Church, RV dealer turn van into clinic-on-wheels

11:37 PM, Mar 27, 2013   |    comments
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Mobile medical unit built by American RV for Calvary Church, to be used in Haiti.

BYRON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WZZM) -- A West Michigan church and a recreational vehicle dealer are teaming up to turn a cargo van into a mobile medical unit for treating people in Haiti.

The congregation at Calvary Church in Holland contributed the money, and a team of craftsman at American RV in Byron Township have devoted hundreds of hours turning a Mercedes Sprinter van into a clinic on wheels.

"It was fun every step of the creation," says Kirk Lacharite, customer relations manager at the RV dealer.  "It was just an absolute joy to do, thinking of how they were going to use it."

Putting medical equipment was not the only thing the workers had to do.  They had to make the van sturdy and durable enough to handle Haiti's rocky terrain and rough roads.

"The durability was the big thing," says service technician Hank Nuiver. "We wanted to use components that could take the punishment."

The missions director for Calvary Church says the van will be the only way many Haitians will be able to reach medical care.

"People line up -- 30 to 40 people, mothers with their babies, with young children -- they walk there from miles around because there are no clinics," says Joyce Johnson.

The van will support the work of two doctors and two nurses.

"It has what you would see in your doctor's office," says service technician Jon Sikkes. "Beds will set up and down. It easily duplicates the doctor's office."

The van will be sent to a seminary which operates a clinic in a hilly area in Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital.

"They had a dream of operating a mobile clinic," says Johnson. "Last year we decided we would get our congregation involved, and in December we raised $152,000.  We have been able to purchase the van, and we are paying to convert it."

Employees at American RV accepted the challenge of turning the van into a rolling clinic -- though they had their doubts at first.

"There were a lot of times we looked at each other and asked, 'Are you kidding? How are you going to do that?'" remembers Sikkes.

But after four weeks and 200 man-hours, the medical van is complete.

"[The seminary is] going to be so excited," says Johnson. "It's going to help a lot of people."

The van is scheduled to leave Friday for Florida.  From there it will be transported by ship to Haiti.  The vehicle is expected to be in service later this spring.

Calvary Church is committed to supporting operations of the unit for at least two years.  You can learn more about the mission effort on the church's website.

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