They call me 'Mama V'
Former area resident making an impact with nonprofit organization
By LORI LAW • Correspondent • February 15, 2009
In Haiti, where Vanessa Scurlock Carpenter, formerly of Somerset, flies nearly every month to bring children to the United States for lifesaving surgeries, she is called "Mama V."
At her full house in Virginia, which she shares with her husband Tom Carpenter, formerly of Zanesville, and the 11 children still at home, she is usually answering to "Mom." Director of the nonprofit organization, Angel Missions Haiti, Carpenter said that she is only doing what she has been called to do. "I'm just a mom and this is what I do. This is what God has called me to do," she said. For the hundreds of children whose lives have been changed and in many cases, saved, Mama V and the work she does will not be forgotten, just as she will not forget them or leave them to be forgotten. "I was blessed to grow up in Ohio, where there is medical care for those who need it. Haiti has opened my eyes to the fact that no matter how many times we see it on TV or hear these stories, until we have visited and seen with our own eyes, smelled the poverty, held a baby while it passed away due to no medical care, we cannot understand what it is like to live in a third world country," Carpenter said. Angels Mission Haiti coordinates medical care and provides education to children, families and for Haitian physicians, with the hope that someday their efforts are so successful, Carpenter said, as to put the mission out of business. It has been a journey for Carpenter, measured in more than the miles between the U.S. and the island nation of Haiti, but in the faces of the children she has nurtured. "I've always known that I would work with abused, neglected and unwanted children, from a very young age. When I met my husband, I told him that this is what I plan to do with my life," Carpenter said. "If you are OK with that, then stick around. And he stuck around from our first date on. We have fostered well over 160 children in our 28 years of marriage. We have adopted some and been guardians of some and made sure that all of them could always feel like they had a home. "A few years ago, when we felt that we were done adopting out of the foster care system, God had other plans and I went on a mission trip to Haiti and saw the devastation and need down there and couldn't turn my back on it, so I have been going back for the last nine years now doing anything and everything, serving orphanages, starting schools, running medical programs and now we are in the process of opening a surgery center in Port-au-Prince. "The surgery center, Carpenter said, is being built under American standards so that American doctors can go down and teach the Haitian doctors on the equipment that is being made available in Haiti. "We work with doctors around the country. Over the past nine years, I have brought hundreds of children to the United States for life saving surgeries and the doctors have always said to me that if only they had a place there to operate, they could save more than the one or two that their hospital here allows them to help," she said. "God has opened the doors and we will have a surgery center with two operating rooms and a 30-bed recovery center. "Once open they will bring fewer patients to the U.S. for the surgeries. Drawing no salary for her work as director and working in conditions with no electricity, no running water, no sewer systems, and hurricanes, floods and often political unrest, Carpenter said that she has never been afraid in Haiti, calling the people there beautiful, kind, welcoming and grateful . Her mother, Imelda Scurlock of Somerset said that she was worried at first. "But I learned early on when I prayed about it and let go and let God. That was when my worries just went away. I have seen what it means to her and the good that she is doing. She is doing what she has been called to do," Scurlock said. That family partnership in the mission's work is vital to the work Carpenter does, she said of her husband, Tom. "He's a saint. He puts up with me. We both wholeheartedly believe in this. He has been to Haiti and seen the need and his way of helping is to be here, taking care of the family and earning money so that we can go to Haiti and help some more," she said. "Haiti will follow us wherever we go," Tom Carpenter said. "I am incredibly fortunate. Life has just continued to be blessings all along. It is not about what we are doing. It is about us doing God's work. It is about the kids. This is just what we were supposed to be doing."