SEARCY When he was a medical student, Dr. Clayton Bell of Searcy said, he had a dream of dedicating his life to serving others. However, he had no idea what that would entail or if he was capable of making it happen.
“Living in Port-au-Prince for a month after the devastating earthquake of Jan. 12  really solidified for me what I was supposed to be doing with my life,” Bell said about his trip with a Humanity First Medical Disaster Relief Team led by Dr. Ifti Ali of Little Rock.
On June 1, Bell moved to Haiti, where he is a physician and administrator at the Cloud Forest Medical Clinic in Seguin, Sud-Est, Haiti.
“Living in Port-au-Prince was like living in a circus, so we looked for other areas in the country where we could make a greater impact,” Bell said. “During a medical recon mission through remote mountains of southeast Haiti, we discovered the beautiful village of Sequin. There were no doctors for an eight-hour hike in any direction, so we decided this would be the perfect location to establish a primary-care mountain medical clinic and help as many young men and women get a quality education as possible.”
Bell said that since Humanity First USA reopened an abandoned clinic, the health care workers have seen more than 5,000 patients with a variety of diseases.
“Cholera has been slowly creeping over the mountains and into our remote mountain village over the past several weeks,” Bell said. “We have treated about 50 cholera patients to date in Seguin.”
Although many patients are treated for cholera, Bell said, he also treats malaria, typhoid, cancer, pneumonia and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).
Local Haitians are also empowered by a Community Health Workers Program. They are taught how to care for their fellow countrymen. In addition to the clinic, Bell said, his team provides Where the Stars Still Shine scholarships for 36 children to attend school.
Bell said his biggest challenge has been battling feelings of hopelessness and futility.
“If you don’t believe in some being or purpose greater than yourself, you will quickly crack in an environment as turbulent as Haiti,” Bell said.
Changes have been made in the small village he now calls home, but looking at Haiti as a whole, he said it doesn’t seem to be getting better.
“The government is corrupt,” he said. “There is no infrastructure, few people have adequate access to clean drinking water and quality health care, and it is almost impossible for a rural student to finish high school without the financial assistance [of an outsider].”
The most frustrating issue, he said, is that the need for medical attention never ends.
“We get very little private time and have less personal space,” Bell said. “It is so hard to get away. Every moment of the day is filled by somebody needing something from you or wanting something, like a dollar, a cookie or your shoes.”
Upon a recent trip stateside, Bell said he had “reverse culture shock and sheer excess.”
Although Bell does experience frustrations and challenges, he said he also has rewards, such as the simple pleasure of seeing a smile on the face of a child. Bell also appreciates things such as water and food.
“I enjoy living on the border of life and death instead of worrying about less important stresses,” Bell said. “People are going to have a baseline of happiness no matter where they live or what they do; a new job or more money will not fix that unless they change inside as well.”
Bell said he wants people to know they can make a difference. Not only is he fulfilling his dream of helping others in Haiti; he is the founder and president of Where the Stars Still Shine, a philanthropic organization dedicated to providing health care and supporting education in developing countries, such as Haiti and Ghana. To learn more, visit wherethestarsstillshine.org.
“I also want people to know that it is OK to follow your dreams,” Bell said. “Don’t ever settle on whatever people tell you is possible. Usually cynics are old dreamers who let their passions die long ago.”
Bell said he believes comfort and fear are the two greatest slayers of the human spirit.
“Deep down, everybody wants to be a part of something greater then themselves,” Bell said.
Bell is accompanied by Chris Block, a registered nurse from North Little Rock, and Kyle Martin, a medical assistant from Michigan.
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