Dr. Pierre Plourde visited Haiti for the first time while he was still just a medical student.
Today, he remains connected to the small community of El Shaddai Church, a slum on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince which he visited for the first time more than 30 years ago.
The Wolseley area resident, who is now a medical officer of health with the Winnipeg Health Region, is organizing the second annual RUN … Hand in Hand with Haiti to raise money for EMAS Canada (Education, Medical Aid & Service) project, Hand in Hand with Haiti.
The run will take place Sun., Oct. 21 at Assiniboine Park’s Riley Family Duck Pond. The event will begin at 10 a.m. and will consist of a 10-kilometre run, and a five-kilometre run/walk.
"It’s an opportunity for people to get out and enjoy Assiniboine Park, but the main benefit is to help a struggling community, with fantastic people, elders and leadership, to make ends meet," Plourde said.
"(The run) isn’t so much to raise a whole ton of money, as it is to raise awareness and get word of mouth out there so people can find out about the uniqueness of the project."
Through the Hand in Hand with Haiti project, Plourde has been leading an EMAS-Haiti healthcare mission team to the El Shaddai community annually since 2004. He takes a team of dentists, doctors, physical therapists, teachers, high school students, and parent-and-teen teams to work in the community of 500 for a week or two each year.
"We go down there for a week or two to boost morale, bring down lots of supplies, and run a teaching environment clinic," Plourde said.
Plourde and Hand in Hand with Haiti have assisted leaders of the El Shaddai community maintain a centre where malnourished children are fed and a primary school.
Since the devastating earthquake in January 2010, Hand in Hand with Haiti has also been helping the community rebuild some of its destroyed buildings.
Plourde said all of the money raised at the run will go directly to programs in the Port-au-Prince community.
"We have a donor who is going to cover the admin costs, so we can tell people if (they) donate $100, $100 is going to the Haitian elders to work with (in the community)," he said.
Plourde said last year’s inaugural run raised approximately $10,000, and he’s hoping to match that total this year.
"We’re staying modest. We’re a pretty small operation for now, so we’re not trying to outdo ourselves," he said.
Plourde’s daughter, Nadine, 14, will be travelling with her father in February to take part in her first healthcare mission in Haiti.
She said the upcoming run is a great way to spread awareness and fundraise for Hand in Hand with Haiti, and she’s hoping to bring some of her friends out to support the project.
"These people (in Haiti) have had really horrible lives, but they are some of the most appreciative, joyful people I’ve ever met," said the younger Plourde, who will be making her second trip to Haiti. "I find if they aren’t able to get even something close to what we have here (in Canada)… it’s just not fair at all. That’s why it’s important for people to help."
Registration fees for the run are $40 for the 10-kilometre event and $30 for the five-kilometre run/walk. Families to a maximum of four can register as a group for $60.
For more information on how to register for the run, or on Hand in Hand with Haiti, go to handinhandwithhaiti.org.