Grande Saline Projects in Motion!

Greetings from Haiti!  It was a very full day for our 2019 Health for Haiti team! After a traditional Le Gou T breakfast of spaghetti and hot dogs, we boarded our bus and made the two-hour journey to Grande Saline.  Today we were ready to get to work as soon as we arrived. We had three teams of people working on different projects.  We had a team working at the water system, our medical/dental team ran our clinic, and our education team worked with the local teachers and students.  The water team did a chemical clean, repaired the intake line and did some general maintenance.  The medical team assisted Dr. Gary and Dr. Robinson and saw 115 patients.  The dental team saw 60 children and sealed 227 teeth!  Pastor Belando is very grateful for the dental sealants applied by Professor Hankin and her students and looks forward to the day when the people in his community are spared the pain of tooth decay.  On the education team, Lynn provided a second day of professional development for the ten teachers in Grande Saline. She built on her work from yesterday and guided the teachers through student observation and the application of the brain gym activities.  At the end of the day the teachers each received a certificate for completing the workshop.  On their exit surveys the teachers overwhelmingly reported that the brain gym information would be very useful in their classrooms.  The students on the education team delivered lessons on the bones, heart, mosquitoes and malaria, and physical education.  The education team had over 100 students attend these lessons, each of which had a focus on how to stay healthy.  The kids loved looking through the microscopes and all of the hands on activities. They especially enjoyed working with notebooks and colored pencils to record what they were seeing.  After the lessons many of the students walked to see the community gardens.  We visited the student garden and saw all of the tomatoes and melons growing there. We were able to see the gas pumps that are used to water the garden.  We did not have time to visit the big garden because we had to head back to the hotel, but we did get a good idea about how difficult it can be to grow food in Grande Saline.  After a hot bumpy bus ride home and a delicious dinner and some fun and conversation we are all ready for some rest.  Tomorrow is another clinic and education and water system day in Grande Saline.  We are so proud of the students and staff and all of the great things they accomplished today.  One very special part of our day today was having the chance to work with Dr. Robinson again. He is the person who introduced us to the community of Grande Saline in 2014.  He no longer lives in Haiti but is back for a visit.  He was overjoyed to see all of the positive changes happening in the community. He said that to him, it feels like when you have a dear friend who used to be very sick, and is now smiling and running around.  Below are some images from our day. Thanks for following our progress and good night from Haiti.

 

 

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Health for Haiti Serves 500 Families

Greetings from Haiti!  It was a long and tiring but wonderful day for the 2019 Health for Haiti Team.  After breakfast we traveled to Grande Saline and began to prepare for our food distribution.  The 2019 students took on the challenge of trying to serve 500 families with a food distribution.  Thanks to our generous community and the hard work of our class, they were able to raise enough money to reach this goal!  All of the students and staff worked hard today to pack rice, beans, fish and oil and a personal care kit for each family.  After several hours of great teamwork, we distributed the food to the local families. The food distribution is our gift to the community. Not only does this food distribution help local families with about two weeks of food, it also supports the local farmers who grow and sell the food.  It was a great opportunity for us to work together and for us to share with the community in Grande Saline.  Before the food was distributed, Pastor Berlando thanked the students for all of their work and welcomed them to Grande Saline.  While the students were working, Lynn held a professional development session for the teachers in Grande Saline.  They were so excited to welcome Lynn back and enjoyed learning about how to incorporate “brain games” and mindfulness into their teaching.

After the food distribution we all visited the water system and saw the new wall that is being constructed around the system.  We all enjoyed playing with the local children and seeing the people coming for water.  Finally, before we headed back to the hotel, Professor Hankin organized the medical/dental clinic so the health team will be ready to begin seeing patients as soon as we arrive tomorrow morning.  The education team also began to prepare lessons that we will present for the local children.  We are all looking forward to another busy day tomorrow.  Professor Hankin and I are very grateful for these awesome students and the amazing staff who make this trip possible. Thanks to Silvia for the awesome drone footage and pictures of the food distribution and the water system.  The drone was a big hit with the local kids!  Also thanks to Marcia for sharing her beautiful photos.  Enjoy the photos (it took hours to upload them but I wanted to share our great day). Good night from Haiti!

 

Good Morning From Ayiti!

After some well-deserved rest everyone is up and ready for a full day. After breakfast we will make the long drive to Grande Saline and begin our work there. This is a fantastic team and we know they will accomplish great things!!

Progress!

Greetings from Health for Haiti!  Our 2019 Health for Haiti Team is working hard to prepare for our upcoming trip to Haiti!! We have some ambitious goals and we are grateful for all of the support from our past Health for Haiti students and the entire SUNY Broome Community.  Our Bowling Tournament Fundraiser will be on December 8th at 12:30 (it is not too late to sign up!!) and we look forward to a fun and successful day! Please come and support our students and their hard work.  Students pay all of their own travel costs, and the money they raise will go directly to the work they will do in Haiti.

The recent news from Grande Saline has been exciting and full of progress and promise.  After a disappointing and unusually dry summer, the gardens have been cleared, weeded and replanted!  The community is trying something new with the big garden – a cash crop of peppers.  The plan is to sell the peppers and use the proceeds to purchase rice and beans for the school lunch.  This idea came from the community, and we are excited to partner with them on the new vision that they developed for the big garden.  The student garden has also been cleared and replanted with tomatoes, eggplant, lalo, and okra.  We thank the look forward to visiting the gardens in January.

Things are also changing at the water system.  The community continues to have access to about 80,000 gallons of clean safe drinking water each month.  We are moving forward with our plan to convert the water system from gas to solar power, one small step at a time.  The first step is to construct a wall around the system.  This project was generously supported by the Endwell and Binghamton Rotary Clubs.  Construction of the wall is underway and we are excited to see this critical project moving forward.  The community is also in the process of developing a membership program so that they can contribute to the maintenance of their system.  We thank the Water and Power Committee in Grande Saline for their hard work and community outreach.

There is also some exciting progress for the sewing program.  Storage of the machines and supplies has been a challenge, and it has been very difficult to get the materials out for class.  To help solve this problem, cabinets were constructed in one of the classrooms.  The cabinets will provide secure storage for the machines and sewing supplies.  This will also allow for sewing classes to be taught to the children while they are in school.

The school in Grande Saline continues to grow and thrive.  Here are some recent pictures of the children raising the Haitian flag before school.  We are also receiving updates from the children who are attending school with scholarship support. Marc-Jordens, Andens, and Wilmese (pictured below) are all attending school with help from our “Helping Children” scholarship program. These talented and hard-working children have a brighter future thanks to their generous sponsors.  I was with these kids for a few days in October and I was so impressed with them.  We congratulate Pastor Berlando, the teachers, and the children for their wonderful school.

Thank you to all of the Health for Haiti supporters for helping the community in Grande Saline to undertake these transformative projects!

Please Support the 2019 Health for Haiti Class Fundraisers!

Calling all former Health for Haiti students and current supporters! We need your help.

We are fortunate to have 24 wonderful students participating in the 2019 Health for Haiti class, and we have some ambitious goals for what we want to achieve this January in Haiti.  We are hoping to serve 500 families with our food distribution in Grande Saline.  This is a gift from us to the community we serve in Grande Saline, and we support the economy in Grande Saline by only purchasing food from the local farmers.  It will cost just under $20 per family, and the food we provide will help to feed a family of four for nearly two weeks.  The families in this community are coming out of a difficult and unusually dry growing season.  People lost their crops and many families are going hungry.  Please support our student fundraisers so that we can meet our food distribution goal AND fund our other projects!  Click here to see what we have accomplished and what we plan to work on in the coming year.

How can you help?

Eat pancakes for $7!  Form a bowling team!  Make a basket for our basket raffles! Buy a 50/50 raffle ticket for $5! Donate supplies!

Click here to see how you can support our Flapjack Fundraiser on November 18, 2018! Tickets are only $7.

Click here to see how you can support our Bowling Fundraiser on December 8, 2018!

Click here to see the list of supplies we need!

All money raised goes directly to fund our projects in Haiti. Please contact Jen Musa (musajm@sunybroome.edu) or Maureen Hankin (hankinmr@sunybroome.edu) if you have any questions or if you would like to purchase tickets for an event.  Thank you!!

 

First Digital Literacy Class for Adults Held in Grande Saline

Health for Haiti and Bridge to Haiti have been helping to provided computer equipment and digital resources to children in urban and rural Haiti for some time now.  We are pleased and proud to welcome our new computer literacy teacher in Grande Saline, Mr. Eric.  Not only is Mr. Eric offering classes to the school children, but he is also offering our first ever Saturday morning computer literacy class for adults!

Computer literacy is the knowledge and understanding of computer concepts and the ability to use computer technology accurately and efficiently. Acquiring digital and computer literacy skills is vital for success today’s world.  Access to technology is empowering and can help bring people into contact with the broader world, providing new opportunities for education and employment.

We have had many requests from adults for computer literacy training, and we are so grateful to the generous donors and the community members in Grande Saline who have made this new class possible!  We are excited to continue to partner with talented SUNY Broome students and faculty to develop a quality curriculum for the digital literacy programs in Haiti!

Below are images from the very first Saturday morning computer literacy class for adults in Grande Saline.

Thank you to our donors, to the community and school in Grande Saline, and to Mr. Eric for making this program possible.

Over 80,000 Gallons of Safe Drinking Water Distributed in Grande Saline Last Month

The water system in Grande Saline continues to be a source of good health and pride for the community in Grande Saline.  Over 80,000 gallons of clean, safe drinking water were distributed to the community in August 2018.  The system is run by operators who live in the community.  The system, donated by the Pall Corporation, filters the river water making it safe to drink. The community reports, “No matter what, the river is dirty.  But we take care of it with filtration and it is very clear.”  Yesterday they sent some pictures of the river and the water “pure in a person’t bucket”.  Thank you to the Health for Haiti clean water team.  You are changing lives in this community.

Sewing Students Show Off New Skills

Most students are enjoying summer vacation in Grande Saline, but the sewing students have continued to work hard every week.  Some of the students are now able to make clothing. This skill can mean an opportunity to earn income, which will improve the quality of life for their families. Thank you to our talented teachers, Miss Dana and Mr. Ovila, for their dedicated service to the students. Thank you to the students for their hard work.  And thank you to the Health for Haiti donors who have helped to make the sewing school a success.

There is also no vacation for our water system operators!  They have continued to keep the system running all summer. Many people come to get water every day.  The operators distributed 28,800 gallons of safe drinking water between August 1 and August 8.

Clean water means better health, and Health for Haiti is committed to helping the community to convert this system from gas to solar power.  With the help of local donors, a District Grant from Rotary International and the Endwell, and the Rotary Club in Saint Marc, Haiti,  we hope to begin Phase 1 of this project very soon.

The Haiti We See

This update is not what I planned to be posting this week.  I thought I would be writing about joyful reunions with dear friends; hot, dusty, bumpy bus rides; delicious food; and the great work accomplished by our summer 2018 Health for Haiti team and Haitian community partners.  Instead, I am home reflecting on the differences between the Haiti I see on the international news broadcasts, and the Haiti I know from personal experience in the country.

Our summer SUNY Broome Health for Haiti team of fourteen students and staff was supposed to be in Haiti now and for the next several days.  This dedicated group has worked for months preparing for this trip.  Each member of the team made sacrifices to be a part of the group and was ready and willing to share their own unique talents and abilities.  I knew each of us was very much looking forward to reconnecting with friends and a wonderful experience in Haiti.

Just days before our departure, on the afternoon of Friday, July 6, the Haitian government announced that fuel prices would increase up to 50%.  This would mean a huge jump in the price of gas, diesel fuel, and kerosene.  For people who already struggle to meet basic needs, this was devastating news.  The announcement sparked protests and civil unrest that soon turned violent and led to widespread vandalism and looting.  Even though the Haitian government quickly reversed the decision (for now), the violence continued.

Businesses and vehicles were destroyed, and it became unsafe for people to leave their homes.  Flights to and from Port au Prince were suspended for a few days, and the US Department of State raised the travel advisory for Haiti to Level 4: “DO NOT TRAVEL”.  Sadly, with this change in status, Haiti joins the other Level 4 countries which include Afghanistan, Libya, North Korea, South Sudan and Syria.  To ensure the safety of the US and Haitian members of our team, we had no choice but to cancel our trip. The certainty that it was the right decision does not make it any less heartbreaking for our team, both here and in Haiti.

For anyone who is familiar with the poverty experienced by so many families in Haiti, the initial protests are not hard to understand.  However, the violence and destruction and the resulting loss of jobs for the working poor are in polar opposition to the protestors’ claims that they are demonstrating on behalf of the poor.  It is the local Haitians who will be the most hurt by the recent events in Haiti.  Our Health for Haiti team is profoundly disappointed to miss our trip to Haiti, but we have the luxury of choosing safety and security.  This is not an option for the typical Haitian.

Haiti has a long and complicated history.  As a US Citizen who is relatively new to Haiti, I certainly don’t presume to know much about what life is really like for my neighbors in Haiti.  What I do know is based on about a dozen visits over the past five years and the treasured relationships I have built with the people I have met in Haiti.  What I have seen in the news this week is very different from what I have personally experienced.

I believe that the majority of the people in Haiti are not destroying their neighborhoods and stealing from local businesses.  They are doing what they do every day: struggling to survive.  We all have the same basic needs, but the opportunity to meet those needs is not equal.  I know many people in Haiti who begin their day not knowing if they will eat.  Loss of property, loss of local businesses, loss of jobs, and an increased threat to personal security only make the daily task of surviving in Haiti more difficult.

Unfortunately, every country has opportunistic criminals who take advantage of crisis situations for their own personal gain.  We have seen this kind of looting and destruction in our own country after natural disasters, and it typically gets a lot of media attention.  The people who commit these crimes do not represent the general population.  I’m saddened to think that the images shown on worldwide news this week are what people will remember when they think of Haiti.

The Haiti I know is beautiful. I have seen many more gorgeous sunsets and lush, green fields than burning tires.  The people are welcoming, warm, and fun.  I have experienced wonderful hospitality from Haitians who are quick to share what little they have with a stranger.  Simply put, the people I have met are good and decent people.  They love and strive to provide for their families.  They readily help each other.  They are talented and eager for employment and education.  They are proud of their accomplishments.

If you have ever seen Haitian children in their crisp uniforms walking to school, or a Haitian family in their Sunday best headed for church, you see a reflection of the pride and perseverance of the Haitian people.  The Haitian people I know work hard and worship with a joy and enthusiasm that I have seldom seen in my own country.  I think it safe to say that every member of our past Health for Haiti teams has been profoundly changed by their experience in Haiti and has come home with a broader understanding of humanity and a new appreciation for what really matters.

In honor of the Haiti we know, SUNY Broome Health for Haiti will continue to stand in support of our neighbors.  I hope that people who have never visited Haiti will look beyond the recent images.  I hope that our Health for Haiti family will continue to share the Haiti they know with their own friends and family.  We who know the Haiti behind the headlines have a responsibility to speak out.  Health for Haiti considers it a privilege to work alongside our friends in Haiti.  We will continue to advocate on their behalf and work for sustainable improvements, and we look forward to our future work and experiences together.