Author: Dr. Musa

Biology Professor, SUNY Broome Community College

Grande Saline School Shares New Vision With Health for Haiti

Students in Grande Saline take part in a lesson about the heart.

“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world,”  -Nelson Mandela

Since 2014, Health for Haiti has partnered with the local school in Grande Saline to help provide quality education for the children who live in this community. Over the past few years, we have seen the school grow from about twenty children meeting in the church to nearly two hundred students and ten teachers working together in five classrooms.

In addition to providing school scholarships for individual students, Health for Haiti staff and students have shared their skills to bring basic health care, preventative dental services, professional development for teachers, computers and digital literacy classes, sewing machines and sewing classes, a school garden/nutrition initiative, and high quality art and science supplies and activities.

The first class to being seventh grade in Grande Saline.

As the school continues to grow, we are seeing some bold and exciting changes for the upcoming school year. Last year’s graduating sixth grade class will be the very first to stay on and begin secondary school in Grande Saline. This means that instead of having to walk about an hour to continue to attend school, they will stay within their own community. They said, “We are proud of our school, and we see our future here.”  

This change, and along with other new initiatives, were outlined in a school plan that was designed this summer by the principal and teachers in Grande Saline. The plan was designed to be a partnership between the school and Health for Haiti. We will share our resources and work together to support the school and help to transform it into a true “center of excellence” in rural Haiti. The teachers and students have outlined their vision for the school, and we hope to be a part of helping to make their vision a reality.

Mr. Howard teaches in his classroom in Grande Saline.

Computer class is a part of the school curriculum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To better keep pace with the continued progress and new vision in Grande Saline, we are making some changes to our existing “Helping Children School Scholarship Program”. In the past we matched donors with children in need, and the donor helped to pay yearly tuition and purchase a uniform and shoes for the child.  The cost of this sponsorship was about $50 a year.  This model helped about thirty children to attend school in Grande Saline for the past few years.

However, after many discussions with the school administrators and the families in Grande Saline, we have decided it is time to change to a new and more holistic school scholarship plan.  Basically, we need to find a way to move from helping a few children to helping all of the children.

Teachers attend a summer professional development workshop.

There are so many children in need in Grande Saline, there is no easy or fair way to select individual children to receive scholarship support. The process we have been using has put a difficult burden on school administrators, and could sometimes lead to hurt feelings, misunderstanding, and even conflict. We hope that by moving to a model where donor support can go to the entire school, we can make the program beneficial to all of the local families.

 

Children line up to raise the Haitian flag in the morning before school begins.

With our new program, the same scholarship donations of $50/year will be used together to assist the entire school instead of being used for only one child. In addition to partial assistance with tuition and uniforms for multiple children, donations will also help with purchasing supplies and paying teachers.  There will even be a small fund set aside for emergencies.

As part of the new scholarship program, we will share formal reports and updates from the entire school twice a year (December and May). We are proud of the fact that many of our scholarship donors are former Health for Haiti students, and they have stayed connected with the community in Grande Saline by participating in the scholarship program. We are grateful that the relationship between our SUNY Broome students and the students in Haiti has continued, and even as we transition to our new model, we will work to keep them updated about the children that they have supported.

A student in Grande Saline listens to her heart beat for the first time.

In addition, the Health for Haiti 2020 class will continue our ongoing efforts to bring microscopy, anatomy and physiology and arts education to Grande Saline, to grow our school nutrition/agriculture initiative, and to continue to provide high quality dental and medical services that will help keep children healthy and strong.

If this is a plan you would like to support for the upcoming 2019-2020 school year, checks can be made out to “Health for Haiti” and sent to the address below. Please include a note saying that your donation is to support the “Helping Children School Scholarship Program”.

We look forward to sharing updates during the next school year. Thanks to everyone who has supported the school in Grande Saline!

As Pastor Berlando said during our last visit, “Thank you for investing in my young people. In the future, you are going to see a great result.”

Address:

SUNY Broome Faculty-Student Association

Attn: Health for Haiti

P.O. Box 1017

Binghamton, New York 13902

 

 

 

 

 

Food, Fuel, Fireworks and Freedom

For over five years SUNY Broome Health for Haiti has been fortunate to have built partnerships between Americans and Haitians that have changed all of our lives for the better.  We have learned a lot from each other as we work side by side, join together to celebrate our successes, and do our best to rise above the inevitable challenges and set-backs we encounter.

As we deal with the disappointment of canceling another summer trip due to concerns about the safety of our US team and our partners in Haiti, we are taking time to reflect on the reality of this moment, and why it is more critical than ever that we continue the work we started years ago.

