Author: Dr. Musa

Biology Professor, SUNY Broome Community College

Something to Celebrate

Yesterday, November 18, was a day of holiday, celebration, and tremendous national pride in Haiti. The school in Grande Saline marked the occasion with a community-wide parade and party that included reenactments, music, and dancing.  At a time when most of the news from Haiti centers around unrest, turmoil, and suffering, yesterday’s news from the school in Grande Saline was all about celebrating some of the amazing and unique history that makes Haiti unlike any other place in the world.

Battle of Vertières. Image by Cap-Haitien

November 18 commemorates The Battle of Vertières is a much loved day of national pride throughout all of Haiti.  This holiday celebrates the November 18, 1803 decisive victory against the Napoleon’s army of French soldiers.

The Haitian battle for independence began in 1791 when Toussaint Louverture led the first successful uprising of slaves.  After several years of brutal conflicts, the Battle of Vertières was the last major battle of the revolution and marked the beginning of the end of French colonial rule and oppression.

The Nèg Mawon

By 1803, Louverture was dead and Jean-Jacques Dessalines, one of his lieutenants, led the final bloody battles of the revolution. The victory at the Battle of Vertières is credited with bringing about Haiti’s Declaration of Independence on January 1, 1804.  This revolution resulted in the creation of the first independent black nation and had major ramifications throughout the entire world. It played a critical role in the end of the transatlantic slave trade, and remains the only example in modern history where an uprising of an enslaved people led to the creation of an independent nation.

In the pictures and videos from the celebration in Grande Saline, you can see a depiction of another classic symbol of Haitian freedom. The Nèg Mawon (“The Unknown Slave”) is a bronze statue in Port-au-Prince, Haiti that depicts a runaway slave and commemorates the abolishment of slavery. Designed by Haitian sculptor and architect Albert Mangonès and completed in 1967, the sculpture serves a moving reminder of the call to rebellion against the slave-holding France in 1791. The striking sculpture show a man with one leg powerfully extended behind him, a broken shackle around his ankle.  In one hand he holds a machete, a sign of his willingness to fight. With the other hand he raises a conch shell to his lips, representing the traditional call to action. The Nèg Mawon survived the 2010 earthquake and has become the nation’s iconic symbol of freedom. In fact, the Nèg Mawon viewed across the world as a symbol for freedom.

We hope you will enjoy these images and short videos from yesterday in Grande Saline.  It was a wonderful day for the entire community.  One of the best things about this recent news from Grande Saline is that the tremendous national pride associated with celebrating Battle of Vertières and the birth of Haitian independence was matched and perhaps exceeded by the pride the community has for their thriving school and their enthusiastic children. “Our purpose is to create a true center of excellence here.  It takes a tremendous effort, because we are only beginning our work.  I thank you to all of the donors who have made sacrifices to help our community and school,” Pastor Berlando.

It is easy to focus on the negative in Haiti.  But even in times of trouble, we must not lose sight of the positive spirit of history, pride, perseverance, art, culture, faith, resilience, and hope that are inseparably intertwined with all of the other aspects of life in Haiti.

 

Full of Hope

Hello, Health for Haiti friends.

We want to share a thoughtful and unflinching update about the current situation in Haiti that was written by the admirable Fr. Rick Frechette at Saint Luke Foundation in Port au Prince.  We at Health for Haiti are inspired by Fr. Rick’s tremendous commitment to the people of Haiti, through good times and bad, and we are proud to echo his statement:

“We have not given up on Haiti, or on our world. We are full of hope, and eager to keep the fire of hope kindling good and helpful action.”   -Fr. Rick Frechette, Port au Prince

Fr. Rick’s recent post can be found here:

http://www.stlukehaiti.org/blog/2019/11/12/a-floating-hospital-and-a-sinking-country-2

Thank you, Fr. Rick, for your example and your faith and your “revolution of caring people”.

We look forward to joining you by continuing our own small revolution of caring through our partnership with the people of Grande Saline, Haiti.  We appreciate all who joined our “Pancakes for Progress” event last weekend.  With your help and support we can continue to protect and strengthen “good and helpful action” and the positive progress that persists even in the face of country-wide turmoil and suffering.

We too are full of hope.

What kind of progress can you make with pancakes?

Dear Health for Haiti Friends,

We need you! Please join us next Sunday, November 10th between 8am and 10am at Applebees on Front Street in Binghamton for our “Pancakes for Progress” fundraiser.  Come out and eat some pancakes for a good cause!  In case you don’t think that $7 and some of your time on a Sunday morning can make a big difference, here are some examples of how your participation will help our neighbors in Haiti.

