Month: January 2014

Heading Home

After a final breakfast in Haiti we packed up, weighed our suitcases, said our goodbyes and headed to the airport. It was difficult to leave, but I think most of us were happy to return home.

What an amazing adventure it was.
Thank you to the stellar 2014 “Health for Haiti” students. You exceeded all of our expectations. We learned so much from you and are proud to have shared this experience with you.
Thank you to our hosts in Haiti for your amazing hospitality.
Thank you to our translators for your hard work and friendship.
Thank you to our donors who supported our fundraising efforts.
Thank you to Dan, Susanne, and Tom (AKA: Dad) for all of your hard work and support on the trip.
And, a special thank you to Maureen Hankin and Gina Curcio for making this class possible.

You all made great things happen in Haiti. We distributed food for 500 families is City Soleil, we treated nearly 200 patients at our health clinics, we distributed water filtration systems to 75 families in Grande Saline, we provided education on dental care, cholera and hygiene to more than 300 children and adults. We made many new friends, we learned about the rich history and culture of Haiti, and we provided care and comfort at hospitals and orphanages.

I know we all now have a new appreciation for easy access to clean water, good food, medical care and education. We also have a very special place in our hearts for the people of Haiti. Thank you for following our journey! Although this part has come to an end, there is so much more we can accomplish….and this is really just the beginning.

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Our Last Day in Haiti

This morning we visited Mother Theresa’s Hospital for the Dying. It is a beautiful and peaceful place where terminally ill patients are placed. The male patients are on the first floor and the female on the second. According to the hospital rules, the males in our group stayed on the first floor and the females on the second. Patients are also separated by age. The hospital is set up high and there is a beautiful ocean view and breeze. I took some pictures outside, but out of respect for the patients did not take any pictures on the inside. Health for Haiti helped by putting lotion on the patients and by painting the women’s nails. As you will see from the pictures, some of the patients enjoyed braiding hair. Also, The nuns who run the hospital also gave a couple of our students a skirt to wear so they would have an appropriately modest appearance (no short shorts at Mother Theresa’s!). It was a special and peaceful place for patients to spend their final days.

In the afternoon JJ took us to see the school that he started for the residents of a tent city. We took a walk through the tent city to see what it was like. Once again, out of respect for the people who live there, I did not take any pictures within the tent city. The conditions are deplorable. There are lots and lots of children there, many do not even have clothes to wear. The tents are leaky and there is sewage on the ground. It is very crowded and there is no space for the people. It is hard to explain what life is like for the people who live in this place. JJ has tried to help the people of the tent city by renting a space for the children to have a school. It will cost about $150 a month to hire a teacher for the school. With Gina’s help, JJ has also started an evening sewing school for the mothers. The sewing school is held in the same building as the school. Gina and JJ arranged for sewing machines, a generator and a talented Haitian woman to teach the class. The women in the sewing class will be able to make school uniforms for their children and earn money for their families.

At the school, the women were so proud to show us their beautiful work. Many of them spoke about how this opportunity to learn to sew has changed their lives. The sewing teacher showed us her patterns on the wall and the sewing machines. Each student showed her work and we were all impressed with what they have learned. They can make shirts, skirts, dresses and school uniforms. For the people of the tent city, this school offers an opportunity for a better life. All of the children love JJ and tell him often that they love education. JJ is doing his best, but needs help to keep his school going. It has been difficult for him to hire a teacher and there are no school supplies for the children. It has been eye-opening for us to see how a couple hundred dollars a month can change people’s lives here in Haiti. These are hard-working people who have so few opportunities. While we are proud of the work we have done here, I think we are all feeling that there is still so much we could do.

So…it is our last night in Haiti and we will be celebrating Hannah’s birthday. We are looking forward to our farewell dinner…which smells divine. Enjoy the pictures from our day! Bonswa from Haiti!

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Beach Day!

Today we had a wonderful day taking forty-three kids from Pastor Vincent’s orphanage and Good Shepherd Orphanage to the beach! Before I get to today, I need to start with last night. The students heard that there is a Domino’s Pizza in Haiti. And they wanted to go. So we went. We used the opportunity to meet up with Owen Robinson so he could speak to the students. Owen used to be with Partner’s in Health and now runs an organization that arranges for pediatric cardiac surgeries. He provided some great insight into health care in Haiti.

OK, back to today. The students purchased food and toys for the kids and Barbara made the sandwiches. Raw hotdog, ketchup, mayo. It’s a Haitian thing. First we picked up the kids from Pastor Vincent’s. We were all so happy to see them again! The we went to Good Shepherd Orphanage. Good Shepherd is owned by Jude’s family. It is a great place and almost totally self-sufficient. In fact we found out that most of the food we have been eating was grown at Good Shepherd. Even the coffee! The children there welcomed us with three songs and enjoyed meeting some new friends. After a quick tour, we all (all) boarded the bus and went to the beach.

It was an incredible, amazing very special day. I think we will all remember this day forever. Thank you to everyone who made this day possible.

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Health for Haiti Saturday

This morning we all walked to our first destination. After over eight hours on the bus yesterday, it was nice to walk a little! We visited Coram Deo orphanage which is located only a short distance from our guesthouse. Coram Deo is home for fifteen boys. It is also a school for 120 children and offers a health clinic two days a week and a dental clinic two days a week. Coram Deo was started and is run by the amazing Karen. Karen is from Ontario, Canada. She came to Haiti for the first time in 1996. She decided to move here permanently a few years later. She welcomes children with special needs and helps arrange appropriate medical care. In fact, the school director and some of the teachers at her school were former residents of the orphanage. The school’s cook, Maria, is from City Soleil. Maria was hit by a tap-tap, the public transportation in Haiti. She was badly injured and had no help. Karen arranged for medical care and Maria recovered. Maria was able to go to sewing school and now also earns extra money making school uniforms. Karen gave us a tour of the place. The school director even showed me their office and supplies. We were all impressed with what Karen has built.

After the tour, the Health for Haiti students provided education on dental hygiene and cholera. We then distributed some toys and enjoyed some time playing together. There were some young adults at Karen’s and they enjoyed playing some soccer. After a few hours together, we headed back to the guesthouse for some rest.

Later in the afternoon, some of us went back to Mother Theresa’s Hospital to hold the sick babies. There are so many babies there, even with lots of volunteers there is no way to comfort them all. Some of us rested at the guesthouse and caught up with our journals, and some of us went shopping to get supplies for our day tomorrow. We are taking some kids from the orphanage to the beach for a fun day. We bought food and beach toys for the kids and some other supplies. We also bought some activities (nail polish, cards and hair accessories) for Monday, when we go to Mother Theresa’s Home for the Dying. We all met back at the guesthouse for another amazing dinner from Barbara.

Bin wit from Haiti!

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Health for Grande Saline

It was a long day, but a great day. We were up early for a “family” breakfast before boarding our bus to Grande Saline. We saw a very different part of Haiti today. It was a four hour trip each way (about half of that on bumpy, dirt roads). When we finally arrived in Grande Saline, we were greeted by several children who welcomed us and told us how glad they were to see us. It was very sweet because they had obviously practiced so that they could welcome us in English. We got right to work setting up our clinic, pharmacy and classroom. We used a church building and, as you will see, there was a great deal of interest in what we were doing.

“Team Clinic” assisted Dr. Robinson and saw over seventy patients. They helped Dr. Robinson to treat several cases of malaria, worms, scabies, respiratory infections and high blood pressure. Several people also received glasses. The students did a marvelous job with triage for Dr. Robinson. “Team Clinic” is learning so much from Dr. Robinson. He is enthusiastic about helping them to recognize abnormalities in heart and lung sounds and the signs and symptoms of many diseases. “Team Health Education” set up to gather information about community water usage, present about cholera and to demonstrate and distribute the Family LifeStraw filtration units. Dr. Robinson had selected 75 families to receive the systems, which will provide the families with clean, safe water for 2-3 years. Our long term plan is to provide the community with a large filtration system that will serve thousands of people, so an important task today was to gather information about water usage and the best place to put the system. We learned that the people of Grande Saline take their water directly from the river. This community has suffered terribly from cholera and Dr. Robinson told us that the education program was very critical to dispel myths and help the community to protect themselves.

Once again, every Health for Haiti student did a phenomenal job today. I think everyone here would agree that the eight hours on the bus were well worth it to provide assistance to this remote community. I also want to thank our amazing translators. They are with us every step of the way and tirelessly help us to communicate and travel around Haiti. They do so much for us every day, we could not do this without them! Below are some pictures from our day .

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Carre Four Faille

Bonswa! I have to start by saying (again) that we are so incredibly proud of this group of students. They are amazing. Today we travelled to Carre Four Faille for a health clinic and health education. Below you will see photos from our day. Team Clinic: Carly, Danielle, Phil, Gina, Emily B., Emily C., Jessie, Kim and Chelsey worked with Dr. Robinson to triage patients and to run the pharmacy. With the assistance of our invaluable translators, they took vitals and health histories. Team Health Education: Dan, Gus, Emily R., Kassidy and Hannah presented to 130 school children about the proper way to brush teeth and cholera. Every single one of these students exceeded every expectation we had. They did a phenomenal job and helped so many people today.

