Andrew craik rarely gets emotional at the office. As an investment advisor who has been with BMO Nesbitt Burns Inc. in Fredericton for 14 years — a natural extension of his business degree from the University of New Brunswick and his interest in the stock markets — Craik is not one to cry on the job.

The fact that he is able to visit the emotional part of his personality through volunteer work is one of the reasons he loves his time with Team Canada Healing Hands Inc. (

Craik, who is 39, first encountered the U.S.-based non-profit organization through the local running club over which he presides. Three friends in the club were first to go to Haiti; nurse Amelia Maxwell, physiotherapist Sylvie Toussaint and Lloyd Sutherland, as a support worker. Craik then signed up to go as support worker on two trips, in January and November 2004.

On his first visit, Craik helped a pediatrician at an orphanage in Port-au-Prince. His job was to supervise waiting children while she treated their peers; to take notes for her while her hands were engaged; and to hold down dirty, frightened children while she examined them. The children’s neediness — and Craik’s strong sense that he could help relieve some of it — got under his skin. He was hooked.

This month, Craik is taking his third trip to the dirt-poor island, where he will be one of a handful of support workers who assist a raft of professionals, including general practitioners, emergency physicians, orthopedic surgeons, nurses, nursing students, physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech/language pathologists. Together, they work at the Kay Kabab Clinic in Port-au-Prince, a rehabilitation facility for people with physical disabilities. They also do outreach work at outlying orphanages with children who have disabilities.

On each visit, Craik and his fellow support workers are put on different teams, with each member responsible for a different task.

“There is always work to be done,” Craik says. “It could be general carpentry work at an orphanage. It could be fixing some guy’s crutches because they’re all busted up. It could be working with a physical therapist or an occupational therapist. You’re kind of like MacGyver.”

On his first visit, Craik discovered that all 65 orphans were storing their toothbrushes upside down in a can of dirty water. He oversaw the construction of toothbrush racks and their installation in the bathroom.

On another trip, he took pictures for a doctor’s medical students back home of a little girl who had been hit by two cars as she crossed the road.

The last time Craik was there, in November 2004, he assisted the organization in taking receipt of a huge delivery of wheelchairs, donated from an international organization. In just two days, he helped unload 250 wheelchairs from the trucks on which they arrived, remove them from their boxes and set them up. “That was full-on sweat equity in the hot sun,” he says.

Craik, who has no children himself, has collected toys for his trip this month. He also e-mailed all his running buddies requesting donations of good-quality, second-hand shoes to distribute to the Haitians. He has been washing his bounty, which arrives in a constant stream (including the bag of still decent footwear that someone left on his car roof) in his basement every night. The toys and shoes will be shipped in huge hockey bags with his luggage.

Craik pays his own way for each of his visits. At a cost of about $2,300 a trip, it is not luxury travel. He stays in a guest house with other volunteers. On the last trip, eight men shared a single bathroom for two weeks.

“I do it because it’s fun,” he says with a shrug. “It’s totally different from what I do on a day-to-day basis. Here, you get up in the morning, put on a suit and tie, come into work and deal with people who have money. I work in a nice office; I have an assistant. It’s a pretty cushy job. You don’t get very dirty.

“But after a day’s work in Port-au-Prince, you’re dirty; you’re sweaty; you’re grimy. There have been times when I’ve had to walk away, tears in my eyes, because it was just too much to take. But I can’t imagine anything more rewarding.” IE