Sunday, October 31, 2010
Every day people come from miles and miles around to line up at this clinic in the hope for life saving medical care. One woman in her 70's started walking at 2am, in the pitch dark, in order to arrive at the clinic the next morning. She crossed the winding river 30 times before she reached the clinic. Sometimes they are too sick and they cannot make the long journey to and from the clinic. One young woman stubbed her toe in the river and could not get to the clinic for 16 days because she lived with two elderly woman. A neighbor finally brought her in but by the time she got there her big toe was literally gone - eaten away by gangrene. Her toe was rotted down to the bone and the infection had spread up her foot. This happens every single day in zorange. The nurses handle wound care, obstetical care, gastro-intestinal diseases, eye, skin, bones...everything. Before the clinic was established the people relied on witch doctors (many still do) or home remedies that often make the problem worse.
The children walk from miles away, every day to attend the school that Elade built. The school has educational standards and teaches the children valuable skills so they can thrive as adults. In this rural part of Haiti, I'm pretty sure there was nothing even close to this before Elade built it all.
Elade feels that the people of Haiti have let down the masses. He feels the educated people of Haiti have a responsibility to help their country. He is not leaving it in the hands of the government, or the hands of the wealthy countries because that isn't going to happen. He is embracing it and doing it himself by empowering his people.
One last observation - the Haitians are happy people. They love each other, take care of each other, smile, laugh, pray and are grateful for every day. All this, despite their circumstances.
My new goal is to find a replacement part for an old ultrasound machine, or hopefully find someone to donate a new ultrasound machine so I can start planning my next trip to the beautiful country of Haiti :)
Friday, October 29, 2010
Remember how we lost the tire when it fell off the dump truck between Jacmel & Bainet? Well, our leaders made a phone call or two, and word travels fast on the coconut telegraph - on Tuesday morning, the tire appeared! As the song says, "you can hear it on the coconut telegraph, by now everybody knows. You can hear it on the coconut telegraph just who comes & goes."
- A note from the Parrothead eye doc
Ok, I have a patient waiting... Will try to write more later
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Ignorance can be bliss - you don't want to know what the meat is. You don't want to see the cliff you're driving on. And you don't really want to know what's climbing up the wall or what crawled on you in the night and bit you. There are lots of changes this year including a flushing (sometimes) toilet and water out of the spigot in the shower (sometimes). The clinic is an eye-opener, in which the nurses that work here amaze me. They do a fantastic job in a location you would never think they would be able to do that in.
The bath in the river is still refreshing especially with the fun jeep ride there and back. I'll write more tomorrow.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
The patients were all lined up at the clinic this morning when we arrived. Some of them walk for hours and without shoes. Since I can't do ultrasounds, I've been doing physical exams on pregnant women. One 16 year old was having her 8th baby.
Kim is seeing many patients with eye problems who are excited they can see with their new glasses. The people are so grateful for the care they're getting. We're taking a short lunch break now. And the goat I saw grazing in the field the other day is no longer there... ...pretty sure we had it for dinner.
One of the best parts of this trip is meeting all these passionate, determined people that help out the HFHF team. Kim, Cean, Liz and Gabby are all so kind and helpful. Elade, the founder, envisioned all this - the school, the clinic and much more only 9 years ago.
There is so much poverty in this country. I wish I had the opportunity to visit Haiti before the earthquake, although from what I understand it's not much different. The people still lived in shacks and tents, just not as many.
This all is being sent from my phone - and the internet is sketchy here...so bear with me with short blogs. Here are a few pictures from the journey here:
We got to our dorm at 8:30 Sunday night - it was quite an adventure. We four-wheeled up muddy mountains and drove through rivers to get to Zorange. I'm very excited to go to the clinic and start meeting the people. This picture is the new dorm HFHF built.
Before the adventure. Here's Liz, Cean and Kim getting ready to depart. We're all excited to start our new journey. A few minor bag technicalities, but we're good to go!
This is the clinic/ school.
Monday, October 25, 2010
We made our way towards the mountains, and somewhere between Jacmel & Bainet, we had a flat tire. No worries, mon - our Haitian friends driving the dump truck with our supplies took charge. With the speed of a NASCAR pit crew (well almost), they changed the tire and off we went! Made it through hiccup Number 2!
