Tears of compassion, love and hope as the mission comes to an end

Editor’s note: Check this site for updates from the Medical Mission team from St. John Vianney parish in Bettendorf.

Day 5: Thursday, January 24


Patients wait to be seen at the medical clinic.

By Ann Wester

We have completed our last day of clinic. Our unofficial total is 1,794 patients. This team has been amazing. They are so compassionate and care deeply for every one of our patients. They take the time to listen and see each one of them as a very special person.

We had a celebration dinner tonight and everyone talked about their “God” moments. The moments always revolved around someone showing caring for another.  It was an emotional experience as our first-time members said what the trip has meant for them. Many tears were shed.

We really feel we have helped this week.  Along with the medical care, we gave them hope and showed them love and compassion. It will be sad to leave tomorrow. Going to 6:45 Mass and then say our goodbyes to our Haitian friends. We started this journey with hugs and will end with hugs.

Thanks so much for praying for us this week.  We could definitely feel them, especially as we worked through more challenging problems.


Team treats many patients, takes time out to walk the neighborhood

Editor’s note: Check this site for updates from the Medical Mission team from St. John Vianney parish in Bettendorf.

Day 4: Wednesday, January 23


Dressed in a beautiful white outfit and hat, this woman attended Mass on her 89th birthday at the church of Notre Dame du Rosaire in Jean Denis. Looking on is pastor, Father Jean Salomon Vincent.

By Ann Wester

The unofficial total for today was 337. It was a terrific day. We are seeing many, many patients with high blood pressure and many with diabetes. The dental clinic kept very busy with teeth extractions and fillings. We also did dental education as they waited for their appointment with the doctor. We held a lot of babies and painted nails on the kids while they waited to see the doctor.

This week has gone by so fast, can’t believe tomorrow is our last day of clinic. And even at the end of a full day, the team is smiling. After clinic we went through the village and talked to some of the people in the neighborhood. There are no sidewalks or paved streets. No playground for the kids. No outdoor toys like balls or swings. No swimming pools. They do swim and bathe in the canal but the water is very dirty.

It is hard to describe the very small huts where a family of seven or eight live. We live in such luxury. I can’t imagine living in these conditions. We have so much and they have so little. It is heartbreaking to see.

Keep the prayers coming. We are not done yet!

Busy team ministers to grateful patients


Members of the 2019 Medical Mission team from St. John Vianney pose in front of the new Our Lady of Fatima school in Jean Denis, Haiti. The school is part of  Notre Dame du Rosaire parish.

Editor’s note: Check this site for updates from the Medical Mission team from St. John Vianney parish in Bettendorf.

Day 4: Tuesday, January 22

By Ann Wester

We have seen over 1,100 patients in the past three days. Today was busy but really good. The Haitian patients are so grateful for what we can give them even if it is having a tooth extraction.

We sent two patients to the hospital for further testing today. The ones that are hard are those to whom we can only give comfort care. Tylenol and Ibuprofen, Icy Hot, eye drops and sunglasses are in big demand.  And the hats … oh my, everyone wants one. We brought over 300 but they are gone now. We had more to bring but didn’t have enough luggage space.

There were a lot of kids and adorable babies today. Hard to work when you just want to play with them or hold the babies!

We are very proud to be representatives of such a supportive, generous and caring parish. Thanks to all who have made this trip possible with donations and prayers.

Another busy day at the clinic

Editor’s note: Check this site for updates from the Medical Mission team from St. John Vianney parish in Bettendorf.

Day 3: Monday, January 21

By Ann Wester

The team worked so hard all day. In the past two days, we saw two Zika babies. Today’s baby was 16 months old and couldn’t even hold up his head. There really wasn’t anything we could do but a referral to a pediatric clinic. But the services that would help, such as speech and physical therapy, are almost impossible to obtain in Haiti.

We saw 350 patients today. I went to Saint-Marc to check out prices on some supplies and drugs. We were able to buy a few medications that we needed. We are seeing more scabies this time and needed more medicine for that.

Everyone looking forward to another day of clinic.

300 patients seen on first day

Editor’s note: Check this site for updates from the Medical Mission team from St. John Vianney parish in Bettendorf.

Day 2: Sunday, January 20

By Ann Wester

We started the day with Mass at 6:30. The music was wonderful and lively. It was great to be back in Haiti. I have hugged so many wonderful people today. Had breakfast and then the clinic started at 9. We have an awesome team again this year. Everyone works together so well. It is truly a joy to work with this team and to give assistance to our Haitian patients.

We had one lady in particular that touched the hearts of many of us. She was 46 and was very lethargic and in much pain. After assessment and discussion with the family, we found that she had terminal cancer. All we could do was comfort care. This was hard for those that were helping her.

The unofficial total for the day is 300 patients.

All looking forward to tomorrow.

Medical mission 2019

img_3467 (1)

Members of the Medical Mission team visit the chapel at St. Joseph’s Center in Gonaives.

Editor’s note: Check this site for updates from the Medical Mission team from St. John Vianney parish in Bettendorf.

Day 1: Saturday, January 19

By Ann Wester

We had a great visit to St Joseph’s center in Gonaives. Sister Renee showed us the facility. They have a beautiful school, kindergarten through 6th grade, and hope to add 7, 8, and 9.

Ann Wester

Ann Wester

They are building new classrooms for it. They also have a nutrition programs for malnourished babies age 6 months to 2 ½  years, which includes their moms. They are also building a sewing factory which will make T-shirts. It will employ 50 people, which would give good paying jobs to those in poverty.

This afternoon we met the new school principal at Our Lady of Fatima and discussed future plans for the school, which could include adding grades 7 and 8. We also discussed needs for the current school which include things like maps, globes and reference books.

We also set up the clinic and we are ready to go!

