Haiti 2014 (Day 6: Nov 25)

(Graham Barbour ’17 and Nathalie Danso ’17): We woke up to a final day of interviewing and experiencing the wonderful culture of Haiti. Although this was our last day, morale was high despite the torrid climate and long day we faced. At 7:30 we departed for Rivage, a community on the banks of the Guayamouc River in Hinche, eager to meet the community and conduct a needs assessment of a second locale.

Arriving at the local school in Rivage, we were startled at how poor and minimal it was, assembled of only wood, tarp walls, and a tin roof. Despite the outward appearance of the school, the students inside told an entirely different story. With smiles on their faces, they happily greeted us, welcoming us into their school. Oxanne, the leader of school, with her son, Gampson, greeted us with many a hug and many words of thanks. Soon after, we assembled into our groups and began our interviews.

Leader of the Day, Helen Shaves, introducing our group to the students in Rivage.

Leader of the Day, Helen Shaves, introducing our group to the students in Rivage.

We immediately recognized the drastic differences between Clory, where we have been conducting interviews the last few days, and this more urban community, Rivage. Despite our initial impressions from the school, the community proved much better off. As we continued throughout the town,  the large wealth gap between the communities became apparent. Most of the residents in Rivage had electricity and easily accessible (yet pricey) drinking water, compared to Clory where there was none. Even though Rivage was much better off than Clory, it had challenges of its own. For example, the school in Rivage lacked tremendously compared to Clory, and the sheer density of houses and people was overwhelming. As our last interview came to a close, we were all hot and tired but excited at the prospect of making a difference in these communities in the near future.

Rejuvenated by a long break over lunch, we departed with zeal, crammed into the pink jeep like sardines. Dividing into our separate cohorts, the ’18s experienced the wonders of the girls orphanage of Maison Fortune, while the ’17s fed children at the Azil. Stuart Luter headed back to Rivage for Stuart to meet the seventeen thirteen-year old girls that will be participating in her women’s empowerment curriculum in the coming months.

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Stuart meeting the girls in Rivage who will be participating in her women's empowerment curriculum.

Stuart meeting the girls in Rivage who will be participating in her women’s empowerment curriculum.

(Hunt Stockwell ‘18): After Claire danced her way to fame among the children, the rest of us enjoyed painting nails, blowing bubbles, braiding hair and playing soccer. We played a keep away soccer game with the girls (who were all much better than us) that everyone joined in on. We all had a great time at the orphanage and it is definitely a place I would love to visit again next time I return to Haiti.

Making friends at Maison Fortune Orphanage.

Making friends at Maison Fortune Orphanage.

(Graham/Nathalie): Having visited the Azil (Mother Theresa’s Home for Malnourished Children) on our last trip to Haiti, we were eager to see it again. As soon as we walked in, a cup of porridge was thrust into our hands and we happily began feeding the children. Nathalie holstered three infants, Ryan bounced two girls on his knees, and Graham raced around on hands and knees, chasing a little boy throughout the room and under cribs.

Highlights of the day:

Gabi: Playing at the orphanages

Hunt: At the orphanage when we were playing keep-away soccer, they would always laugh at Lawson and me when we were in the middle.

Olivia: visiting the orphanage, Maison Fortuné, and singing  High School Musical with the coolest 14 year-old girl.

Helen: playing with the little kids at the Azil who used us as jungle gyms and would not let go.

Ryan: Getting a hug from Oxanne and walking to get Coke from the stand down the street from the house.

Stuart: Running the first introduction workshop with Oxanne and 17 young girls. It made me super excited and hopeful for the future of my curriculum.

Justine:Playing at the Azil with the malnourished children

Elizabeth: Going to Maison Fortuné and playing with all the kids. They new a lot of English and they were so playful and joyful

Claire: The little girls played Justin Bieber on my phone.

Nathalie: Having a little boy at the Azil fall asleep on me.

Graham: Doing the needs assessment in Rivage and experiencing a whole new aspect of Haitian life.

Haiti 2014 (Day 5: Nov 24)

      (Ryan Fulmer ’17): Today we had another early day, leaving the house at 7:30 to head to Clory for the second day of our needs assessment. Upon arriving to the school, our central meeting point, we realized that it was full of children that were very happy and eager to learn. Before breaking into groups and heading to the community, we had a short tour of the school. As we went from room to room, the children sang a welcoming song in English that was as heart-warming as it was impressive.
Nathalie, our Leader of the Day, introducing our group to the Flower of Hope School in Clory.

Nathalie, our Leader of the Day, introducing our group to the Flower of Hope School in Clory.

After that we finally broke into groups, and my group, Mr. Boland and our translator, Pleasure, headed to a hilly community right next to Clory called Dokano. Today we visited 15 houses, and since we ran out of Luci Lights yesterday we distributed chlorine tablets that people will be able to use to treat their water. People were incredibly effusive when presented these gifts, as they are often treating their water with bleach or not cleaning it at all. We would have liked to be able to give everyone lights, but we hope to bring even more in the future. Using the money from a fundraiser we will be conducting when we return, we will buy more lights for future distribution.
Conducting interviews for the community needs assessment in Clory.

Conducting interviews for the community needs assessment in Clory.

     As our needs assessment in Clory came to an end today I spent some time reflecting on the past two days. Although I have been to Haiti in the past, I feel like all of us truly experienced a day in the life of a common Haitian for the first time as we became immersed in their culture. Many of the people we visited did not eat every day, could not afford sending their kids to school, had no shoes, and got water from a spring which they cleaned using Clorox bleach. More surprising though is that despite the fact that these were the poorest people I had ever seen, they were also some of the happiest. I could not imagine filling their shoes for one day and still managing to have a smile on my face like most of them did. The children were always full of laughter, and everyone was always welcoming and helpful. I know that the data we have collected over the past few days, along with the data we will collect tomorrow in Rivage, will inspire all of us to find solutions to some of these people’s greatest needs.
A family in Clory we met during our needs assessment.

