Greetings from cold, snowy upstate New York! On Tuesday, January 16th, the 2018 Health for Haiti students presented and reflected on our experiences in Haiti. We are all adjusting to the cold upstate NY weather, and finding ways to get used to the new perspective we gained from our work in Haiti. Professor Hankin and I were so impressed with the student presentations, and we are so proud of this group and what they have accomplished.
Everyone worked hard before and during the trip, and we certainly accomplished a lot while we were in Haiti. The medical team, together with Haitian doctors Dr. Gary and Dr. Johnny, saw over 200 patients and dispensed many prescription medications. All prescription medications were purchased in Haiti. The left over medications were given to Dr. Gary and will be used in the monthly medical clinics in Grande Saline. Health history forms were collected and will be added to our patient database. The database will help Dr. Gary and Dr. Johnny to care for the populations we serve, and will provide information about the impact of our work, including how the availability of clean water and a school lunch is improving health in Grande Saline.
While in Haiti we distributed over 1200 toothbrushes and used puppets to teach kids how to properly brush their teeth. The dental team shared their special skills and worked so hard. They were assisted by Haitian dentist, Dr. Marc, who was available for consultations. The dental hygiene students placed nearly 1000 sealants that will prevent decay in the children’s teeth. The new, cutting edge technology used by the team worked beautifully! The treatment is painless, and hopefully will spare the children from the pain of future tooth decay. The team also placed silver diamine fluoride on 43 teeth. This treatment stops the progression of decay. In the pictures below, Professor Maureen Hankin is placing silver diamine fluoride on the tooth on the left, and a student is placing sealants on the tooth on the right. Health for Haiti is grateful for the support of our local community of medical and dental professionals who donated to this work. We also appreciate all of the community members who helped to collect the over-the-counter medications that we shared with the Haitian people. Medical clinics will continue in Grande Saline once every month for the next year.
The water system is functioning well and continues to provide clean, safe drinking water for nearly 1000 people each month. In March we will celebrate the three year anniversary of clean water in Grande Saline, and we have no doubt that this project has improved health and life for the community.
The solar panels on the church and school provide power for computer classes, sewing machines, and even lights and a fan in church. We look forward to expanding the system and possibly constructing solar powered hot plates that can take the place of charcoal fires.
We are also so excited to have started a new economic initiative in Grande Saline. Thanks to a very generous donation of soap-making supplies from Sweet Cakes Soap in Minnetonka, Minnesota, there is a new economic opportunity for women in Grande Saline. Dr. Gay presented a possible business plan to the women who are part of the pilot project, and taught them how to make the soap. If the women are able to make and sell the soap, it will help them to support their families and their community.
We had a wonderful time visiting the two community gardens. The students were able to plant tomato seedlings, okra, and beans. Below are some pictures of the tomatoes we planted thriving in the garden. The beans are also growing well. The gardens will be used to teach the children best practices for growing, and all of the produce will be used for the school lunch. Some of the students reflected on how great it felt to plant things in the garden and know that they are a part of the garden, along with the kids in Grande Saline.
While in Haiti we distributed 500 personal care kits. We served 300 families in Grande Saline with a food distribution of rice, beans, fish, and oil. We also provided a lot of lunches while we were in Haiti. Over 500 nutritious lunches were served to children in rural and urban Haiti. Some students commented on what a difference they saw in the kids after they had a chance to eat lunch. The money for all of this food came from student fundraising efforts. Health for Haiti team, if we include the families and the children’s lunches together, you helped to feed more than 1000 children and adults in Haiti.
Our education team delivered music lessons in Grande Saline. The instruments, song books, and instructional videos, which were created by students at Tioga Hills Elementary School, were left in Grande Saline and will now be used as part of the school curriculum. We also presented lessons on the dangers of malnutrition and benefits of good nutrition. And, we were proud to teach scientific observation and microscopy to children and teachers. The nutrition and science lessons were translated into Haitian Creole by a SUNY Broome student from Haiti and, along with the supplies (magnifying glasses, observation notebooks, pencils, paper and a microscope), were left with several teachers in Haiti. A complete lesson was even given to a teacher who will share it with two schools we were not able to visit in Cite Soleil. The lessons will be shared with over 500 children in Haiti! Some of the Health for Haiti students reflected on how enthusiastic the children and teachers were about the lessons. They mentioned how the gift of education, which is something many of us take for granted in the United States, opens new doors for these children. It is a gift that they can keep with them for their entire lives. We look forward to continuing our science education program in Haiti.
At our last class meeting, we also reflected on our time socializing with children and adults, comforting sick children at Mother Teresa’s Hospital, attending a Haitian church service, and visiting the beautiful National Museum of Haiti (MUPANAH). We are grateful for our driver, translators, security, and hosts who made our work and meaningful interactions possible, and taught us a lot about what it means to be Haitian. Through these experiences we learned a lot about the dignity, joy, and faith of the Haitian people. We learned that there are many meaningful things in Haiti that we could use more of here in the USA.
Here is a quote from one of the 2018 Health for Haiti students. I think it is representative of how most of us feel.
“This trip is by far the most amazing thing I have ever done. I truly believe that this trip has changed me as a person. I feel more educated on worldly matters. I have gained a bigger understanding for just how privileged we are here in the US. I will never go a day without thinking of the people I met and what we were able to do for them, and what they have done for me. Thank you so much to all the friends that are like family, all the laughs, tears, and support, and to all the professors for this amazing, life-changing experience.”
-2018 Health for Haiti Student
So, from Professor Hankin and me: Thanks to Dr. Seibold-Simpson, Professor Marcia Blackburn, Greg and Darlene Cempa, Tom Collart, and Dr. Gay Canough for being with us on this trip and for your amazing work. Thanks to our partners in Haiti. Thanks to our incredible students. Thanks to our colleagues at SUNY Broome who work all year to support this class. Thank you to everyone in our community at home for following our progress and for your support and help with our work. There is an army of people who never actually visit Haiti but do so much to make this work possible. SUNY Broome is a community college and Health for Haiti is a community effort. We could not do it without you. Your generosity inspires us and we are proud to represent SUNY Broome and the surrounding community in Haiti.
There is no doubt that the January 2018 Heath for Haiti class accomplished a lot. However, I think each one of us feels that we received much more from this experience than we gave. We are all much more aware of our common humanity, and we all left a piece of our heart in beautiful Haiti.
Highlights from the January 2018 Trip: