Broken Earth gets Rotary Club recognition

Rebekah Ward
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Doctor named Paul Harris Fellow for medical work in Haiti

Dr. Andrew Furey delivered an acceptance speech at the Sheraton Hotel in St. John’s after receiving the Rotary Club’s Paul Harris Fellowship Thursday. — Telegram file photo

A St. John’s physician and a philanthropist have been recognized by the St. John’s Rotary Club for their efforts to make the world a better place.

On Thursday afternoon, Dr. Andrew Furey and Rotary Club treasurer Kevin Sullivan accepted  Paul Harris Fellowships for their respective work in health care and philanthropy.

Furey was honoured for his work as co-founder and president of Team Broken Earth and Sullivan’s background is in tax services.

“The Paul Harris Fellowships recognize outstanding contributions to the community and to the ideals of Rotary,” according to a Rotary Club news release.

With Team Broken Earth, Furey rallies teams of physicians to volunteer in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince multiple times a year.

“Broken Earth, and Andrew’s work on it, exemplifies what Rotary is all about, service above self,” Rotary Club past president Glenn Barnes said.

Furey first visited Haiti as part of a relief effort after the 2010 earthquake. Now that media shock waves surrounding Haiti have petered out, interest in relief efforts runs the risk of dwindling; but Furey thinks the work of Team Broken Earth is more essential than ever.

“In these times of bullet news stories, rapid CNN and texting news, each major news story often occupies only a minute on the global stage,” Furey said.

“The plight of the poor is often neglected, and rarely occupies our attention for more than a minute or two. I think it’s part of (Broken Earth’s) mandate to maintain some sort of local focus, and possibly national focus (on Haiti), because the people in desperate need still exist.”

Since 2010, the focus of Broken Earth’s immediate medical care has gradually shifted, as earthquake-related injuries have given way to more acute care issues. Though he feels the Haitian medical teams they work with in Port-au-Prince are growing less dependent on their help, the process is very slow.

“It’s an overwhelming task for them,” Furey said.

“They have 10 million people and 40 Orthopedic surgeons. I mean we have 22 in a province of 500,000, you know? They’re going to need our help, but if they have the right skill sets through education, then I think that is ultimately what could change Haiti.”

Team Broken Earth is designed to do just that, by building relationships among physicians here, and between the Broken Earth group and doctors in Port-au-Prince, Furey hopes to avoid creating just another Band-Aid solution.

The team’s atmosphere in Canada is strong enough that Broken Earth runs without a single paid worker: all of their fundraising goes to medical supplies, plane tickets and infrastructural improvements at the Port-au-Prince hospital.

“We go, and we see the same people every single time,” Furey said.

“We develop trust with them. And that allows us, then, to develop an education program. I don’t think you can have education in that environment without having trust and a personal connection. And as that develops, then we’re able to provide more formal curricula. Because they know that we’re going to come back. You can imagine that they see teams and individuals come in all the time who promise them the world, but they never see them again.”

Furey and his wife Alison, a physician who has been an asset to Broken Earth from the beginning, have helped their three children understand privilege by explaining that some of the people they treat in Haiti don’t have colouring books,  teddy bears or even houses.

Furey’s acceptance speech also focused on the subject, encouraging the audience to think about the privilege associated with living in a place like Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Think about all the things that we take for granted,” Furey said.

“Think about how fortunate we have become that we are able to complain of high cellphone bills and $10 coffees. ... Over one billion people in the world today live on less than $2 a day. (There is still) a massive socioeconomic divide that empowers us, but impoverishes so many.”

Furey said his emphasis on the good fortune of Newfoundlanders was not meant to elicit guilt, but to get his audience to think about their own measure of good luck.

Organizations: Andrew Furey and Rotary Club, Band-Aid, Port-au-Prince hospital

Geographic location: Haiti, Port-au-Prince, Canada Newfoundland and Labrador

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