Greetings from Health for Haiti. It was heartbreaking to miss our annual trip to Haiti this month, but we have been encouraged by the continued progress we are seeing in Grande Saline. Our students and staff certainly lost a valuable opportunity to travel and serve in Haiti, but we are glad to see that in terms of forward progress in Grande Saline – our physical presence is not necessarily required. Our goal has always been to create sustainable positive change, and maybe a silver lining to the interruption in our visits is having the opportunity to see the community continue to rise in our absence
Last year, Pastor Berlando thanked the entire Health for Haiti team for investing in the young people in his community. We are now seeing some of those first “investments” beginning to show incredible returns. One example of this is a bright and cheerful young student named Kalensky. We met Kalensky on our first Health for Haiti class trip in 2014, and he immediately stood out for his enthusiasm and curiosity.
Sadly, in September 2015, Kalensky had an accident and suffered an injury that resulted in a badly broken arm. Kalensky, who was only 10 at the time of the accident, was in terrible pain and at risk for having permanent damage to his arm.
Kalensky’s family was desperate to help him and tried taking him to a clinic that was not too far away. Unfortunately, there was nothing that the clinic staff could do for him and they sent him home. After 24 hours with no help, not even so much as an aspirin, Kalensky’s teacher took him by motorcycle to a hospital in Port au Prince. Kalensky, who had already suffered many hours of excruciating pain, had to endure a three hour bumpy motorcycle ride without his mother or father to comfort him. This trip was made possible by Health for Haiti donation funds, and Kalensky’s family says that without the assistance he may not have received any treatment for his injury.
Once in Port au Prince, Kalensky was able to receive medical treatment for his broken arm. The doctor who took care of him said that for Kalensky to heal properly he had to have something to eat each day, and that it had to contain protein and calcium. This reveals how difficult conditions were in Grande Saline at this time. Kalensky, like many of the children in Grande Saline, was malnourished and often went entire days without eating due to the widespread food insecurity in his community. Again, using some donation money, we were able to help Kalensky stay in Port au Prince for awhile and have access to the nutrition and care he needed to get better.
Kalensky recovered and regained full use of his arm. Soon he was back in school, playing with his friends, and helping his mother with chores. Since his recovery, Kalensky has always been one of the first helpers we encounter when we are unloading equipment from our bus.
As the years have passed we have had the pleasure of seeing Kalensky continue to grow and to thrive. In 2018 Health for Haiti dental hygiene students placed sealants on 8 of his permanent teeth, protecting that beautiful smile that Kalensky is always quick to share. He has particated in many education programs, often being selected by his teachers as a top student in his class. And Kalensky’s life has changed in other ways as well. There is no doubt that continued access to clean, safe drinking water, regular school lunches provided by community gardens, and high quality educational opportunities (including computer classes), have had a positive impact on Kalensky’s health and life.
One of the biggest changes to the school this year was the addition of kindergarten and the first secondary school class, 7th grade. Previously, after completing 6th grade, students like Kalensky had to leave the community and walk a long ways to access secondary education. Now, Kalensky is part of the very first seventh grade class at the school in Grande Saline. In fact, Kalensky and his classmates asked for the creation of the secondary class and were a big part of making the new 7th grade a reality. Kalensky recently took some time to talk about how much he appreciates the opportunity to continue his education in his own community.
Here is a translation (provided by Schneider) of what Kalensky is saying in the video:
“I love the way that my school is working and the good job that my teachers do. I like the principles and discipline that are taught here. I always enjoy being with my classmates. I want to say thank you to the school, the principal, the teachers, and the donors for what they have done for us. They have all worked to make our school better. I would not want to leave my school and go somewhere else. I hope we can find a way to have more secondary classes so that my classmates and I can continue our studies in this school that we love so much. Thank you for everything and for your sacrifice. May God bless you and your families.”
It is hard to believe that the scared, injured little boy from 2015 has developed into the poised and motivated young man speaking in the video. Kalensky works hard in school and sets an good example for the younger children. He and his fellow classmates demonstrate a pride and appreciation for their school that sets the tone for all of the other students. This school is transforming into the community’s vision of a “Center for Excellence”.
After several years of investing in food, water, education, we can see that these improvements are helping Kalensky and other young people in Grande Saline to be healthier and stronger and well prepared for a successful life. We are proud to share stories like Kalensky’s with our students, staff, and donors because we cannot imagine a better return on an investment than seeing a young person realizing his or her full potential as they work towards a brighter future for themselves, their family, and their community.
Thank you Health for Haiti supporters for your investment in this community, and we wish continued good luck to our friend, Kalensky!