer, but at the same time they sought to educate the Haitians about

their sports.

"We went to leave the

mountain bikes with the Haitians so they (could) learn the mountain bikes, have

a garage, and there's these mountain bikes that you can rent now," King noted.

"There's a person there who can fix them now. Our kiteboarder took in a trainer

kite and actually taught the kids on the beach how to catch the wind and left

it with them."

"I want to get you there"

In King's perfect world, she

would stay in Haiti for two weeks a month, every month.

But, in this world, she has

only 20 days of vacation a year provided by her job at the VA hospital. Ever

since she started going to Haiti, she's used all of those days to go there.

She'll never stop going,

she'll never stop loving this country and most importantly, she'll never stop

recruiting others.

"Anything you want to do in

Haiti, I want to get you there," King said. "I want to get you to Haiti if you

want to get your hands dirty. I want you to go to Haiti if you want to build

something. I want you to go to Haiti if you want to teach. I want you to go to

Haiti if you want to do a medical mission. I want you to go for responsible


She paused, then added, "And

when people go, I want them to enjoy the local food, the local flavor, the

singing, the dancing — make sure they dance! I just want them to go."

Amy King will

speak at an upcoming, free showing of the IMAX film, Rescue 3D.





Provocate-Haiti exists to

encourage discussions around new ideas for solving problems. They are a website

for global and local initiatives, education, entertainment, policy and culture.

Amy King:

John Clark:

St. Thomas Aquinas

Donate to the reconstruction of Belle Riviere's parish center, St. Jean Marie Vianney, which was destroyed in

the 2010 earthquake. St. Thomas Aquinas has been involved in Haiti for over 21

years by providing Haitian teachers' salaries, installing solar panels,

providing water filtration systems and much more.


4600 N. Kenwood Ave.

The Village Experience

Sign up for an international responsible tourism

trip or visit The Village Experience in Broad Ripple for fair trade products from around

the world. Amy King will lead the next trip to Haiti on March 3-10.

Kelly Campbell:

6055 N. College Ave.

DOVE Missions

DOVE Missions is a youth outreach program that

exists to serve abandoned, abused and orphaned children in Haiti and the

Dominican Republic.


Medical Missions South Haiti

Volunteer in Haiti as a medical professional. This

group has made 14 trips since 2005 and taken about 60 volunteers and doctors to


Dr. Michael

Kids Against Hunger

Kids Against Hunger exists to

reduce the number of hungry or starving children throughout the world.

Volunteer to help pack meals for children here at home or abroad.


Dots in Blue Water

In June of 2011, a group of South Adams High School students

went to Haiti to install water purification systems they had developed. Over the course of a school year, students developed a

system that could treat 55 gallons of contaminated water in a single minute,

enough to provide a day's worth of drinking water for over 2000 villagers. Dots

in Blue Water

is planning a second trip to Haiti for June 2012.


Dots in Blue Water on Facebook

Ban Mwen Dwam

Ban Mwen Dwam is a group that seeks to advocate for Haiti,

the rights of Haitians and encourages all Haitians to work together for a

better Haiti.


St. Malachy Haiti Mission

St. Malachy provides medical assistance for the St.

Marguerite Parish in Port Margot, Haiti, and supports the St. Teresa School.Sign up for their Run/Walk for Haiti on April 28.


983 E. County Road 750

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