Hiccup Number 3 occurred when we reached Bainet to get the tire fixed, only to discover the tire had fallen off the dump truck! The first option was for us to all pile in the dump truck for the river ride. The section option was to hope for the best & continue in the Land Cruiser. We took Option 2. The river was higher than I've seen it -- sometimes it was above the dump truck tires. The Land Cruiser was a mule of a vehicle & we made it -- even with the spare tire. Our original ETA had been 6:30 but we arrived at the top of the mountain at 8:15 -- right on "Haitian time". We're safe & happy to be here!
Your Haitian eye doc,
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Haiti is beautiful, but it is very, very sad here. We drove past miles of tents and shacks that the people live in. A lot of the buildings are crumbled.
We've been riding all day on bumpy, mostly unpaved roads, and we just got a flat tire. Elade says we're in "the donkey parking lot " - the HFHF folks will know what that is.
Oh, and our first meal that was graciously provided to us was rice n beans, beet salad and goat meat. Yum!
Will keep you all posted :)
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Hope for Haiti Foundation’s October trip is en route to Haiti & ready for the rodeo! The team left RDU bright and early this morning, and they should be landing in Port au Prince any minute. We might be just a little jealous as we think about them feasting on Vierge’s carry-out specialty – beet and potato salad – our favorite! (One day, Tara and I are for reals going to start The Gourmet Goat, our Haitian foodie blog side project. It's going to be legen…dary).
While we don’t have any “floggers” on this team (yes, apparently that’s the official term for a “foodie blogger”, as opposed to someone who beats, whips and/or flogs people - luckily, we don’t have any of those on the team either!), we do have four amazing ladies who are going to be providing you updates from Haiti this week! This October trip has a medical focus, and much of the team’s time will be spent training the nurses at the clinic to use some of our new gadgets like ultrasound machines and fancy microscopes...ya know, the little things those medical people like to keep around.
We've got veterans and newbies on this trip, and each of our bloggers has a unique perspective to offer based on their specialty area and past experience in Haiti. So while they spend the day making their way to Zorange, we'd like to introduce you to your lovely tour guides for this week.
An optometrist who will be leading the trip, Kim has been involved with HFHF for many years and has been traveling to Haiti since 2007. She “brought sight to Zorange” and fits people there with glasses for near and far sightedness as well as other eye problems. This trip she is training our nurses in Zorange how to use a slit microscope that will allow them to save eyesight by seeing and removing sand, wood or metal that gets in people’s eyes and causes damage.
A great story about her first trip to Haiti: she was fitting an older gentleman with a pair of glasses for distance. She had him go out of the room with the glasses on and look around. When he got out there, he said “The mountains are so beautiful!” He wasn’t the only one with tears in his eyes!
Our resident detective, FedEx expert, master packer and all-around rockstar, Cean keeps the HFHF supply line open! As the our supplies director, she handles obtaining, organizing and packing supplies to be sent to Haiti with trips and in containers; it’s a huge job! She also has a knack for finding places in Haiti for us to buy needed items. If you remember anything about the logistics of getting, well, anything in Haiti, you’ll understand how awesome she is for the stuff she’s able to get her hands on.
This will be Cean’s third trip to Haiti, though she’s been volunteering for much longer. She usually helps Kim out in the eye clinic when in Haiti, and helps Elizabeth out all the time here in the States. In Elizabeth’s words: “I love her. She’s my buddy.”. We all love her, too.
A nurse who has been traveling to Haiti since 2002, she does everything! Originally, she started out seeing patients with GI problems and eventually added eye patients to her repertoire, treating infections and conditions like dry eyes (Ben Stein shoutout!). Now, she sees just about anyone, treating a variety of illness and providing amazing support to our full-time clinic staff. What a great asset to the team!
An ultrasound technician at WakeMed hospital in Cary, N.C., Pamela is one of the most recent volunteers to drink the HFHF Kool-Aid. After hearing Kim Sniffin give a presentation about Hope for Haiti Foundation at WakeMed this spring, Pamela signed up to go on a trip the same day! She was right on time, too! Remember that cool ultrasound machine that was donated to the clinic back in May? Well, Pamela will spend the week training the nurses how to use the machine so they can detect and provide care for pregnancy, GI issues and other medical needs. A first-timer to Haiti, we’re really excited to read about the trip from her perspective.