By purchasing even one ticket for this event, you can:

  • Provide an entire family in rural Haiti with clean, safe drinking water for one month
  • Help to support a monthly medical clinic
  • Help to pay a teacher’s salary
  • Support our school lunch program by helping to fund the rice harvest in the community gardens
  • Help to fund computer and sewing classes for children and adults

Our breakfast will be staffed by Health for Haiti students and staff, and we are all hoping to serve a lot of pancakes!  Tickets can be purchased this week from Maureen Hankin (hankinmr@sunybroome.edu) or Jen Musa (musajm@sunybroome.edu).  Tickets will also be available at the door, but please let us know if you are coming so we can be sure to have enough pancakes.

Thank you for your support of Health for Haiti and we hope to see you next Sunday!

Pancakes for Progress: Please Join Us!

Dear Health for Haiti Friends,

Although we are not able travel to Haiti this January, our students and staff are working to ensure that projects bringing positive change to the community in Grande Saline can continue to move forward.  We really need your support.  Please consider joining our efforts by attending the Health for Haiti “Pancakes for Progress” breakfast.

What: Pancakes for Progress Flapjack Fundraiser

When: Sunday, November 10, 2019 from 8 am to 10 am

Where: Applebees at 842 Upper Front Street in Binghamton

(across from SUNY Broome)

Breakfast tickets are only $7 and will be available at the door…but please let us know if you plan to attend so we can make sure to have plenty of pancakes!

For more information or to RSVP for our event, please contact:

Jen Musa (musajm@sunybroome.edu)

or

Maureen Hankin (hankinmr@sunybroome.edu)

This fundraiser will help us to continue to provide clean safe drinking water, community gardens, basic health services, education, and economic opportunities.  Below you can see examples of some recent progress in Grande Saline, such as pictures of all of the grade levels at the school (now including kindergarten AND seventh grade….our first secondary school class!!), rice growing in the community garden, our water filtration system with the new pavilion to support future solar panels, and this month’s medical clinic.

This is a tremendously difficult time for millions of people in Haiti, and the needs there are greater now than ever. We hope to show our friends in Grande Saline that Health for Haiti remains committed to our partnership, even if – for now – we can only help from home.

So please come and eat some pancakes for a good cause…and bring a friend!

Looking for Light

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that,”

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Greetings from Health for Haiti. There are many places across our planet where every day good people must face insecurity, instability and danger.  For us at Health for Haiti, it is so painful to see continued unrest and hardship for our friends and partners in Haiti.  We see people who already lack some of life’s most basic necessities, enduring even more hardship and misery.  A recent Washington Post article reported that almost half of the population in Haiti lives on less than $2.40 a month. Now those people are experiencing even greater shortages in food, water, and gas. Businesses are closed, prices are rising, and almost two million Haitian children have not been able to attend school in over a month.   And maybe the worst part is that there just does not seem to be any resolution in sight.  This is why we had no choice but to make the difficult decision to cancel our January 2020, Health for Haiti class.  For the twenty students who had signed up to join us and the dedicated Health for Haiti staff, it is a major disappointment.  And while it is even more disappointing for our friends and partners in Haiti, we have received nothing but responses filled with love, understanding, and faith in their knowledge that we will return as soon as it is safe for us to do so.

Grande Saline Children’s Choir

I was in Haiti last weekend and had the pleasure of visiting Grande Saline and seeing how the community continues to be transformed. Somehow on an already bright and sunny day, the light seemed even brighter in Grande Saline.  So rather than dwelling on the darkness, we are going to share some of that beautiful light with you.

Despite the recent flood, the rice in the community gardens is growing beautifully. And the water system is also working really well. Engineer Greg Cempa met with the operators and did some quick maintenance.  The pavilion to support the solar panels is nearly complete, the next step will be to complete the concrete floor.  After that, we are ready for solar panels and the other equipment needed to convert the system from gas to solar power. What a major step forward it will be to lose the reliance on gas (which is so expensive and hard to find), and harness the power of Haiti’s abundant sunshine.

The school is also blossoming.  The students and teachers continue to display their pride, enthusiasm and tremendous dedication.  The teachers tell us that they are hoping to inspire the future leaders of Haiti. One look into the bright eyes of these children makes it impossible to not feel optimistic for the future. There are now another two cheerful classrooms that are being used as the kindergarten.