As our neighbors in Haiti face ongoing sociopolitical tensions, the grim truth of their deteriorating economic situation cannot be ignored. The United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) recently published a report stating that there has been a 23% depreciation of the Haitian national currency over the past six months, and that the ongoing civil unrest has paralyzed economic and social activities for a large part of the population.

What does this mean for the Haitian people?  It means that the plummeting value of their currency has caused a dramatic increase in the cost of living, and that there are severe shortages in food and fuel and water. This situation has been exacerbated by lower than usual agricultural productivity caused by dry conditions.

OCHA reports that more than 2.6 million Haitians in rural areas (like Grande Saline) are food insecure and that all signs suggest that their situation is likely to worsen in the coming months.  Partners in Health recently stated that 1 out of every 5 children in Haiti is starving. It is clearly Haiti’s most vulnerable citizens who are suffering the most.  Although the situation is overwhelming, Health for Haiti strives to help families in Grande Saline reduce food insecurity by continuing to support the community gardens. These gardens enable the local people to grow some of their own food.

After a very successful cash crop of green peppers, the farmers have reworked the land and recently planted rice to grow seedlings.  If all goes well, the rice will be used to help provide a school lunch to over 200 school children next fall. The gardens are a source of pride for families in Grande Saline and help to provide a small income for the farmers who manage them.

The fuel shortage and increased expense has also impacted families in Grande Saline. The Health for Haiti water filtration system that has provided clean, safe drinking water to the entire community of Grande Saline for over 4 years is run by gas generators.  As fuel prices skyrocket and the entire country is dealing with gas shortages, it has been harder and harder to obtain gas to run the system. Recent events make it clear that our project to convert the system to solar power is more critical than ever.   Working together with the community in Haiti and partners here in the United States, construction of the perimeter wall has been completed and excellent progress has been made on the pavilion that will hold the solar panels up to the sun and house the batteries and other necessary equipment.

Completion of this critical and timely project will mean that the community is no longer dependent on scarce and expensive fuel for clean water.  They will have the ability to harness the abundant sunshine, which is freely available no matter what the economic system is in the rest of the country.

We are so grateful for all of the donations to this project.  We hope that we will be successful in our final phase to raise the money to purchase the necessary solar panels, batteries, and inverters.  All equipment will be purchased in Haiti, so a donation to this project not only helps to make clean drinking water more sustainable for the families in Grande Saline, it also supports the fragile economy in Haiti.

As we celebrate Independence Day here in our own country next week, it is a good time to remember that, as we see so clearly in Haiti, things many of us enjoy and maybe even take for granted in the United States of America might be out of reach for our global neighbors.  A plate of food you can barely finish could be a day you can barely face because you know will not have enough to eat.  A glass of water that is so refreshing on a hot day might be unavailable because there was not enough fuel to run the system that makes your water safe to drink. The booming July 4th fireworks that light up the night sky might be replaced by the threatening sounds of gun fire or rocks shattering glass windows.

There is nothing wrong with celebrating our freedom and all of the luxuries that come with it. Being an United States citizen is a privilege and should be appreciated. But at the same time our Independence Day is an opportunity to remember that despite physical and cultural borders that separate us, we are one human family and we all benefit when those of us who have resources to spare find ways to help to lift up those who are in need.

Health for Haiti remains committed to working with our past, present, and future students and community partners to make a positive difference for our neighbors in Haiti.  We look forward to continuing to learn and grow together, and we know that our partnership will create a better tomorrow for all of us.  

 

SUNY Broome Dental Hygiene Club Receives National Award for Outstanding Community Service in Haiti

The Health for Haiti dental and health teams spend long hours in Haiti working in the clinics because they want to share their skills and talents and serve as many people as possible.  Health for Haiti is so incredibly proud of the tremendous effort and amazing service that our dental hygiene team provided in Haiti this past January.  And now, they are receiving national recognition for their hard work and service!

Professor Hankin reports that the SUNY Broome Dental Hygiene club will receive the 2019 American Dental Hygiene Association’s (ADHA) Student Member Community Service Award for their work in Haiti.  The Health for Haiti School-based Dental Sealant program was overseen by Professor Maureen Hankin.  The students provided the same outstanding and high quality dental hygiene services that they provide in our state-of- the-art dental hygiene clinic at SUNY Broome Community College.

They provided this quality care and education with over $67,576 of donated dental hygiene services to over 200 children in Haiti.  All of the 216 children received an exam, oral hygiene instructions, dental sealants and a fluoride varnish.  The students applied over 1,750 dental sealants to children’s permanent teeth.  They also utilized silver diamine fluoride to arrest severe decay on permanent teeth that needed restorative treatment where access to care is limited.

