This blog post was written by Justine Kaskel, GHF ’17 to recount yesterday, August 1.
Nerves were high and the excitement was evident on the faces of my fellow 17ers and mine, the nickname we were given by Ms. Massey to distinguish ourselves from the first group of Global Health Fellows. The feelings came after, of course, we got over the sleepiness of walking up at three to get at the airport at 4 AM… Our noses touched the glass of the window as the plane prepared to land, we were all eager to see our first glimpse of Haiti, the country we have been reading about all summer long.
The first thing you notice about Haiti is the people. The Haitian passengers we first boarded with in Miami looked foreign to our country, yet as soon as we stepped off we became the foreigners and they became the ones that looked at home. The next things you notice were the streets, crowds, and noise. Oh the noise! Cars honking, donkeys braying, people chattering, laughing. You take a closer look at the streets and see malnourished dogs walking everywhere, as well as malnourished children. The houses were ramshackled and decayed, yet oddly beautiful if that makes any sense. The pastel colors of the houses seemed to go with the city Port Au Prince with the bustling streets and graffiti walls. Maybe it was the energy the people gave off, so full of life with noise and all. After noting this one beautiful thing you look away from the streets to notice mountains. Everywhere. Some covered with houses, others rocky and bare, and yet still others, covered with lush green trees spotted with random pink houses here and there. Though Haiti is in a state of poverty, it is truly beautiful.
The first stop of the day was the “greatest hospital in all of the Caribbean!” in Mirebalais on the Central Plateau. This hospital is a joint venture between the government of Haiti (the Ministry of Health) and Partners in Heath. The Ministry of Health helps with the running of this hospital as well as supplying salaries for doctors. The hospital is not only to treat patients, but also to teach and train Haitian residents. The hospital trains and gives jobs only to Haitians, helping build the economy and the education of the country. When we first arrived, we were in awe. The hospital was so advanced that it could compare to the hospitals in the United States.
We were also excited to see the hospital bustling full of patients, as the outpatient services are up and running, two of six ORs, the emergency room, and the maternity room. We also toured the pediatric ward which will open in just a few weeks and checked out the 1000+ solar panels on the roof that generate enough electricity for the hospital and some of the local community. We give a huge thanks to Annie McDonough, the External Affairs Coordinator for Partners in Health, for taking time out of her day to show us around the hospital.
Our next stop was Cange, the original hospital of Partners in Health. We met up with Cassandre Chipps, a granddaughter of Father Fritz Lafontant who helped Dr. Paul Farmer with his original work in Cange, and she showed us around the complex. The technology wasn’t as great nor extensive as the one found in Mirebalais, but it was still a very impressive hospital. However it was a ghost town compared to the hospital in Mirebalais! The only sounds were the tunes of a French horn, and the unearthly sounds of a church choir. There was a 3-week junior music program being held at Cange so Haitian bands were playing as we toured. We enjoyed a beautiful view looking out from the outpatient ward; you could see the Dominican Republic in the distance!
Our last stop for day one was the Midwives for Haiti headquarters in Hinche. A little buggy, a little dirty, a little hot, and a whole bunch of friendly. Nathalie and I attempted to speak with some of the locals at the house using our VERY limited knowledge of Creole, and we had a lot of fun. Later on, all of the 17’s played soccer with a local, also a lot of fun. Now we call the Haitians our zanmi, our friends. I want to end by saying this: Haiti is a contradiction. Beautiful but ugly. Lush but barren. Friendly but harsh. Haiti, a contradiction that we are just beginning to explore.
Highlights of the Day:
Graham Barbour: Traveling through the chaotic streets of Port-Au-Prince
Nathalie Danso: Attempting Creole with Daniel, Haitian boy at Cange.
Ryan Fulmer: Getting to see the success of the hospital in Mirebalais
Justine Kaskel: Walking up to some locals, despite not knowing a single word in Creole and having a conversation.
Helen Shaves: Getting to see Haiti’s landscape for the first time.