In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

February 20, 2023

Auringer Connections: Turning passion for helping others into a project building clinic in Haiti

By In the Loop
Broc Auringer, Jennifer L. Smith and Kyle Auringer

As youngsters, brothers Broc and Kyle Auringer got an early start to giving back by shoveling snow for neighbors. Years later, they have connected with two other Mayo colleagues to build a clinic in Haiti and make a difference for people there. Find out what motivates their mission.

Kyle Auringer and Broc Auringer share more than the same last name. The brothers both graduated from St. John's University. They share hobbies — making maple syrup each spring, woodworking, milling lumber, beekeeping and more. And both work at Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

Kyle Auringer, left, and Broc Auringer.

They also share a passion for helping others. That passion started early. Even as young boys, the two brothers spent their time volunteering to help shovel snow off their neighbors' driveways.

"Growing up in Minnesota, there was always plenty of shoveling to go around," Broc says.

As they grew older, they began to cast their kindness net just a little bit wider.

Kyle, now a supervisor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, spent a year teaching English and biology in the village of Hanga, Tanzania. He also has done service work in Haiti, Zambia, Costa Rica, Mexico and the Bahamas.

Broc, a finance specialist in Executive Health, spent a semester studying business and Spanish, and volunteering as a music teacher in Chile.

A church mission trip to Pignon, Haiti, in 2014 opened their eyes to the difficult living conditions and the critical need for basic health care for people there. They immediately knew they had to help.

The brothers' experiences of living and working abroad have given them insight into the importance of empowering people in impoverished countries to make decisions that benefit their communities.

Broc and Kyle, Broc's wife, Deanna Wolf, and Kyle's wife, Sara, formed Auringer Connections, a nonprofit organization that is now working to help build a clinic in Pignon. They've enlisted the help of two Mayo colleagues, Jennifer L. Smith, a nurse practitioner, and Charlton Meyer, a patient care assistant, to further their mission.

The News Center team caught up with Broc to learn more about the mission and what motivates the four colleagues to help others in making lasting changes in their communities.

How did Auringer Connections get started?

Our organization was formed after our experience working and living abroad. We witnessed other organizations trying to implement projects to improve a community's standard of living. We learned that the greatest successes are achieved when projects are initiated and facilitated by community members. We believe the most effective way to make an impact is by partnering with local leaders, learning about their needs, and providing the necessary tools and resources to help them accomplish their goals.

Instead of our organization implementing what we think a community needs, we let the community tell us what they need. Then, we work together to accomplish that goal. Much like our primary value at Mayo Clinic is "the needs of the patient come first," our organization focuses on the needs of the community as we try to find the most effective means of making a difference. 

What is the purpose of the mission in Haiti?

Our mission is to "enable leaders and strengthen communities." The purpose of this mission is a multifaceted approach to bettering a community's standard of living. We provide resources so that a struggling community can face any challenge with confidence knowing they have a fighting chance to make a change.

What inspired you to volunteer in Haiti?

We have a connection to a community leader in Haiti, Pastor Mioche Rock, who has extensive experience in community development and has successfully built a church, school, community center and radio station. Pastor Mioche is great friends with a prior pastor at our local church in Kasson, Minnesota, and we have continued to stay in contact with him throughout the years.

During a mission trip to Pastor Mioche's village in 2014, we learned of the critical need for health care. Inspired by his relentless pursuit of improving lives in his community, we decided to create an organization founded on the mission of enabling leaders to strengthen communities.

Why Haiti and why now?

Haiti has experienced tremendous tragedy over the past two decades. Several natural disasters, economic turmoil and political unrest have tormented Haitians. We have a unique opportunity to work with Pastor Mioche to improve lives within his community. The medical clinic we are building in partnership with him will provide accessible health care to roughly 20,000 to 30,000 people who previously had little to no access to health care.

What kind of difference are you able to make in Haiti through this work?

Constructing a medical clinic will eventually provide basic health care to roughly 20,000 people within the village of Bouyaha and surrounding communities. This will significantly improve lives not only by treating common illnesses and ailments, but also providing education on topics such as sanitation and nutrition.

Construction on the clinic began in 2022.

The clinic has made a difference we didn't initially anticipate, which is unwavering hope for the future. In a country that continuously faces challenges, the sign of progress with this medical clinic has grown to be a beacon of hope in which the impact is immeasurable. Regardless of the number of patients treated, the construction of a clinic led by Pastor Mioche is a difference in and of itself.

What were some of your most memorable moments there?

One of the most memorable moments during our last trip to Haiti was interviewing community members to better understand their needs. We heard many heartbreaking stories of people not being able to access care when they really needed it: expecting mothers passing away in their own homes from complications giving birth, children experiencing ailments with no place to seek care, and loved ones experiencing unknown illnesses with seemingly no hope of getting better. Each story is unique, but they all share the same commonality of not having a place to seek care.

Another experience that we will never forget is visiting the church in Bouyaha and being sung a traditional Haitian song by the community. Words can't describe the loving hospitality we experienced from this community.

How is your time in Haiti influencing your work at Mayo Clinic?

One of the most valuable takeaways from our experience creating this organization is the role of our values within our work. Mayo Clinic is extremely special in that our primary values are not an arbitrary set of rules stashed away only to be reviewed periodically. Our primary values are the driving force behind everything we do at Mayo Clinic, no matter what challenges we face. While it may sound cliche, "needs of the patient come first" provides guidance to facing challenges both big and small.

Through Auringer Connections, as small a nonprofit as we are, we have learned to continuously remind ourselves of our primary values and why we continue our work.

More information

Visit the Auringer Connections website to learn more about the organization's work.


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