It was another busy day for the 2015 Health for Haiti class. We left the guest house at 8:30am and headed for Cite Soleil. Today is the 5th anniversary of the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti. There are remembrance ceremonies going on around the country and our bus had to pull over for President Martelly’s motorcade on the way to Pastor Vincent’s. In fact, Pastor Vincent was holding a service in his church so we had to set up our clinic in one of the classrooms (There is no school today because it is a holiday). Even though it is a sad day, there was lots of music, singing and dancing coming from the church.
We split into two groups today, one team for the clinic and one team to teach computer lessons in the Bridge to Haiti computer school here in Cite Soleil. The education team spent the morning teaching kids how to use PowerPoint. The kids are part of the Bridge to Haiti program where kids in New York and kids in Haiti will exchange information with each other. The laptop computers were donated by Geodis, the Pall Corporation and SUNY Broome. The refurbishment, software and computer literacy training documents were provided by the Bridging the Digital Divide Program (BDDP). BDDP is a collaboration between SUNY Broome and the Binghamton University Center for Civic Engagement. Esterling Accime, who manages much of Pastor Vincent’s business, is also managing the computer school here in City Soleil. Esterling explained how critical the opportunity to learn to use a computer and access to the Internet is to the youth in Cite Soleil. Most of the young people here have little chance for advanced education and employment. Esterling explained that many finish school without ever learning to type a letter.
The Health for Haiti students did a great job teaching the kids to use PowerPoint and before long there were some very creative PowerPoint presentations complete with animations and sound effects! We had Alison, Jocelyn, Rachael, Olivia, Emily C., Jean and me. Nick and Gay also helped out by teaching in the computer lab. One challenge was the power. We had to have gas and a generator to power the computers when we lost the electricity. This is very common in Haiti. We were glad to have had our resident rocket scientist and solar power guru, Dr. Gay, to look over the building and wiring. Solar power would be a tremendous benefit for the computer school as many time class must be cancelled if there is no power or gas. Dr. Gay determined that a system similar to what we installed in Grande Saline would be perfect here, so we hope to bring the same to Cite Soleil in the near future!
After a short break at noon, the students worked with a wonderful group of young men that work with Esterling. They all spoke some English and were interested in learning to use PowerPoint. A few had never used a computer before today! Using the BDDP materials, the Health for Haiti students worked with the Haiti students one-on-one and taught them to make a presentation. It was nice that we were able to communicate. They were a great pleasure to work with and we all enjoyed the experience very much. It was fantastic to see them learn to create presentations and we had fun seeing the creative things that they came up with while they were learning.
After finishing the lessons, Esterling explained that although over 200 school children are using the lab in the morning, he hoped to open the lab for a couple hours in the afternoon for local young adults, including the great young men we worked with this afternoon. There are so few opportunities for young adults after they have finished school. It was inspiring to see how happy they were to learn something on the computer. Because of the computer lab, they can learn to use MS Office and access the Internet for research or even take online courses. We hope to find sponsors to help cover the cost of the two teachers and the Internet. Each teacher is paid $150 per month. This little school can serve so many, we hope to continue to build this BDDP Bridge to Haiti program.
At the same time this was going on, the health clinic was busy seeing patients. Maureen, Mackenzie, Sierra, Nancy, Jamie, Heather, Iyan, Sonia, Kayla and Emily E. were on the health team today. Dr. Robinson was not able to leave Grande Saline until this morning, but our good friend Dr. Ken graciously agreed to fill in. He and his lovely wife Andrea assisted at the clinic all morning. Dr. Robinson arrived after noon and continued seeing patients for several hours. At the end of the day, the clinic had seen 127 patients and gave out over 500 prescriptions.
The students working in the clinic said that they really enjoyed having the chance to work with both Dr. Ken and Dr. Robinson. They commented on how each doctor had his own style but that both were fantastic clinicians and teachers. The students say far less malaria than they had seen in Grande Saline, but many more cases of worms, TB and general infections. Cite Soleil is so crowded and has no sanitation at all so this was not a surprise. There were also many people complaining of problems with their vision. All in all the students, doctors and Professor Hankin worked very hard for over 8 hours.
It was definitely a productive and fulfilling day for all of us. It is hard to convey how hot and crowded the computer lab and clinic were. I know that Professor Hankin is so pleased with the effort, professionalism and dedication of the students working in the clinic. I was so impressed with the education students and the job they did working with all of the computer students. Their enthusiasm, positive attitude and skill working with students of all ages made this day a success. The Bridge to Haiti project is very special to me, and their work today helped make my dream for this computer center a reality.
This was our last day of work in Haiti. Tomorrow, our last full day here, we have a fun and special day planned. We will pick up the kids from two different orphanages and enjoy a day together at the beach!