Today we really experienced rural Haiti for the first time. We headed out of town just half an hour to the community of Clory but it felt light years away from our reality of the past few days. Lines of cacti served as fences, keeping in livestock and demarcating pieces of property, as we strolled up to the village from the main road, lugging two Lifesaver jerry cans and two suitcases filled to the brim with donations.
The sight of a football (soccer) field always signifies a school isn’t too far away. Once we caught a glimpse of the bare field, we saw the marriage of both old and new. A mason was mixing concrete in front of the brand new school building, yet next door, unstable-looking structures built from banana leaves, bark, and wood, stood, completed the school complex. Manno, House Manager of Midwives for Haiti, and his friend, Theard, founded this rural school in Clory. Theard, who grew up in the outskirts of Clory, had to walk two hours each way to school each day. This new school in Clory is slotted to educate 300+ students come the start of the school year in September. With the mason putting the finishing touches on the concrete porch, we filled the empty supply closet with school supplies, sporting equipment, and even two teams’ worth of soccer uniforms donated by Beach FC.
As a few people from the village gathered around, we demonstrated how and explained why to use the Lifesaver jerry cans we had brought with us. Access to clean water is a constant struggle for this rural village, and they were so appreciative of the filters. Though we could only leave two filters today, more will be coming to the community in the months to come through EVMS (and hopefully us, too!).
We walked to a hilltop lookout in the village where we had the most incredible view of the environs. Humble homes dotted the mountainous landscape and the brown water of the Guayamouc River winded around the curve below. Looking down on that water source, we were affirmed in our decision to bring the water filters to this village and were happy to have made a small difference in this community’s access to clean water.
After lunch back at the guest house, we watched a video documenting the history of Maison Fortune orphanage, started by a Haitian, Jean Louis Fortune, who graduated from Virginia Tech and returned to Haiti determined to help his people. Xaverian Brothers Mike, Harry, and Bill also help run the day-to-day life of the orphanage, which is home to about 250 children and supports 130 more through its school. About 50% of the children have lost both parents; 25% have lost one parent; 25% have parents who are unable or unfit to raise them. We spent a few hours just hanging out with the children, playing soccer, putting together puzzles, practicing English, coloring, and dancing and singing. We then joined Brother Mike in the school’s impressive library for a discussion reflecting upon our time here and the topic of healthcare in a resource-limited place. He encouraged us all to empty out our hearts, wipe clean our agendas, and approach this whole experience ready to be filled up…with some answers, with many more questions, and most importantly, with relationships with others living in different circumstances than our own.
One story of healthcare access in Haiti we heard today has really stuck with me. There is one child at the orphanage that has juvenile diabetes, and it is extremely difficult to access and afford the medication and testing equipment he needs to survive on a daily basis. Thanks to the generosity of the Diabetes Center at EVMS, we were able to carry down about 500 donated test strips so he does not have to act blindly in attempting to maintain proper insulin levels. I would say it was one of the most important deliveries we could have made this week. According to Brother Mike, he would have died long ago if he had not come to the orphanage, a community with a network in place to more easily (though still not easy!) access his life-saving medications.
This week in Haiti has served to frame and provide context for the topic of our four-year study together, social medicine. All the Global Health Fellows have written mid-week reflections that are posted on their individual webpages (click on the Fellows tab to access these pages).Please check out their initial musings on Haiti, resource-limited settings, and healthcare access and delivery!
Aneesh’s Highlight of the Day: The view from the village, Clory, which made me realize that the poverty of the Haitians distracts people from the country’s natural beauty.
Brian’s Highlight of the Day: Distributing the Lifesaver jerry cans to the people of Clory.
Bridget’s Highlight of the Day: Filling the school’s empty supply closet in Clory.
Elizabeth’s Highlight of the Day: Singing with the girls at the orphanage.
Stuart’s Highlight of the Day: Seeing the school in Clory and how much hope it offers for the village going forward.
Wyatt’s Highlight of the Day: Seeing the road from Clory to Hinche and being told that it cut down a 3-hour walk to transport the sick to a 30-minute drive.
Good luck everyone! I’m so glad you guys got this experience to make a difference. I hope you are having fun and can’t wait to hear all about your adventures!
I have enjoyed your daily entries and photos showing urban to rural experiences. What an amazing trip! I hope you all enjoy your last days there and bring home many memories that will serve as a springboard to your development of a full understanding of Haiti, her people and the possibilities for future actions. Safe travels!
So great to see a picture of Ms. Massey, who is usually on the other side of the camera (thanks, Coach Fowler)! Thank you for keeping the blog so current while your travels are underway; the photos and stories are poignant and humbling. Thanks to the Fellows for sharing their unique and heartfelt perspectives. And thanks to the Haitian people for their incredible hospitality and spending time with our students to educate them about their country. Hope all goes well today.
To all the Global Health Fellows:
Your observations about the Haitians’ tenacity, strength and ability to cope with seemingly overwhelming burdens are point on. In order to feel “happy,” most people only need to see a small incremental improvement in their situation, and the GHF team has clearly made many of the people you encountered this week happy. May you now move on to find more substantive and sustainable ways to help our world’s people find even greater, and more enduring, happiness.