After we returned to the Guesthouse, we relaxed and several students took some time to write in their reflection journals (did I mention that they are awesome?)

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Today is Kassidy’s birthday! On the bus this morning, JJ taught us to say “Happy Birthday” in Creole (http://youtu.be/U6GY86ArWuA) and tonight, our host, Jude, prepared a very special dinner for us. He set up a special table on our third floor balcony and we all ate together. It was a perfect end to a great day.

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Tomorrow is a very big day for us. We will be leaving at 7am for Grand Saline. It is a three hour trip by bus. We will be assisting Dr. Robinson with a clinic, distributing our Family LifeStraw units and teaching the community about how to protect themselves from cholera. We will be home quite late.

I will close today’s blog with a photo of our cook, Barbara. What TeeJoe is to bus driving, Barbara is to cooking. We love Barbara!

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Another Busy Day in Haiti

We had another full day in Haiti. Several of the students enjoyed the sunrise from their beds on the roof. After breakfast, we headed out to the warehouse of the Swiss-based company, Vestergaard. We picked up the seventy-five Family LifeStraw units that we were able to purchase with the funds we raised.  Each unit will provide a family with clean drinking water for three years. We will be taking the units to Grand Saline at the end of the week. The people of Grand Saline do not have access to clean water. We are working on a long-term solution for the community, but are able to provide the LifeStraw units on this trip.  We received training on how to install the systems and are excited to take them to the families in Grand Saline.
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After our training, we went to the Pantheon National Haitian Museum. The students are getting very good at shopping from the bus and bought some snacks. We had a guided tour of the museum and learned about Haiti’s complex history and rich culture. After our tour, we went back to the Guesthouse and spent a couple of hours sorting through the medical supplies, toys and clothes that we brought with us. We are now ready to distribute the supplies when we visit the clinics and orphanages.

Our next activity today was to spend the afternoon with the twenty two children at Pastor Vincent’s orphanage. We had a wonderful time with the kids, playing soccer, coloring and just being together. And yes, that is a goat on the soccer field. The kids were so sweet and well behaved. We also did some health education and taught the kids about the right way to brush their teeth.
There were some tears (from the Health for Haiti students!) when it was time to leave.

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We ended our day with a presentation from Dr. Robinson. He is the Haitian doctor that we will be assisting at a couple of clinics. He told us about what we will see at clinic and explained how to educate the people in rural Haiti about cholera. He explained that this education is so important for the people. There are many myths about cholera and we can really make a difference by teaching about hygiene. We will assist Dr. Robinson at clinic tomorrow.

I want to close with a picture of our incredible, amazing, superman of a bus driver. I have tried to post to some pictures from the bus, but there is no way that you can imagine the places he gets our bus in and out of. So, good night from Haiti and THANK YOU to our driver, TeeJoe.

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More pictures from our day!

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Breakfast before we left.

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Several students have discovered that the roof is a great place to sleep.

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No power? No problem.

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Gina greeting Pastor Vincent.

Good night from Haiti!

City Soleil

Bonswa from Haiti! We have just arrived back at our guest house hot, tired and pretty overwhelmed with emotion after our day in City Soleil. City Soleil is the largest slum in the Western Hemisphere, with 800,000 people in an area of about eight square miles. It is hard to put into words what we saw and experienced today. Below are just a few images from our day. We went to Pastor Vincent’s church and school to distribute the food we purchased. Pastor Vincient was born in City Soleil and now serves the community there. As soon as we arrived, we were able to see what we accomplished with all of our hard work and fundraising. Take a look at all of the food we bought! To all if you who contributed and Zumba’ed with us…just look below to see what we were able to do here. We bagged (all morning) and then distributed rice, beans, oil, fish and a toothbrush (recall that Maureen Hankin is with us). We were able to give food to over 500 families! Each family received enough food for about two weeks. The people here live in the most desperate of conditions, and often go hungry. I am posting some pictures from City Soleil, Pastor Vincent’s church and school (you will see that the “selfie” is a universal thing), some of the crazy traffic in Port au Prince and our fearless translator, JJ. We are all tired and happy to be back at the guest house, where dinner smells delicious. I will close by saying we are so incredibly proud of these students. They are doing a tremendous job, and I think we will all be forever changed by this experience.

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Bonswa!

It was an incredible day. We went to Mother Theresa’s Hospital to feed and hold the sick babies (no pictures allowed). We also went to bring some beds and toys to a family that Gina “adopted”. We had to strap the mattresses to the top of our bus. Marie has seven children and has started her own business. She took us to see where she used to live before she received help. We also bought some local art, from the bus!

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