Veterinarian shares skills with Haitians
Contributed Photo Joe Snyder, of Myrtle Point, demonstrates how to give a goat a physical examination in Mirebalasis, Haiti. The retired veterinarian recently volunteered to conduct animal care training so Haitians can perform basic procedures.

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Jane Snyder had every reason to worry about her husband's recent trip to Haiti.

With ousted dictator Jean-Claude 'Baby Doc" Duvalier's surprise arrival threatening to trigger riots shortly before Joe Snyder touched down in Port-au-Prince, she feared her spouse could get swept up in a melee.

'I relaxed and felt better," said Jane, 'when Joe sent me a photo of him in a pasture with his hand up a cow."

She could breathe a sigh of relief.

All was well.

Joe Snyder recently returned to Myrtle Point from Mirebalasis, a community of about 70,000, 38 miles from Haiti's earthquake-devastated capital and only several miles downstream from a cholera outbreak that killed hundreds last year.

'You're pretty careful what you eat and drink," said Snyder, who owned Myrtle Point Veterinary Hospital for 26 years.

Care crash course

The mostly retired 63-year-old vet spent a week giving Haitians a crash course in animal care at a technical school in Mirebalasis.

Founded by a Wisconsin veterinarian and funded by Rotary International, the four-room building had no running water. But it had electricity and latrines -- luxuries by most Haitians' standards.

'There are virtually no veterinarians in Haiti," Snyder said.

And that's a problem in a Third-World country where, for most families, owning 'one or two animals is a life-hold for them," he said.

So, when Snyder received an e-mail from the American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners -- of which he is a past president -- announcing an opportunity to teach abroad, he thought: 'Maybe I could spare a week and help out."

Tired translator

His introduction to Haiti: Garbage-strewn streets, skinny scavenging beasts, and the stench of human excrement.

But the people?

'They were smart! They pick up something like that," Snyder said, snapping is fingers.

He was one of three Americans teaching the course.

Their Kreyol-speaking students -- 17 men and one woman -- came from all over Haiti to learn the basics: rudimentary surgeries, disease identification and how to calculate doses of medicine.

'Of course the translator is working his butt off to keep up with us," Snyder said.

Made a connection

The goal, he explained, was to train students to perform basic procedures -- services that could help them make a living in a desperately poor part of the world.

'I did feel like I managed to make a connection to some of these guys," he said.

'If I saw them two years from now, I'd throw my arms around them and say 'Good to see you again!'"

He exchanged e-mail addresses with the three of the 18 students who had Internet access.

On the final day, he noticed students clustered in a group in an animated discussion.

Snyder remembers the translator telling him: 'They're getting organized. They want to keep contact with each other and continue their education.

'They're arguing about who gets to be president!"

Said Snyder: 'How cool is that?"

One more thing about Joe and Jane Snyder: The couple teach English to university students in Guatemala.

Joe Snyder's Haiti trip came shortly after their return from Central America, where they volunteer through Progresa, a Quaker-founded scholarship program.

Reporter Nate Traylor can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 236; or at


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