Pastor Berlando says, “My dreams are coming true.  People in the community are beginning to witness how our school is transforming the children’s education. And while many places in the country are not open now, here our children are in school and learning.”

There is also a new hand washing station utilizing clean water from the water filtration system.  It is operated by foot pedals, and does not splash water on the teachers clothes or children’s uniforms. The waste water is diverted to the boy’s lavatory and helps to keep the floor clean.

Construction of the sewing workshop is also progressing.  The walls have been constructed and we are ready to raise money to complete the project. I met with the sewing teachers last weekend and they are so excited to have their own space to work.  The workshop will have two rooms, one for beginners and one for the more advanced students.

In Grande Saline, we see many shining signs that there are brighter days ahead for Haiti.  And even if we can be there in person in January, we continue to stand side by side with the community there, cheering them on and supporting them as they focus on the future.

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness,”

-Desmond Tutu

And this is where we need to call on our extended Health for Haiti family to join us in providing that support. Despite the cancellation of our class, we still plan to have our annual Health for Haiti pancake breakfast on Sunday, November 10th from 8am to 10am at Applebee’s on Front Street in Binghamton.  We will also have our annual 50/50 raffle.  We ask that you please consider buying or even selling breakfast ($7) or raffle ($5) tickets and attending our event. The people we serve in Haiti need assistance now more than ever, and we hope to show them that despite all of the dark news coming from their country our community is still there for them.

Thank you for your support and please contact Jen Musa (musajm@sunybroome.edu) or Maureen Hankin (hankinmr@sunybroome.edu) if you are able to assist or participate in our breakfast or raffle.

Foundations

The foundation of the new sewing workshop in Grande Saline.

A good foundation is essential for supporting a physical structure, like a building, or a program, like a community education initiative.  Today Health for Haiti is excited to highlight the literal and figurative foundations that support the popular sewing skills program in Grande Saline.

Miss Dana teaches pattern making.

For the past few years, formal sewing classes have been offered to adults and children in the Grande Saline community.  Miss Dana and Mr. Edouard have worked with students to teach them how to sew by hand and with (solar powered!) sewing machines.

The teachers have impressive skills, and they teach the basics of pattern making as well as how to make all kinds of clothes, including skirts, pants, blouses and school uniforms.

 

A student in Grande Saline wears a uniform that was made by a sewing student.

The sewing program has been a source of pride for many people in the community.  Students have talked about the sense of satisfaction they feel when they sew a dress and then wear it. They talk about feeling empowered when they develop their skills to the point where they can make clothes for other people.

Some even talk about future dreams of owning a company that makes clothes that can be sold in Haiti and in other parts of the world. All of them appreciate the chance to develop their sewing skills, an opportunity which not only brings personal satisfaction but can lead to valuable economic opportunities as well.

One of the challenges of the sewing education program has been to find space to store their machines and other sewing supplies. Construction of cabinets in the classroom helped quite a bit, but they still struggle for enough space to work efficiently. In addition, as the students develop their skills, they would like to have a dedicated space to display and maybe even sell their work.

Now, we are excited to announce that construction of a Sewing Workshop in underway!  Although we can only see the foundation so far, the sewing students and teachers have described it as a “dream come true”.

As we watch with excitement while the new workshop takes shape, we are thinking about all of the other foundations that have contributed to the strength and success of the sewing program. Health for Haiti students, staff, and donors have collected, packed, and carried sewing supplies.  The sewing teachers have traveled to the church for classes, and shared their knowledge and skills to provide high quality education for their students.

A sewing student works on a pattern.

The sewing students have worked hard as they learn difficult new skills, often without proper lighting. They have helped each other to learn and always comment on how much they appreciate their teachers and the donors who support their program. And it is Health for Haiti donors who have generously shared their resources to fund construction of the sewing workshop that will help to further strengthen and grow this successful initiative.

It is very exciting to see the stone foundation that will support the sewing workshop, but it is truly inspiring to think about all of the people here and in Haiti who have helped to build the unseen foundation that solidly supports this community initiative.  Thank you to the entire Health for Haiti team!

Another view of the foundation for the new sewing workshop.

Attention SUNY Broome Students: If you want to visit this beautiful foundation in person and meet some of the awesome sewing students and teachers, Health for Haiti is currently accepting applications for our winter 2020 class.  Come and be a part of the Health for Haiti team!  

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!!!!!