Please pray for smooth travels for the team as they make their way to Zorange. Of course, we don’t mean LITERALLY smooth travel (we might be optimists, but we ain’t crazy); that’s practically an oxymoron on those Haitian roads and we’re already pushing our miracle quota. But we are praying for a safe trip, maybe with a little less river drama this time around. Check back this week for regular updates from the ground in Haiti!
Thursday, October 21, 2010
After traveling to Zorange with Hope for Haiti Foundation in March, the Elon Univeristy professor and entrepreneur launched a new brand of women’s jeans – S2 Jeans – as a way to help victims of the January earthquake and rebuild infrastructure in Haiti. Moved by what he saw in Zorange, especially the damaged school, clinic and future hospital buildings, David knew he had to do something. Because textiles represent a major export for Haiti, the idea for the premium jeans brand was born. He immediately began the production process to create a comfy, stylish pant, made even better by the fact that 3 percent of the profits will be donated back to HFHF!
After months of picking out buttons, rivets and stitching, trying on samples and perfecting the fit, S2 jeans was ready to debut its altruistic apparel. On October 5, S2 jeans was featured at the Holiday Lookbook in New York City, a biannual media-only event designed to give invited media outlets an exclusive glimpse at select brands and products for inclusion in holiday gift guides. Jackson and his team traveled to the Big Apple to show off their latest denim fashion, and their presence at the show gave them the chance to interact with editors from top news, fashion and women’s interest publications, such as the AP, Lucky and Elle. Jill Martin, a fashion and entertainment reporter who has contributed to The Today Show, Extra, Access Hollywood and other top entertainment shows, hosted the event.
Jackson has met with many buyers, investors and retailers to work on developing relationships and getting the jeans in stores. Soon S2 jeans will be available to buy, with the line starting out with a sulfur top indigo jean with classic lines, washed for comfort. Keep checking their website for purchasing info and getcha some!
Many thanks to David for his big heart and incredible initiative. We look forward to the official launch of S2 jeans and partnering with the team. Just more proof that looking good and doing good can fit like…well, your favorite pair of jeans.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
You have a headache, or arthritis, or the flu. You have an upset stomach, and you’re not sure if its something you should be concerned about. You think you might be pregnant, or you know you are. You have high blood pressure, or diabetes, or cataracts. Your son fell and has a large wound on his leg.
What do you do?
If you live in Zorange, Haiti, you only have 2 options: 1) do nothing 2) take a long & expensive journey to visit a health clinic.
Until recently, in fact, the second option did not exist. Thanks to generous donations and a dedicated Haitian medical staff, Zorange now has a medical clinic that sees about 50 patients a day – providing basic medicines, lab work, wound care, women’s health services, vaccinations, and maternity care. It is hard to appreciate the impact of this clinic when you live in the states, where a 10 minute car ride will bring you past at least a dozen places where you can buy Advil. Imagine if all of those drug stores vanished? Welcome to Zorange, pre-HFHF clinic.
While the clinic provides hundreds with necessary medical care, there are hundreds more who don’t know about the clinic, or can’t travel to the clinic. Some are too sick. [When is the last time you had the flu and thought “I know what I’d like to do right now. I’d like to take a 4 hour hike in 100 degree weather over 4 mountains with no water, food, or shoes.”] Even if you are up for the trek, the river is too high to cross at certain times of year, making it impossible to reach the clinic. Others have to stay home because they are the sole caregiver for their family. And, while the clinic will never turn down a patient for lack of funds, spending the day traveling to a clinic is an expense of lost wages.
These are just some of the reasons why it was necessary to create a third option to meet people’s health needs: Community Health Workers. CHWs are a critical part of HFHF’s medical program. HFHF currently has two community health workers in each of the 9 sections of Bainet. Many of these sections have no medical care whatsoever. The CHWs are trained to take blood pressures, temperatures, educate the community about sanitation and vaccinations, and also refer people to the HFHF clinic when they recognize a serious illness. The CHWs are also trained in basic prenatal care and to recognize complications in pregnancy and respond to these complications where appropriate. These CHWs are the eyes, ears, and, often times, hands of medical care in these communities where previously, health problems have never been addressed.
