Burnell Pudwill – Meeting Healthcare Needs in Haiti Since 1974

Burnell with his new wife and step-daughters.

Burnell with his new wife and step-daughters.

With over thirteen-thousand surgeries performed and four-hundred wells drilled, missionary Burnell Pudwill has no plan on leaving the Haitian mission field any time soon. Pudwill has been serving the Lord in Haiti since 1974. He moved to Haiti after training alongside medical professionals in the States and began assisting immediately, with no professional medical degree or license in hand. Pudwill, along with his wife, a licensed nurse practitioner, took an advanced one-year French language course, which they completed within sixth months, and then eagerly moved to a small town south of Port-au-Prince. Pudwill has assisted with everything from baby deliveries to church construction during his time in Haiti.

[there was] a lot to deal with, but we were there for the people. We both thought that was where God wanted us and we had the capabilities.
— Burnell Pudwill

After serving for a year in Port-Au-Prince, Pudwill and his wife moved to Cap-Haitien. While stationed in Cap-Haitien, they ran an out-patient clinic that provided care four days a week in a different location each day. Pudwill processed thirteen to fifteen-thousand people a year. A majority of his mission work consisted of dental surgeries: extraction of teeth and impacted molars. The work was very strenuous. Pudwill noted that “[there was] a lot to deal with, but we were there for the people. We both thought that was where God wanted us and we had the capabilities.” Following the end of his contract with the medical mission group he was currently working for, and the devastating loss of his youngest son to brainstem glioma, Pudwill moved him and his wife to the island of La Gonave. While in La Gonave, they both assisted with medical care at a well-established hospital.

Pudwills’s medical practice covered all areas of the body. He was involved in optometry, orthopedics, general surgery, and pediatrics. He was also trained to deliver babies but rarely did so since there were many sage femmes, midwives, available. Instead, Pudwill turned his attention to emergency operations and illness prevention by vaccination. Pudwill was able to provide triple vaccinations to pregnant women and, thus, greatly reduced infant mortality rates on the island. BCG vaccines were also provided to reduce tuberculosis. During his time in La Gonave, Pudwill noted that it was not uncommon to perform hysterectomies removing ovarian cysts weighing ten pounds or more. However, such scenes are now rarely observed due to the increased healthcare education that Pudwill has witnessed in Haiti since 1974.

a lot of people in the church wouldn’t read and if the kids were in school they would read to them…
— Burnell Pudwill

Additionally, Pudwill has served the Lord by drilling over four-hundred wells and building over ten churches and schools throughout Haiti.  He began drilling wells in 1977 to assist in providing clean water sources for improving health conditions. Notably, Pudwill claims that the typhoid rate dropped by fifty-percent in one of the areas he serviced. The construction of schools is also an act of devotion held close to Pudwill’s heart. He quickly realized that many Haitians in church were unable to read scripture due to a low national literacy rate. He believed that education was the solution to this problem since “a lot of people in the church wouldn’t read and if the kids were in school they would read to them” and, thus, Pudwill began the construction of many schools simply by “faith and trust in God.” One of the schools, built thirty years ago, now educates over two-thousand students. The schools’ administrative teams are run by Haitian nationals. They are trained in leadership and book-keeping and then given the school facilities after construction is complete. The same is done with the churches that Pudwill constructs as he believes he can best serve the Lord by acting as a liaison, leaving management to the Haitians. 

Burnell helping finish a well he drilled.

Burnell helping finish a well he drilled.

In 2005, Pudwill lost his wife to gastric cancer.  With faith and trust in the Lord, he was able to overcome this loss and continue with his ministry in Haiti. Currently, Pudwill actively oversees construction projects and continues to perform surgical procedures.  He has since remarried and is raising three ambitious teenage daughters with his beautiful Haitian wife.