Haiti and its larger neighbor, the Dominican Republic, share the island of Hispanola, Christopher Columbus’ original Caribbean landing point in 1492.
A slave revolt late in the eighteenth century ended years of European rule, as the French governors and Spanish and English traders were driven out. Voodoo was declared as the national religion and all missionaries were expelled. In 1804, Haiti became the second democratic republic in the New World.
It has been said that Haiti is 90% Catholic, 10% Protestant and 100% Voodoo – referring to the religion’s deep permeation of all aspects of the culture. This is an exaggeration, but even Christian Haitians struggle to overcome the superstitions with which they have grown up.
Today Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, and the recent earthquakes have devastated the already struggling economy. An estimated 10 million people make up a country about the size of Maryland. The majority of Haitians live on a dollar per day, with the average Haitian family’s wealth being about 3% of their American counterparts’.
In 1987, students and doctors from Indiana University’s Fellowship of Christian Optometrists made their first mission trip to Christianville. In 1988 ChristianVision broke ground for a new eye care facility on the Christianville campus. Then, just as now, the ChristianVision clinic provided a place for missions-minded volunteer doctors and students to minister to the Haitian people.
Rod Kaufman, O.D., became the first full-time CVESH missionary in 1992. He and his family were in Haiti for a short time before a military coup forced a return to the U.S. In 1995, Phil Raber, O.D., reestablished the full-time optometrist role when he moved to Haiti with his family. He directed the clinic for the next six years while his wife, Dr. Myriam Raber, was head of the Christianville dental clinic.
When the Rabers returned to the U.S., new Indiana University Optometry grad Shelley Kaluf came to be the CVESH optometrist. “Dr. Shelley” guided the clinic until 2007 when she and her new husband decided to move to Indiana. As Dr. Kaluf was preparing to leave, God was prompting a graduating optometry student to pursue work in foreign missions. In June 2007, Ryan Price, O.D., made his first trip to Haiti and was able to work with Dr. Kaluf during her last week in the clinic. Dr. Price joined CVESH as the fourth full-time optometrist in September 2007.
The earthquakes of 2010 damaged the eye clinic beyond repair and it was torn down in April of that year. Thankfully, none of the eye clinic employees or missionaries were injured and they continued to work out of temporary space until 2015.
Dr. Price and his family, which had grown to number five members during his time in Haiti, returned to the United States at the end of 2013. That year Lori Geddes O.D. and her husband, David Geddes AuD, became directors of CVESH.
Our new, dedicated eye clinic is now open as we receive volunteers to staff it. We welcome volunteer doctors for short-term or long-term work.