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by Roby Hill
South Carolina College of Pharmacy
Students dispense cheer, aid to Haiti

Ron Nickel’s office in the College of Pharmacy was cluttered with boxes and he couldn’t have been happier. It was Oct. 9 and he was sharing the spirit of his students’ who were embarking on a mission to spread a little holiday cheer in a place that sorely needs it—Haiti.
After painstaking hours of sorting and stuffing, the Christian Pharmacists Fellowship International (CPFI) chapter at the South Carolina College of Pharmacy’s (SSCP) MUSC campus had amassed more than 100 two-gallon bags filled with items to improve the health, hygiene and spirit of children in the beleaguered country.
Dr. Ron Nickel, CPFI faculty advisor; Lauren Abel, (from left) third-year pharmacy student; Lisa Murphy, first-year pharmacy student; and Liz McClintock, third-year pharmacy student and president of CPFI, check out the boxes packed for Haiti. Students and faculty of the College of Pharmacy as well as other colleges at MUSC provided items such as toys, soap, shampoo, clothes, rice, beans, multivitamins and school supplies including pens, pencils, notepads and crayons.  The students also accepted cash donations from MUSC employees to purchase additional items. The boxes were scheduled to be sent Oct. 16.

“Haiti needs a lot of help,” said Elizabeth McClintock, a third-year SCCP student and CPFI president. “We can’t solve all their problems, but we wanted to ensure that at least some of the children would get something special around Christmas.”
The care bags of wash cloths, soap, rice, beans and other necessities—along with a few fun items like stress balls—are sent in boxes to Melbourne, Fla., where they join bags from other organizations around the region, and are crated and shipped to Haiti. The outreach is an initiative of Good Shepherd Ministries, which sponsors the elementary schools in northern Haiti where the bags eventually are delivered.
CPFI’s goal every year is to get the bags to the children by Dec. 25, but the wheels of the Haitian government can be slow. One year the bags didn’t reach their destinations until March.
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and is often plagued by social violence and natural disasters. Most of its nearly 4 million children under the age of 14 live in poverty, and are without adequate shelter, food, clothing and potable water. Poor hygiene and micronutrient malnutrition are significant contributing factors in the poor health of these people.
One hundred boxes were filled with items to go to children in Haiti.

Three years ago, the CPFI chapter at MUSC decided to try to help. At first, the pharmacy students focused on hygiene and sent bags with wash cloths, shampoo, soap, combs, brushes and other personal health items. Last year, they began adding cups of beans and rice to each bag. They also try to include something playful like stress balls or notepads with pens, items usually left behind by pharmaceutical company reps. This year they added vitamin supplements and freeze-dried food.
“The cost of food is two, three times what it costs here,” said Nickel, associate professor of clinical pharmacy and outcomes sciences and associate director of continuing education. “The income is extremely low. So the people supplement their diets with the mangoes, bananas and other fruits that grow there naturally. Unfortunately, these recent hurricanes stripped the trees of their fruit. So we’ve added some vitamins and other things to help.”
While Nickel searches for discounts and sales for purchases, most of the items in the bags are secured either by in-kind donations or by money raised through collection boxes around campus, student projects or solicitations of faculty and staff.
The group realized that special attention was required in packing the vitamins, because they looked a little like candy. So warning labels needed to be created to prevent overuse and waste, but the warning labels needed to be easily understood by the Haitians. This meant finding someone fluent in Creole.
Enter Jean Hilaire.
Jean Hilaire, a third-year pharmacy student, hails from Haiti. A 1990 graduate of Tertulien Leclerc High School in Port-Au-Prince, Hilaire conducted his pre-pharmacy work at Broward Community College and Miami Dade College in South Florida. He earned a degree in linguistics from the University of Haiti and was working towards a master’s degree in pharmaceutical sciences at Campbell University in North Carolina before enrolling in the first fully united SCCP class in 2006.
Hilaire served as the linguistic expert, translating the warning label information into Creole, which was included in each bag.
“I’ve seen first-hand the struggles of some of the people in Haiti,” he said. “What we’re sending them is more than just a toy at Christmas or food for a few days; what we’re sending them is the message that people know and care about what happens to them.”

Friday, Oct. 17, 2008

The Catalyst Online is published weekly by the MUSC Office of Public Relations for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of South Carolina. The Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at 792-4107 or by email, Editorial copy can be submitted to The Catalyst Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Island Publications at 849-1778, ext. 201.