December 13, 2013

Adventist Life

When natural disasters occur, countless groups and individuals selflessly jump into action and do what it takes to meet the immediate needs of the victims. As time elapses and media begin to shine their lights elsewhere, however, it can be easy to forget that long-term help and support also are vital components of recovery.

Businessman Nyron McLean was confronted with this gap in aid following the devastating January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, which measured 7.0 on the Richter scale and affected roughly one third of the country’s population. In response, he founded H3Missions, Inc., and he and his team are now providing continuing care for those living in that region. Adventist Review features editor Sandra Blackmer spoke with McLean about why he got involved and the ways he’s effecting change in Haiti.—Editors.

BLACKMER: Nyron, describe your mission. What are you trying to accomplish?

Our mission was founded following the earthquake in an effort to help bring medical and dental care to those impacted initially by that event, but we’ve evolved from there. We’re now providing medical and dental care to those living in tent cities and continuing to be affected by the earthquake, as well as kids in orphanages and people in villages where they don’t have access to medical or dental care, or simply can’t afford it. People are getting sick and dying from things that most of us can simply pick up a cure for at the local pharmacy. But these individuals don’t have the money to go to a doctor or pay for the medicine. The enormous need is staggering; really staggering.

When we go to Haiti—which is about four times a year—we take along or purchase in-country all the medicine and distribute it free to people once they’ve been seen by a doctor and prescribed that particular medication. We’re providing care for those who are less fortunate and cannot afford it. For many of the people, if they don’t get seen by us, they just don’t get seen by a medical professional at all.

Who comprises your team?

Our team is made up entirely of volunteers, so 100 percent of every dollar given to H3Missions goes directly to helping the people. We have eight members on our board of directors, who also go periodically to Haiti and lead out in aid teams. The other people who come include doctors, nurses, surgeons, teachers, lawyers—but we take anybody; you don’t have to be a health-care professional, you just have to want to make a difference and care about helping others.

We’ve organized both medical and dental teams. The Loma Linda University School of Dentistry has come with us on two trips, and we’re now planning a third trip with them. They send dental and dental hygiene students, and it’s been a very rewarding and successful collaboration.

We’ve also taken a construction team and built additional classrooms and restroom facilities at a school in Bon Repos, which is about 20 minutes outside of Port-au-Prince. We first put in a well, because the 200 students had no drinking water. That’s where we started doing our work. We hope to do the same thing in Port-de-Paix as well as in Montrouis. We’ve also been working with several hospitals in the Montrouis area.

Do you interact with other relief organizations serving in Haiti?

Yes, we do. I’ve been told that 14,000 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are currently operating in Haiti in a variety of capacities. That number includes everything from small church-group organizations such as ours to larger organizations such as the Red Cross. Some of them arose after the recent natural disasters—the earthquake and the hurricanes—but others have been serving the country of Haiti for decades.

It’s difficult to imagine 14,000 NGOs serving in Haiti and still having such a tremendous lack of aid available to the people.

Two issues impact that. One is that I have not yet discovered a formal overall organization that oversees where each organization is operating and ensures that they’re not overlapping or duplicating efforts. If we all spread out and covered different sectors, we would be far more efficient and effective. There’s also an overwhelming number of orphaned children. Parents selling their children, who are eventually used as slave labor or in sexual slavery, is a huge problem, as well.

Tell me about your first trip to Haiti.

We spent $1,000 on food the first time we went there and took a tour. We were just going to pick a tent city and give the people the food. When we did locate a tent city, however, we found it had 10,000 people, so we soon realized that $1,000 worth of food wasn’t going to go very far. That particular camp received two deliveries of water per day—one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Just think of people going all day in the hot, sweltering sun and not having any clean water to drink. We saw kids going to school without adequate sanitation facilities or drinking water. It was mind-boggling.

What about food and medical care?

I asked when the people had last eaten. It had been four days since the last group—a military group—had brought them food.

When we arrived, people assumed we were bringing some kind of support to them, so they just started quietly lining up—men on one side and women on the other. No pushing, no shoving, no chaos of any nature. I was amazed as I watched this happen. We then spoke with the chief of the tent city and asked if there were any sick people there. He said, “Yes,” so we asked him to bring us the sickest ones. He brought about 20 people, and out of those were seven who were in desperate need of medical attention. This was our first trip, and we didn’t have any doctors with us, so we took them to a medical clinic in Bon Repos to be examined. Two of the people ended up going to the hospital for immediate surgery. We just paid the cost. If you don’t have the money to pay, you don’t get health care at all; it doesn’t matter the level of need that you have.

Was it then you decided you would return?

Yes. I told the camp director, “I will be back.” About eight months later I returned to the camp, and the director said, “I was wondering whether you would really come back.” Many people make promises there and never follow through. I’m very glad I returned.

It sounds like this is going to be long-term and ongoing.

It is absolutely a long-term and ongoing mission project.

From where does the funding come?

From me doing a lot of begging. And I personally continue to fund the project, as well. People who have heard about us have been inspired to give. We’re a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, so I spend a lot of time asking for donations of money, supplies, and equipment.

We’ve stepped out in faith on some of these projects before actually having the necessary funding in place, because we know that the need is there. But people have been very gracious and involved. Several of those who have served on our teams and made multiple trips—surgeons, doctors, nurses, etc.—have also contributed financially. These are ambitious projects. We personally can’t accomplish these goals, but God can. If God is leading in something, then it will come about; He will touch the hearts of people.

This is not something I’ve ever done before. I was just inspired by watching all the news stations reporting that a staggering number of people had died as a result of these catastrophic events, and countless others—up to 1.5 million—had become homeless or amputees because of being trapped under the rubble. The real heroes are the Loma Linda University orthopedic team and others who were there a few days after the earthquake happened. They were hanging IVs in trees and sleeping in tents, and as the chief of orthopedic surgery told me, it was like Civil War battlefield medicine. They didn’t have any medication except for over-the-counter pain pills to dull the pain. They were living and working in conditions that were deplorable.

How many times have you been back?

I just completed my fourteenth trip since April 2010. It’s very time-intensive. We’re a small organization; everybody grabs an apron and a dish towel, rolls up their sleeves, and goes to town.

These experiences must have changed you in some ways.

They’ve certainly changed me. They remind me of how blessed I am—that I have opportunities that many people will never see, opportunities for health care, education, the freedom to become a doctor or a lawyer or whatever, and have some kind of system that will help accomplish it. They have dreams and aspirations like that too, but they have little capability of getting there.

Anything I haven’t asked that you would like our readers to know?

The team members who come on our trips are from all over the United States, and it doesn’t matter their occupation. We also welcome students—from high school to college.

It’s life-changing for the kids who go. They’ve been able to give of themselves to others and have been imprinted for life. They may not realize it today or tomorrow, but down the road they will be a better person because of their experience in Haiti.

To learn more about H3Missions, go to ... or


In addition to running a real-estate business in California, McLean and
his wife, Shelia, also work with troubled teenagers and at-risk youth.