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!

L’Union Fait La Force (Unity Is Strength)

Greetings from Haiti!  Today started with another roof top yoga class from Kristy.  It finished just as the sun was coming up (I guess Kristy was late to class on purpose).  We all enjoyed a breakfast of Jude’s amazing oatmeal and had a more relaxed morning as we did not have to leave the guest house until 9:30.  Our first stop this morning was at the Musée du Panthéon National Haïtien (MUPANAH).  MUPANAH is a museum featuring the heroes of the independence of Haiti as well as Haitian history and culture.  Since our team is so large, we divided into two groups to tour the museum. Our tour guides were very knowledgeable and did a great job explaining the extensive and complex history of Haiti.  We learned about the tumultuous and often brutal road to independence experienced by the Haitian people.  We had the chance to view some artifacts of Haitian culture that helped to make the history come alive for us.  I think our experience at the museum helped us to have a deeper understanding of the resiliency and pride of the Haitian people. Of course a major goal of our trip is service work, but this is a college course not a mission trip and Professor Hankin and I were glad to have such experienced and talented guides to contribute to the academic component of our experience.

After the museum we went back to the guest house for a couple of hours.  We were surprised to see that the road in front of the guest house was being paved!!  It is great to see some real improvements happening around Port au Prince. Later in the afternoon we went to Mother Teresa’s Children’s Hospital.  We spent a couple of hours holding, feeding and playing with sick babies and children.  We also helped the staff to put away the Christmas decorations.  Some of the students described the experience as painful but rewarding, and definitely eye-opening. There were so many children there, and while it was a pleasure to hold them and play with them, it was very hard to leave them when our visit was over.  There were quite a few tears, and not just from the children.  This was different from the other work we have been doing, we did not have to use any special skills our bring any equipment. Sharing some human contact was the most important thing we could do.  After Mother Teresa’s we came back to the guest house and prepared for dinner.  We also had some visitors today.  Natasha’s family is originally from Haiti and she had a visit from two cousins she has never met before.  We also had a visit from a local merchant who set up a bunch of souvenirs so that we could go shopping right inside the guest house. It was fun to look at all of the items and many of us made purchases.

We were not allowed to take pictures inside MUPANAH or Mother Teresa’s so there are not too many photos to share today, but thanks to Marcia and Silvia there are some images from other parts of our day.  While we were at the museum today, we learned about the motto on the Haitian flag:  L’Union Fait La Force (Unity is Strength).  It is also a good saying for our course because we are definitely stronger together.  The cooperation of our students and interpreters and staff has enabled us to accomplish some great work over the past week.  Tomorrow is another full clinic and education day at an orphanage in Port au Prince.  It is our last official work day of the trip and we are all ready to give it our best.  Good night from Haiti.

Health for Haiti Meets OAEH!

Greetings from Haiti!  Today started with “Rooftop Yoga Club” of Jacob, Ty, Kat, Mikayla, Silvia, Claire, Jen and our teacher Kristy. We felt really good about ourselves until we saw the group at the guest house across the street running, doing calisthenics, and kick boxing on their roof.  After everyone was up, we all had a great breakfast of eggs, watermelon, mango, bread, peanut butter and jelly.  We knew we would have a later departure than usual today because of the logistics of our day.  We were working with children from  Assistante pour des Enfants d’Haiti (OAEH) but we are not able to go to them, so we borrowed a church with an appropriate space in Port au Prince where we could work with them.  Our bus driver Steevenson went to pick them up and 7 am, dropped them off at the church and then came to get us.  Unfortunately he got a flat tire along the way and we had a bit of a delay while Steevenson changed the tire.  After that we loaded our suitcases on the bus and headed  out to meet our friends from OAEH.  They gave us a very warm welcome and greeted us by singing a song.  Some of it was even in English!  After the introductions, we got to work setting up the medical/dental clinic and our education program.  While some of us were setting up, a few students used the puppets to teach the kids about the best way to brush their teeth.  Today in the clinic we had Molly, Jennie, Kat and Mikayla assisted by Min in dental.  We had Sam, Amelia, Hollis, Nate, Aurora, Robert, Austin, and Natasha working in medical.  They were assisted by Professor Hankin, Darlene, Kristy and our interpreters Louie, Roosevelt, Junior, Eddyson, and Wacnel.  The medical team served over 65 patients.  They saw 48 patients and applied 48 fluoride varnishes.  They sealed 504 teeth! The sealants are only applied to permanent teeth and prevent future tooth decay.  Our education team consisted of Jacob working with Tom and Greg on “Balloon Rocket Racers”,  Mia and Riley working with Lynn at our bones lesson, Claire and Ty were back at the heart lesson, Sara, Abby and Marcia were working at the insects and malaria and scientific observation lesson, Isaac and Kaia were working outside on physical education, and Brooke and Emily were working on an art game and lesson. The “Balloon Rocket Racers”, the physical education equipment, and the art game were provided by students and teachers at Tioga Hills Elementary School in Vestal, New York. We had Elysee, Lyndie, Steevenson, Derson, Bury, Fritz and Jerry helping us to communicate.  The kids rotated through the clinic and the education “stations” for a few hours and then we served them lunch.  The lunch was purchased with the donation money that the Health for Haiti students raised before our trip.  After lunch some of the OAEH kids treated us to a dance performance and we handed out some gifts we had brought for them.  The kids were very well behaved and it was a pleasure to spend the day with them.  Everyone pitched in and helped to clean up the church so we could leave it the way we found it!  Steevenson brought the Health for Haiti group back to the guest house and then went back to take the OAEH kids back to their homes.  Once we were back at the Guest House the students took some time to write in their journals and we all had some down time.  Later on we enjoyed a dinner of salad, bread, rice and pumpkin soup.  Everyone is tired after a busy but productive day.  Jude put on the movie “Bohemian Rhapsody” to end our busy day.  Everything was going on at once while we were working with the OAEH kids today so the photos are a bit of a jumble…but….we have a decent Internet signal so there are lots of pictures to enjoy. Thanks again to Marcia and Silvia for sharing their photos. And thanks to our entire team for all of their hard work!!