Today was our “Recognition and Reflection Ceremony”, marking the official end of our 2015 Health for Haiti Class. We were fortunate to have Dr. Francis Battisti, SUNY Broome Executive Vice President and Chief Academic Officer, to serve as the Master of Ceremonies for our final class meeting.
The students did a wonderful job giving presentations and reflections on our work in Haiti. Group 1 (Heather, Nancy, Jaime, Emily E. and Jean) talked about the food distribution, health clinic and education programs in Cite Soleil, as well as our visit to the museum, shopping and traveling around Port-au-Prince. Group 2 (Makenzie, Sierra, Iyan, Emily C. and Rachael) spoke about our experiences with the kids from the orphanages, working at Dr. Ken’s health clinic and our experiences at Mother Teresa’s Hospital for Sick Children and Mother Teresa’s Hospital for the Dying. Group 3 (Jocelyn, Alison, Olivia, Sonia and Kayla) talked about our health clinics, education program, solar power installation and water system installation in Grande Saline and the lectures on water filtration and solar power from Jodi Tate and Dr. Gay. All of you did a great job sharing your experiences and impressions! Thank you for your work in putting the presentations together and for sharing your personal reflections with the group.
We also had the opportunity to thank our community partners who provided so much support for our work in Haiti.
The Bridging the Digital Divide Program is a the result of a collaboration between SUNY Broome Community College and the Binghamton University Center for Civic Engagement. BDDP helps underserved populations to access technology by providing computer literacy training and refurbished computers. The BDDP has provided major support to the Bridge to Haiti project. BDDP computer literacy training documents were translated to Haitian Creole by SUNY Broome student Shaina Loius. BDDP volunteer Jack Rappaport spent many hours refurbishing laptop computers that were donated to the Bridge to Haiti program. As of today, forty new and used laptop computers have been distributed in Haiti and hundreds of children and young adults are receiving computer literacy classes and have access to the Internet. Bridge to Haiti is also partnering with local schools, including George F. Johnson in Endicott, to connect local kids with kids in Haiti. Thank you to all of the BDDP staff, especially SUNY Broome Professor Sandra Wright, Director of the Binghamton University Center for Civic Engagement, Allison Alden, and BDDP computer refurbisher extraordinaire, Jack Rappaport. Your efforts are bringing the light of education and opportunity to eager students of all ages. Their bright eyes and smiles are a clear indication of what this opportunity means to them.
ETM Solar Works has not only provided design expertise to help Health for Haiti purchase solar equipment to power our computer lab in rural Grande Saline, Haiti. Dr. Gay Canough, President and Founder of ETM joined us for our entire ten day trip to Haiti. Dr. Canough has a PhD in particle physics from Notre Dame University and worked on the lunar prospector spacecraft. She is a true “rocket scientist”. Dr. Canough provided tools and equipment, lectured to our 2105 class on solar power, and led our “Team Solar” in Grande Saline. Over two days, Dr. Canough instructed our students and Haitian volunteers as they successfully installed a 2000 watt solar system. Conditions were difficult, and for several hours there was a woman delivering her first child in the same space that the solar team was working. Through it all, Dr. Canough was patient, upbeat and motivating. Her enthusiasm for solar power was definitely contagious, and the students who worked with her can now say that they brought light to a community whose only source of power was an old gas generator. The newly expanded computer school in Grande Saline is now powered by the sun, something Haiti has in abundance! While the best news of the day was “It’s a boy!”, Dr. Canough’s enthusiastic announcement that “We have power!” was equally exciting. Dr. Canough also participated in all of our other Health for Haiti 2015 activities, forged many relationships with our friends in Haiti, and is already helping us with plans for our next solar installation. Thank you Dr. Gay, for your generous spirit and for being with us. We love you and we look forward to working with you for years to come. And we can’t wait for the Haiti Branch of ETM Solar Works to open!
Geodis has been an integral and valuable part of the 2015 Health for Haiti class projects. Geodis in Endicott has donated 19 Panasonic ToughBooks to the Bridge to Haiti project. These rugged computers are absolutely perfect for use in Haiti, and they form the core of our computer centers. Thanks to John Yesensky and his team for their unwavering support of the Bridge to Haiti project. In addition to the local asset management branch, Geodis is a large international logistics company that generously managed our purchase and shipment of a container to Haiti. The container housed all of our solar equipment and the water filtration system donated by the Pall Corporation. This was no small job, and since last April, Mr. Louis Policastro has spent countless hours helping to arrange the complicated pieces of this endeavor. Our container arrived at our site in Grande Saline on the same day that we landed in Haiti. We could never have done this without Lou’s help. And even though all the help he and his staff provided was donated, he never made us feel like our project was any less important than his “real” work. Lou, thank you for the daily phone calls, the late nights, your patience with the ever-changing plans, and explaining every step so patiently and thoroughly. The solar power and clean water projects would not have been possible without you.