Mass at 6:30 tomorrow. And the clinic will start after. The team is so excited to start tomorrow. It will be so good to see many of our friends from last year.

Our Lady of Fatima School dedicated in Haiti

New school 4

Father Jim Vrba, Father Tom Lafreniere, Father Jean Salomon Vincent, Bishop Yves-Marie Pean and Deacon Bill Rich join students at the dedication of the new Our Lady of Fatima School in Jean Denis, Haiti on April 23.

St. John Vianney parishioner Ann Wester, who has traveled to Jean Denis, Haiti, on numerous medical missions, was one of six parish representatives in Jean Denis for the dedication of the new Our Lady of Fatima school at SJV’s twin parish, Notre Dame du Rosaire. Here is her report.

Ann Wester

Ann Wester

It was a great day in Jean Denis on Monday, April 23, when the new Our Lady of Fatima School was dedicated.

I was one of six representatives from St. John Vianney who attended. Others were Father Jim Vrba, Mark and Nancy Blaser, and Ken and Cathy Miller. We were also joined by the group from Hands Together of the Palm Beaches whom we partnered with to accomplish the building of the school.

We started the day in church with speeches of gratitude from the students, principal and Father Salomon. The students sang a song in Creole for us.  Then we sang “Immaculate Mary” for them. It was so exciting. At the last “Ave Marias”, Father Jim signaled all of the crowd to join in with us. They stood up and sang and clapped as we all sang together in solidarity. It was one of many times when the tears were flowing during this dedication.

We then all went to the school grounds where the blessing occurred. The bishop of Gonaïves, Yves-Marie Pean, CSC, with Father Jim Vrba and Father Tom Lafreniere of North Palm Beach conducted the blessing of the school, the classrooms and the statue of Our Lady of Fatima. The ribbon was cut, and the school is now ready. The students will start classes next week.

The new school has nine classrooms from preschool to sixth grade. There is a room for teachers and the principal. There is a classroom with 36 computer stations. The school is powered by solar panels. There are fans and LED lights.

The school was designed, built and will be staffed by Haitians. The project was a collaborative effort with Hands Together of the Palm Beaches, St. John Vianney and the Haitians.

To see the contrast between the old school and new can only be met with more tears. To think that the students no longer have to learn in the dark dreary old school is truly awesome.  The generosity of SJV parishioners is amazing.  We are so blessed to be able to reach out to those who are in such need. SJV has made such a tremendous impact in Jean Denis.

I only wish that everyone could go to Jean Denis and see such poverty and to meet the people who, despite this, are still filled with hope and love. It changes your life. They give wonderful hugs and smiles. We have been able with God’s help to make a difference.

From our medical mission to school lunches to the tiller to the brand new school — all because SJV has said, “Let’s help those in need.”

New school 2

The Bishop of Gonaives, Yves-Marie Pean, CSC, cuts the ribbon at the dedication of Our Lady of Fatima School.

New school 6

A student from Our Lady of Fatima School presents flowers to Cathy Miller, chair of the Haiti Committee at St. John Vianney, as Father Salomon and Father Vrba look on.

New school courtyard

The new Our Lady of Fatima School has nine classrooms from preschool to sixth grade. The school is powered by solar panels. It stands in stark contast to the old school, below.

Haiti Business Trip 085_41

A week full of memories in Haiti will last a lifetime


Katie Kustes and her newfound friends.


Katie Flores cradles a newborn patient.

This is the final  post from Katie  Kustes, a Bettendorf teen and member of the St. John Vianney Medical Mission team to Jean Denis, Haiti. The mission team returned to the Quad-Cities on January 26.

Thursday and Friday, January 25 and 26: The last day of clinic was bittersweet. Just a few weeks ago, I was counting down the days until I was in Haiti. Now, after one wonderful week, our 2018 mission trip has concluded. I am so proud of my team for the hard work that was put to make this trip possible. My wonderful grandma, Ann Wester, works year-round to coordinate the details of the trip. Nancy Blaser, Dr. Mark Blaser’s wife, works tirelessly on the garage sale in the summer and coordinating all of the 60 luggage bags full of supplies for the trip. This year, two other teenagers came with me on the trip, which was awesome. It’s refreshing to have someone my age to relate to and experience Haiti together.

Our team of 30 included both medical and non-medical volunteers. I admire every one of the team members for their dedication. They spend money and take vacation time to come to Haiti and that is something I will always admire about them.

The last day I worked as a “goody bag coordinator.” This is not a hard role, but it’s a lot of fun. A goody bag consists of toothpaste, a toothbrush, a bar of soap, and shampoo. Each patient who comes through the clinic receives a bag. This year, I am proud to say we had 1,750 patients! From the first patient to the last, we strived to make every person feel safe and loved. Watching the doctors work with the patients was awe-inspiring. Even on a busy day, they would take their time to get to know their names and ask about what they do and how they’re doing. Along the way, I met a lot of cute babies. Our youngest patient was 23 days old! Our oldest patients were over 90. Something new happens at the clinic everyday, and that’s what keeps it interesting to me. Some patients have an irregular heartbeat, one patient had a major burn, a little baby girl was malnourished and weighed 7.5 pounds at 8 months old. I also admire the nurses and the pharmacists for putting in endless hours to find a solution for every patient’s problem or medical issue. I might be biased, but I think I am a part of the greatest team in the world.

Leaving on Friday morning was tough. I am so glad to be home but so sad to leave Haiti. I’ve made many great memories over the past two years. I don’t know if I’ll go back for a third time. Next year will be my senior year and there are other places on my list for travel. I am trusting in God’s plan and I will go back if I feel called to do so. Haiti will always be a safe and happy place for me. I will never forget my adventures in Haiti and I will carry them with me wherever life takes me.