The CHWs are also helping HFHF to gather baseline data for each community. With this information, our medical staff will have a better sense of the scope of medical issues in the communities, and will be more equipped to meet people’s needs. Because they live in the communities, the CHWs can catch things like malnutrition early on before it becomes life threatening. They can educate families on the importance of hand washing, how to prevent dehydration from diarrheal disease, or the signs and symptoms of malaria. Communication & education is a big part of what CHWs can do in a community. Without WebMD or ‘The Learning Channel,’ CHWs are the primary source of medical information and knowledge. These CHWs are the lifeline for each of these communities.
So, that cut that your son got on his leg can now be bandaged without a day-trip to the clinic, decreasing the risk of infection. You can receive some pain relief from that headache without investing an entire day to do so. Your fears can be relieved when the CHW takes your blood pressure and lets you know that everything is fine, or that you are responding well to the blood pressure medication the clinic gave you last month.
The impact of these CHWs is immeasurable (well, almost. We do believe in monitoring & evaluation for effective programming!) But to a sick or suffering patient, these dedicated workers are an answer to prayer. And, would you believe that all of this happens for only $70 per month? For a mere $840 a year, a community health worker is provided with a living wage and a stable income to support their family. In return, they provide a community with health, support, peace of mind, and hope. For $70 a month. For those of you who struggle with numbers, the cost-benefit ratio here is about a gazillion to one.
As we finish the first year of our CHW project, and look ahead to year two, we are more excited than ever at the impact it is having. Thanks for letting us share it with you.
Check out this video to hear Matt, Mahsa and Laura explain more about the Community Health Workers program.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Remember two weeks ago when we told you about the Sawyer water filters that Brian and Lydia were able to bring to Zorange on our September trip? Here's a rapid-fire recap, intro-to-Glee style, for those of you who don't: This simple filtration system was developed by Sawyer to provide developing countries with a low-maintenance, fast, cost-efficient way to purify water, and they were included in relief kits that ECHO put together after the January 12 earthquake. ECHO, which stands for Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization, is based in Florida, and though they now work all over the world, they actually began their mission of "equipping people with resources and skills to reduce hunger and improve the lives of the poor" in Haiti. Brian & Lydia currently work at ECHO and were able to get their hands on a few filters to be used in the school and clinic. For the people in Zorange, whose only source of water is the dirty river accessible by a long, steep climb, these filters were life-changing. While they still have to walk to get water, that water is now safe for them to drink, which will greatly reduce waterborne illnesses like cholera. (And that's what you missed on our blog).
Following the trip, Brian and Lydia had an opportunity to give a presentation at ECHO, focusing on the water filters and their impact in the community. Well, thanks to their mad presentation skills and ECHO’s generosity, Hope for Haiti Foundation is receiving 60 more water filters to distribute throughout the community in Zorange! The donated filters have a total value of $3000 and will provide clean water to households throughout the Bigot habitation and greater Zorange area. These bad boys are en route to North Carolina right now, and we are so excited. (We’re talking SNL-Surprise-Party-Sue-excited here.)
We can’t express our gratitude to ECHO enough. Providing clean water to 60 families anywhere would make a huge difference in the lives of hundreds of people, but because of the close community in Haiti, we really believe these will have a have a widespread impact. Now kids won't just have clean water at school, but at home too; people who are already sick won't have their immune systems further compromised by drinking contaminated water and healthy adults will have a much better shot at staying healthy. As we get ready to send our October trip to Haiti in two weeks, we're sure we'll be stuffing checked luggage full of filters, and after the community has used these filters for a consistent amount of time, we are going to work with our medical team on the ground in Haiti to try to track the decrease in diarrheal disease and other waterborne illness . Thanks again to ECHO for making this possible!
Sonie's Water Filter
To see a video of one of Zorange's residents with her new water filter, click here!