The Pall Corporation in Cortland, New York donated to every aspect of the 2015 Health for Haiti projects. The company provided a state-of-the-art Pall Aria AX-1 Microfiltration System that if run at full capacity, has the potential to provide enough clean water for 17,000 people. Pall Cortland employees led by project manager Chris Scalza engineered the system specifically for the terrible water conditions in Grande Saline. The filters were specially selected to remove the Cholera bacteria and parasites from the water that the people are currently drinking. Pall provided all of the necessary equipment, including a compressor, generators and tools. Pall Vice President of Operations, Jodi Tate, and Engineer Paula Stapf joined us in Haiti for one week and, in addition to working on installation of the system, participated in many of our class activities. They lectured about microfiltration and the installation and operation of the system. Pall also worked with their suppliers to raise money to purchase necessary chemicals, modify the container to serve as a home for the system, and to help pay the salary of the Haitians who will serve as system operators. Pall also provided 35 laptop computers to our Bridge to Haiti program, and Jodi brought hundreds of personal care kits that were distributed in Haiti. While we still have some work left to do to make the system fully operational and properly train the operators, we are well on our way to bringing clean water to the people of Grande Saline. The system will significantly improve the health of the people in this community and has the potential to save lives. Thank you to Pall, the team in Cortland who prepared and packed the system, and to Jodi and Paula who worked so hard under incredibly difficult conditions. You enriched our class and became permanent members of our Health for Haiti family.
We would also like to once again thank all the members of the community who donated over the counter medical supplies and funds to support our projects and attended our pre-trip fundraisers. Thanks to everyone who followed the blog and sent words of encouragement to our group. Thanks to Professor Sandra Wright’s Fall 2014 Project Management Class for creating Certificates of Achievement for the computer students in Haiti, badges for the teachers in Haiti, and the Bridge to Haiti Facebook site. Your work is going a long way towards helping our new computer schools in Haiti feel cohesive and official. With the delivery of the 8 new laptops containing webcams, the kids in Grande Saline now have the tools they need so that we are able see and hear each other. Our digital bridge is in place!
Thanks to Gina Curcio for making our trip possible and sharing your wonderful spirit with us. Thanks to all of our friends in Haiti who helped us. Thanks to our translators, you did an amazing job taking care of us and helping us to provide health services and education in Haiti. We all treasure our friendships with you that were born on this trip. Three of our translators, Brigida, Sabine and Kenold are former SEED students and SUNY Broome graduates! Thanks to Jude and Barbara and the rest of the staff at Estinfil Guest House for making us feel at home in Haiti. Thanks to TeeJoe for driving our bus and getting us into and out of some pretty tight spots. Thanks to Dr. Robinson, Dr. Ken and Andrea for helping us to provide health care to hundreds of Haitian patients and to distribute over 1500 prescriptions. Thanks to Tom C. (I love you, Dad!), Nick and Dan who worked tirelessly on the water project and did a lot of the heavy lifting wherever we were. Thanks to JJ and Esterling for helping us to communicate and for working so hard by our side! Thanks to the kids from Good Shepard and Home of Destiny Orphanages. We love you, and you will be in our hearts forever.
Finally, thanks to our amazing 2015 Health for Haiti students. You worked hard to raise money and supplies for our trip, you managed to help us get about 1800 pounds of checked luggage containing supplies to Haiti, and that does not even include the 27 laptops we carried on the plane. You were hot, sweaty, dusty and crowded, you had only breakfast and dinner each day, you did without hot water and the other comforts of home, using bottled water to brush your teeth and waiting for your turn in the bathroom. You carried suitcases full of clinic supplies over bumpy roads, you treated others with care and compassion, and you pitched in wherever you were needed.
As a result of your efforts: we distributed food to 500 families, we provided oral hygiene and nutrition education programs to over 500 children, we saw hundreds of patients at our free health clinics, we helped to dispense over 1500 prescriptions, we helped to deliver a baby in Grande Saline, we provided computer literacy training to children and adults, we expanded our computer labs in Cite Soleil and Grande Saline, we installed solar panels to power our computer lab in Grande Saline, and we helped with the first phase of installation for the water filtration system in Grande Saline. Your efforts are bringing light, solar power and clean water to Grande Saline, an area that lacked all of these things before the Health for Haiti team initiated these projects.
Each of you is special and unique and talented. We are proud to know you and fortunate to have worked with you as part of the Health for Haiti class. I know that we all share a special love for the people of Haiti and a desire to continue the work that we started. So, although our class is coming to an end, it is only the beginning of of what we can accomplish together!
What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.