An Iowa doctor’s medical mission trip four-and-a-half years ago has led to an expansion of his family and the rebuilding of an orphanage in Haiti.
Dr. Rick Wilkerson, an orthopadic surgeon from Spencer, went to Haiti in June of 2010 after an earthquake devastated the country.
“Shortly after arriving there I was almost run over by an eight-year-old child on a razor scooter by the name of Junior, who at the age of four had the misfortune of losing his mother and then just three days before I arrived lost his father,” Wilkerson says. “Junior had no remaining family members to provide care, so he’d basically been living in the hospital hallway.”
Wilkerson says he formed a “strong bond” with the boy. Wilkerson and his wife, Barb, ultimately adopted Jean Junior, but it took two years. The Wilkersons created a non-profit group called “LOVE Takes Root” to raise money to rebuild the orphanage school where Jean Junior lived until the adoption was final.
“We moved the project to the rural area of the southern part of Haiti and have built an orphanage with two cottages for 65 children, a dining room and kitchen,” Wilkerson says. “We’ve completed our primary school and medical clinic which we staff one week per month and then also staff the rest of the time with a Haitian physician and nurse.”
When Wilkerson was on his medical mission in Haiti after the earthquake, he found a 70-year-old woman trying to care for 50 orphaned children in a tent. Many were suffering from scabies, a highly-contagious skin disease. Wilkerson says that’s when the idea for “LOVE Takes Root” was born. Next summer, the organization hopes to open a secondary school in Haiti, next door to the elementary school for orphans it has already built.
“We have not only our 65 Haitian children in the school, but also 100 kids from the neighborhood who have also taken advantage of the school being there,” Wilkerson says.
Wilkerson talked about his experience last week during testimony before a U.S. Senate committee.
Wilkerson and his wife are the parents of nine children, five of whom are adopted. That includes the boy Wilkerson met in Haiti, who is now an 8th grader in Spencer. Wilkerson aims for the “LOVE Takes Root” charity to expand its reach beyond Haiti, to help needy children in other countries.