More than a year after a devastating earthquake in Haiti, a Portland-based aid group says money is needed more than ever to battle a stubborn cholera outbreak and provide health care to refugees who are still unable to return to entire regions that remain tent cities for survivors.

Konbit Sante has been providing medical care in Cap Hatien for about 10 years, long before the earthquake and cholera outbreak.

“The need was great before these happened, and the needs are still great,” said Executive Director Nate Nickerson.

Konbit Sante is holding its second “Maine Walks for Haiti” fundraiser on Saturday. The event, a roughly 3-mile walk around Back Cove, will include Haitian storytelling, food and music.

Last year, the inaugural event drew 200 people and raised about $15,000 for the group.

Nickerson said the money raised will be used for general health care operations in Cap Hatien. He noted that donations to Konbit Sante result in immediate benefit to Haitians in need.

“There are fewer layers of bureaucracy,” he said. “This walk is a way to (donate) with clear and immediate impact.”

Cap Haitien is about 50 miles north of the capital, Port-au-Prince, which was destroyed in the January 2010 earthquake. The organization has hired community health workers to get care to the area’s neighborhoods and also works with the Justinian Hospital, a 250-bed facility, in the city.

Last week, the new Konbit Sante program manager in Haiti was in Maine. Dr. Youseline Telemaque visited the Friends School of Portland on Mackworth Island, where some third- and fourth-grade students plan to participate in Maine Walks for Haiti.

Telemaque told the students what schools were like in Haiti – about six classrooms would fit in the small auditorium of the Friends School – and about the living conditions there.

Eight-year-old Liam Ireland of Portland, who is planning to walk in the fundraiser, was among more than 60 students at the meeting.

“People in Haiti, well, I sort of knew this, but they are very poor. There is not much water or shelter,” Liam said. His teacher Nicole Borrasso said she was teaching the students about Haiti in preparation for the walk.

“We’ve really talked about why we are walking,” Borrasso said. The students had been working with Habitat for Humanity on a local level, but Konbit Sante lets them stretch to an international cause.

Liam’s mother, Merritt Carey, is helping put together the Friends School team for the walk. She works with Konbit Sante through her consulting firm Graffam Solutions.

“In Maine, there are not many ways to engage internationally, and this is a neat way,” Carey said.


Staff Writer Ellie Cole can be contacted at 791-6354 or at: [email protected]