My brother Gaskov Clergé ‘s death in 1999 left us with Chaos, disbelief and horror. He was the life of a party on Friday; got hospitalized on Saturday; and succumbed to liver cancer on Sunday at 38, at the dawn of a promising and fulfilling life. During the days following that excruciatingly painful reality, we, his family and friends, decided to grieve his loss by giving a part of our modest lives back to our community, hoping to someday stop the tears and heal the wounds.
That pledge yielded the Gaskov Clergé Foundation-GCF. Instead of surrendering to depression, we spent our time on countless lively discussions which shaped the organization’s character and future. We defined our mission to be one that will empower individuals by giving them access to education and health care. With modest contributions from relatives and friends, we completed the tax-exempt recognition process and embarked on carrying our mission the following summer.
Our goals were to implement a medical mission in Haiti and to provide scholarships to as many children as we possibly could. In August 2000, with a team of approximately 30 doctors, nurses, a support staff, and many bags of donated medical supplies, we traveled to Les Cayes, Haiti on a shoe-string budget, with the goal of seeing 500 patients in 5 days. We exceeded that goal by the second day. By the 5th day, we examined 1,500 patients with hundreds more not seen by our volunteering Physicians. As for the scholarships, we started with 10 children as recipients and also had to turn away many more. On the trip’s last day, I was tired, brokenhearted and tearful. The tears were partly from the liberating feeling of being at peace with Gaskov’s death through the lives we just touched. Also, my tears were from an overwhelming feeling of inadequacy…in the face of such unfulfilled basic human needs…the right to a decent education and health care.
Since 1999, GCF’s medical missions became the main source of medical care for many who can’t afford to see a doctor. The yearly missions offer free health care and medication to an average of 2,000 patients in the region, many of whom travel from the most remote areas. We have provided financial assistance for several life-saving surgeries in Haiti and we are now planning on establishing an affordable diagnostic and medical center in Southern Haiti. For our growing Education component, we sponsor 120 children and will continue to increase this number and watch our students blossom into productive human beings with a brighter future. Most importantly, we are blessed with the love and the deep gratitude of those we serve.
Through that love and gratitude, we accept Gaskov’s death as a priceless and precious gift. The gift of knowing that it is making a significant difference in many lives and will continue to do so, God willing, with no end in sight. That I believe, has profoundly transformed my grieving experience from detrimental to one that is therapeutic, serene, satisfying and complete.
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