SUNY Broome was chosen out of 335 student chapters throughout the United States.   The award includes a $3,000 cash award, an engraved award, and recognition in Access Magazine, ADHA’s official publication.  The monetary award will be utilized for future Health for Haiti oral care efforts.   The award will be presented at the ADHA Annual Conference on June 22, 2019, in Louisville, Kentucky.

Congratulations, Dental Hygiene Team!!!!!

Four Years of Clean Water Transforms Community

Last week our friends in Grande Saline came together to celebrate four years of clean, safe drinking water.  Just outside of the newly finished walls that now surround and protect the water system, people from the community gathered in the shade for a party with cake, streamers, balloons and music.

Comparing filtered water with river water.

“I thank everyone in the group.  For four years this community has enjoyed the privilege of drinking good water that improves health.  The community benefits from having this sophisticated system that other communities do not have, and it is a source of pride for all of us,” announced community leader, Pastor Dorcent Berlando.

The water system from above.

But this gathering was more than just a celebration and opportunity to say thank you.  It was a chance for local families to reflect on better health, community pride, and perhaps most importantly, the future – because the anniversary party also marked a new beginning.  After many months of planning by the Water and Power Committee the families in Grande Saline are now in the process of registering for a water system membership program. The community has chosen to take a more active role in supporting the system, their only source of safe drinking water. As part of the new program each local family will make a small monthly financial contribution that will be used to help support the water system operating expenses. Health for Haiti has no plans to discontinue our ongoing support for the system, but the people of the community decided that after four years it was time for them to share the expense.

Gertrude Dugas

Some of the community members spoke about what the water system means to them and their families.

“My name is Gertrude.  Today it is with great pleasure that I speak out about our water system,  It is marvelous for my community.  From the beginning when we started to drink this water my family stopped worrying so much about our health. My child is only six months old, and I am so happy that I have this water to give him. I am not afraid that the water will harm his health. These things I say are true for everyone in my community. Thank you to all of the donors who give us this amazing gift,” Madame Gertrude Dugas.

The clean water benefits all community members, but is especially critical for children.  Little children and babies can become dehydrated very quickly.  Having clean water to drink protects them from the diarrheal diseases that are so common in people who must drink the contaminated river water. Prior to March 2015, the unfiltered river water was the only option for these families.  It is hard to imagine what it must feel like as a parent to have to give your thirsty child water that could make him or her sick. Now, parents  like Gertrude know that the water they give their children is safe to drink.

Luthamene Alexandre shows her water system membership card.

Other community members commented on how their health improved after having access to the filtered water.

“My name is Luthamene.  I am happy to witness what the clean water has done for me and my community. This system is the most common thing we talk about, because it most important thing we have between us. Since I started drinking the clean water, my health has improved significantly. I used to receive treatments from the doctor because I was sick a lot, but nothing I received was as effective as drinking the clean water. Thank you for this historic help you have given us,” Madame Luthamene Alexandre.

Along with other members of their community, Gertrude and Luthamene will now begin making a monthly contribution to support the water filtration system.  This is such a significant step forward for the community.  Prior to now, all water system expenses were supported by generous Health for Haiti donors and the water was completely free for the local people. It was the community members who approached us about their wish to take an active part in supporting the system. It demonstrates that the system is so precious and valuable to the community, that they are willing to make their own significant sacrifices to help support it.

Community members celebrate the 4th anniversary of the water system.

Together we are now turning our focus towards the next step of converting the water system from gas to solar power.  With the perimeter walls complete we are moving on to constructing the pavilion that will support the solar panels and house the batteries. As we work towards meeting this goal together, we see power in our partnership.  Being partners does not mean that we always evenly share all of the expenses associated with an initiative. Instead, being partners means that we support and encourage each other. Being partners means having patience and listening to each other.  Being partners means making sacrifices for the success of our project.

Water containers waiting to be filled.

Health for Haiti has worked to build sustainable programs that provide our neighbors in Haiti with things they do not have, things that are often readily available for most of us in the United State: safe water, nutrition, education, and basic health services. But I think the most important thing we are building is a sense of community, trust, and an effective partnership.  It is common to hear Health for Haiti staff and students return from their experience in Haiti and say that they received much more than they gave.  I believe that the feeling they express comes directly from the sense of community we share with our neighbors in Grande Saline. There is no doubt that we are all benefiting from listening to and learning from each other, from learning to appreciate what we have, from recognizing the beauty of our common humanity, and from sharing what we have with each other.

Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” We came together with families in Grande Saline years ago and saw a desperate need for clean drinking water. That was our beginning. We stayed together and have seen a lot of progress.  We saw the water filtration system travel from Cortland, NY to Grande Saline Haiti, we saw dirt replaced with concrete so feet do not get muddy when containers are being filled, we saw installation of sturdy metal taps that can handle being tuned on and off all day to fill hundreds of water jugs, and we have seen construction of strong walls to protect the life-saving system.

But I believe that our biggest success is that we are truly working together. Working in Haiti may be hard, but living in Haiti is harder.  There is uncertainly, instability, scarcity of food, illness, and civil unrest that can make even a short trip to the market dangerous or impossible.  We applaud the community for taking a step towards making a financial contribution to their water system.  We cannot predict how it will turn out or what challenges we will face next, but we can be certain that whatever happens we will face it together.

See a video of how it all began here.

Education for Everyone!

Greetings from Health for Haiti!  At the request of the community in Grande Saline we recently expanded two of our most successful education programs.  Computer classes with Mr. Eric remain one of the most popular offerings at the school in Grande Saline. With donated/refurbished laptops and content created by SUNY Broome students who are part of the SUNY Broome Bridge to Haiti project, the students in Grande Saline are learning essential computer literacy skills that are critical for communication and success in today’s world.

The children have been so positive about their experience in computer class that the adults in the community asked whether there could be a class offered on the weekends for them.  Thanks to our generous donors and Mr. Eric, the new class for adults is going strong.  These days in Grande Saline it is not just the school children who are gaining critical new digital literacy skills! The community is proud of this great resource that is available to both children and adults.

Our popular weekend sewing program was also recently expanded.  Health for Haiti helped the community to build cabinets to store the sewing machines and supplies.  Now that the supplies are stored in one of the classrooms, the teachers are offering a sewing class to children while they are in school. The students are excited for the opportunity to learn this valuable skill.

Thank you to the generous donors who have supported these educational opportunities for people of all ages in Grande Saline.  SUNY Broome Health for Haiti is committed to investing in the people of this community, and we look forward to continuing to learn together!

Challenges and Progress

Once again our dear friends in Haiti are dealing with turmoil, chaos, and in some places, violence in the streets.  Frustration over poverty and poor living conditions are driving many people to protest against what they see as unfair economic and social policies.  As always, the situation in Haiti is complex. What is clear is that it is the working people who suffer most in a crisis like this.  Schools and stores are closed.  Many people are trapped at home and cannot safely leave to purchase food and other supplies that they need.  It is always hard to see our friends in Haiti suffer through these difficult times. Health for Haiti continues to be in frequent contact with our partners in Haiti and we will do what we can to help by continuing to support health and economic initiatives. We also remain committed to supporting local businesses in Haiti.  The businesses provide jobs and economic stability for communities.

Thanks to the many people who have been following the news and asked about the communities we serve in Haiti. In rural Grande Saline, the people are not as impacted by the demonstrations that are taking place in the bigger cities.  So here we can focus on the positive progress that we are continuing to see in the Grande Saline community.

School is open and functioning well.  Below are some pictures from classes in Grande Saline this morning. The children are excited to be in school learning and we hope that the education they receive will help them to bring a new era of peace and prosperity to Haiti.  Supporting the school and educational opportunities in Grande Saline is one way we can help to bring a better future for Haiti. In January, Pastor Berlando said that our support of the school was like planting seeds for the future of Haiti. He thanks Health for Haiti for investing in these children.

The garden also continues to thrive. The pepper and tomato plants are growing in the student garden and the big garden. It is always nice to see the blue sky and green plants in Haiti, especially when you are dealing with February in upstate New York!  This week the gardens were weeded and we are hopeful that the plants will continue to grow.  Success in these gardens will mean better nutrition for the children and families in Grande Saline. Thanks to the farmers, community members, and students who work so hard in these gardens.

The wall around the water filtration system is nearly finished!  The spaces have been filled in and the gates are ready to be installed.  Many thanks to the Endwell and Binghamton Rotary Clubs and Rotary International for helping to fund the wall project. Next month Health for Haiti and the community in Grande Saline will celebrate four years of clean drinking water in Grande Saline.  We are looking forward to working on the next phase of our project to help the community convert the system from gas to solar power.  There is no doubt that clean, safe drinking water has changed lives in this community.

Thank you to the Health for Haiti community, students, and project partners.  The people of Haiti have many challenges to overcome, but there are signs of positive progress that are hopeful reminders of what can be achieved when we work together.

Food and Water for Grande Saline

The 2019 Health for Haiti class is home safe and readjusting to the cold weather, but our projects continue in sunny Grande Saline, Haiti.