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
It's hard for us here to imagine life without doctors - not to mention specialized doctors, pharmacies on every corner (and in every Target! Hello, new shoes with each prescription filled!) and cutting edge surgical centers. But for many in rural Haiti, it can take 6 to 12 hours - and a lot of money - just to get to somewhere that can administer medical care, which is often subpar or completely insufficient. And keep in mind that this is not your average 6-to-12-hour trip. The lucky ones with vehicles face a long journey of bumpy, unpaved roads and potential obstacles like swelled rivers (not only is the lack of medical care an issue in and of itself, but the lack of infrastructure complicates everything), but for many, this journey is done on foot, over mountains. Women in labor. People bleeding to death. People with high fevers, headache, diarrhea from infectious disease. WALKING to the doctor. Not only does that sound completely miserable (let's be honest, last month, I had a simple ear infection and still subjected myself to five hours of "Real Housewives of New Jersey" before I could drag myself off the couch to drive to the doctor. I'm. so. embarrassed.), but it makes emergency response essentially nonexistent. People die senseless deaths everyday from things that we don't even consider life-threatening here - all because a simple lack of access.
Much of the knowledge we have about the current medical situation in the Bainet city section of Haiti (remember, Bainet is a region in the Sud Est department of Haiti - it's divided into nine sections, one of which is Zorange) is thanks to a health survey that Lydia and Mahsa did in May 2008 as a research project for their Masters in Public Health degree (not only are we cute, but we're smart!).
The facts that we learned from these interviews have proved invaluable and guided much of our approach to our medical projects, but it's the stories that stick in our hearts. As we begin focusing on fundraising for some major medical initiatives, we wanted to share some of the quotes from the interviews with y'all, because, while you've probably heard us talk about a lot of stuff, we think it's always more powerful when told in their voices. These truly paint the picture of the medical situation in Haiti and the challenge people face regarding their health.
“I was walking home my water broke. I went to Petit - Goâve and then after that to the General Hospital and it was closed. I had a friend who took me to a hospital in Caw Foo. It was raining and when I got there the doctor said if you have money you will survive, if you have no money you will not survive. I gave the money, and they bought medicine and gave me an IV. He told me the baby won’t survive and when the baby was born they hit the baby but the baby didn’t cry. The baby was born abnormal. The baby died 5 days after delivery.” (Female, Section 6)
“If someone has complications during labor, we have to create a stretcher to carry that person for 6-7 hours to Bainet by hand. They do not always make it and die on the way.” (Section 4)
“We go to Fonds des Blancs if more serious, but it takes all day to walk (12 hours). We do not go to Jacmel, Bainet because they have nothing there.” (Section 9a)
“When our wives give birth we carry them on our shoulders to give birth and they die. When we arrive at Bainet we have to then go to Jacmel.” (Male, Section 5)
“Sometimes we went so far and when we arrived we did not have medicine for our troubles and it is bad because we used our money and did not receive anything.” (Male, Section 8)
“If you have a serious illness, you will most likely die before you get to the hospital, because the road is bad.” (Section 9a)
“We hear that help is coming but we do not receive the help because where we live is the last corner and what the government gives does not arrive here.” (Male, Section 5)
We also have some awesome quotes about how much the clinic in Zorange is helping, and we're really excited about some of our recent initiatives like the community health workers program, but we can't seem to shake the knowledge that there's still so much more to be done. One thing that came out through the focus groups was the fact that in the entire Bainet city, there isn't a hospital that can perform a surgery. That's why we're so serious about building this hospital - it will give more than 500,000 people access to medical care that simply doesn't exist for them now. We have the buildings and we have a really exciting plan that our amazing architects put together, and we're about to get serious about fundraising to make this thing happen (game faces on!). Because, while we hate to make it about money, hospitals ain't cheap, and we need to raise at least $1 million to make the beginning phases of the plan a reality (cue the early-90s Barenaked Ladies hit "If I Had a Million Dollars". Or if we really want to dream, fast forward 15 years to "Billionaire". *sigh* Inflation.). Check back soon for some more details about the hospital (including snazzy 4-D imaging of the plans!) & details on how you can help...we're excited for you all to dream with us :)
-Your Favorite Marketing & PR Team
P.S. If you want to learn more about the medical scene in Haiti, we highly recommend reading Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder, about Paul Farmer's work in Haiti. Paul Farmer is one of the founders of Partners in Health, probably one of the most effective charities working in Haiti right now, and one of the great champions for medical care in developing countries. His work is centralized in the Centre Department but the book does a great job describing the medical challenges the country faces. And while you're at it, why not put on Arcade Fire's latest, The Suburbs? They're strong supporters of PIH, and that CD has been on repeat for weeks. Happy reading & listening!