Nearly 15,000 gallons of safe drinking water were distributed this week and we expect work on the perimeter wall to be finished very soon. Our next initiative will be to help the community to build a pavilion that will be used to support solar panels to power the system.

The big garden looks beautiful and, thanks to the hard work of the farmers, the pepper plants are growing. This cash crop of peppers will generate income that can be used to purchase food for the school lunch program.

We thank our community partners in Grande Saline for their vision, their hope, and their hard work. SUNY Broome Health for Haiti is proud to stand beside you as you strive for a better future.

Beach Day 2019!

Greetings from Haiti!  Today was our last full day in Haiti and we spent most of it at the beach (well, actually we spent most of it on the bus).  After breakfast we prepared the toys and lunch we had for the kids from OAEH who were coming to the beach with us.  Unfortunately our bus was over an hour late because it had a mechanical issue.  Our driver, Steevenson, arranged for another bus to come and pick us up.  After we and our supplies were loaded up we still had a couple of stops to make on the way to the beach.  We needed to pick up the kids and staff who were coming with us to the beach and to get some ice for our cooler.  After that, our “new” bus overheated.  A few times.  And we had about 75 people on the bus. So we were overheating too.  Somehow we made it to the beach and could relax and have some fun. Everyone changed into their swimming clothes and then we gave the kids lunch.  They had sandwiches, chips, cookies and juice.  There was a goat nearby who really liked Pringles potato chips. I am pretty sure the goat would have really liked anything even remotely edible.  After eating the kids went into the water and had fun swimming and playing and looking for shells. They were so cute and seemed to have a wonderful time.  There were lots of smiles to see today.  We spent a few hours enjoying the beautiful setting and everyone had some well deserved rest and relaxation!  When it was time to leave we took a group photo with the awesome drone Silvia brought and loaded into the bus for the ride home. The ride home was pretty uneventful compared to the ride to the beach. Marcia brought some percussion instruments and there was a lot of drumming and cow bell and singing on the ride home.  We had another stellar dinner at Jude’s and then many of the students enjoyed a roof top Zumba session and some games and conversation.  It has been a very productive and rewarding week for us.  The dental team sealed over one thousand teeth, the medical team saw hundreds of patients, the education team taught science and art lessons to over five hundred children and provided two days of professional development to the teachers in Grande Saline.  In addition to our service work, we made some special friendships and developed a better understanding of the Haitian people and culture.  This is a fantastic team of students and staff and translators and it has been a pleasure to work and learn together.  Thanks to everyone here and at home who made this trip possible.  Tomorrow we will travel back to New York and readjust to the cold weather.  Next Tuesday we will meet for our final class when the students will deliver presentations about their experiences and reflect on what their time in Haiti meant to them.   It is always hard to say good bye but I think everyone is looking forward to returning home.  After we are home, I am sure all of us will miss much more than just the Haiti sunshine.  Haiti is special, there is no place quite like it.

Health for Haiti Visits Damabiah Orphanage

Greetings from Haiti! Today was our final official work day in Haiti.  After breakfast we went to Damabiah Orphanage where we planned to hold our last medical/dental clinic and education program.  There are 612 children who attend school at Damabiah and 87 orphaned children who live there.  As soon as we arrived our team split up and worked on unpacking our supplies and setting up.  The medical team saw 104 patients.  The dental team saw 65 patients, applied 65 fluoride varnishes, and sealed 599 teeth! After seeing the children, our dental team also cleaned the interpreters teeth.  The education team served over 300 children with our lessons on the skeleton, the heart, art, insects/scientific illustration, and physical education (basketball).  We had so much fun working with all of the children.  We also provided and served lunch for the kids and left them SUNY Broome bags, flip-flops and some other small gifts and supplies.  We had a great time playing with the children after we finished working and it was sad to say goodbye to our new friends. When we returned to the guest house several of the students and staff worked really hard to reorganize and repack our 45 suitcases so we would be prepared to return home on Friday.  We had Jude’s delicious grilled chicken for dinner and then many of the students made sandwiches for our trip to the beach tomorrow. We are taking 25 kids from OAEH for a fun day of swimming and playing.   We made our traditional raw hot dog, mayo and ketchup on white bread sandwiches and, thanks to Schneider and Roosevelt, packed up cookies, chips and drinks for all of the kids.  We also have some beach toys for them to play with. It will be our final full day in Haiti and we are all looking forward to some fun in the Haiti sun.  We look forward to having some fun together after all of our hard work on this trip. Below are several pictures from our day.  Thanks again to Marcia and Silvia for sharing their photos.  Good night from Haiti!