A family in Clory we met during our needs assessment.

    We returned to the midwives house around 1:30 where we spent some time relaxing, having lunch, and beginning to digitalize the written data we collected today. After that, we all packed back into the Midwives for Haiti pink jeep and headed for the Maison Fortune girls’ orphanage and the Azil, a feeding center for the malnourished. Today the 17s’ went to the girls’ orphanage and 18s’ went to the Azil.
    (Gabi Diskin ’18): When we arrived at the Azil, they were finishing up feeding time. We sat down in a room filled with extremely well behaved kids waiting for their dinner. We began to try and talk to them with the little creole we knew, but most of the children could only answer ‘komon ou rele?'(what is your name). Most of the kids we were with had anklet labels that included their name and age. The majority of the kids were 5 and 6 years old but looked like they were 2 or 3. It was tough to get to know the kids, but once they had eaten their meal, they warmed up to us. The malnourished children were given a highly fortified milk with a huge amount of calories to help them gain weight. Some of the kids loved it, but it was hard for others to drink, and some refused, even pouring it on the ground or into another child’s cup. It was sad to see them refuse the only thing that will help them get better, but understandable because it is some of the only food they have for months at a time.
The '18s hanging with their friends at the Azil, Mother Theresa's Home for Malnourished Children in Hinche.

The ’18s hanging with their friends at the Azil, Mother Theresa’s Home for Malnourished Children in Hinche.

      After helping the kids finish drinking their milk, we wanted to play with some of them and give them the attention they deserved. Some other kids wandered in to find us and we picked them up and played with them in an outside courtyard. We all had an amazing time with the kids, and always had more than one kid clinging onto us. It was an incredible experience seeing the all of the ranging severities of malnutrition. I loved playing with the kids, even though we could not communicate, we just high-fived and smiled to show them how happy we were to see them. It made us feel like they really valued our time there and were so happy to see us. One boy even fell asleep on me! When we had to leave it seemed like we had only been there for 15 minutes, even though we were there for about an hour. It was hard to say goodbye, and it was definitely one of my favorite experiences of the entire trip so far.
     (Ryan Fulmer ’17): At the Maison Fortune orphanage we were greeted by the girls’ orphanage house manager. She made us feel very welcome, and we gave her a bag of various donations and supplies for the girls. On of my personal favorite donations, a soccer ball, was also a quick favorite among the girls. A few of them began to play soccer while Helen, Justine, and I painted the girls’ nails. After that, Graham and I joined in on their soccer game in which we played until it was time to go.  The girls at the orphanage were happy and sweet, as they were last year, and we always enjoy spending some time with them. I know that all of us were leaving wishing for just a little bit more time, but I know the 18s’ will continue the fun when they visit the orphanage tomorrow.
Painting nails at the Maison Fortune orphanage in Hinche.

Painting nails at the Maison Fortune orphanage in Hinche.

Playing soccer with the girls at the Maison Fortune orphanage.

Playing soccer with the girls at the Maison Fortune orphanage.

    When we returned to the house, we were lucky enough to have a Creole lesson from one of the Midwives for Haiti translators, Kelby. He taught us a few basic phrases that are helpful and important to know to get around Haiti. Some of us knew a few of the phrases, but finally learned how to pronounce them correctly. Some of the most beneficial phrases were: ‘Bonjou’ and ‘Bonswa’ (hello),’Komon ou ye?’ (How are you?), and ‘kikote ou soti?’ (Where are you from?). I loved having the lesson, but just wished we could’ve had the chance to have the lesson earlier in the trip. It expanded our Creole, and Kelby even let us buy the Creole book that he based his teaching on. We have spent the rest of the night having dinner, planning for tomorrow, digitalizing our data, and playing cards.
    Today was another productive and exciting day. While we got a lot of good work done in Clory, we also had our day’s share of laughter playing with the girls, and our hearts were touched by the young children at the Azil. We are eager and excited for another early morning tomorrow!
Views from Clory. Mountains beyond mountains.

Views from Clory. Mountains beyond mountains.

Highlights from today:
Stuart- All of the helpful feedback and awareness I gained today working with Oxane, Gampson, and Bengie
Graham- Getting to know our translator Jimson better and discussing everything from the best way to kill a rat to how he can no longer eat sugar cane because he is proud of his teat hand wants to keep them that way.
Nathalie- Talking with 14 year old Sophia at the orphanage and watching her talk to Mr. Boland
Justine- Getting to know Jimson better
Ryan- Playing soccer with the girls at Maison Fortune orphanage and painting their nails
Helen- Painting nails with girls at the orphanage and picking up where we left off from last year
Gabi- When a little boy from the Azil fell asleep on me
Hunt- Talking to the group of girls at the Azil who wouldn’t talk back but smiled and laughed and were cute
Lawson- Going to the Azil and talking to Kelby
Elizabeth- The Azil
Claire- Going to the room with young girls at the Azil
Olivia- Seeing the pregnant ladies fact light up she we gave her the aqua tabs.

Haiti 2014 (Day 4: Nov 23)

This post was written by Hunt Stockwell ’18 and Lawson Montgomery ’18.

The alarm went off at 6 o’clock this morning. We were all tired from the exhausting day before but managed to make ourselves our own breakfast that consisted mostly of eggs, fruit, and Nutella with bread. After that we got our supplies for the day ready and stumbled into Midwives for Haiti’s pink jeep and had a wonderfully bumpy ride to the school in Clory, a rural community about 30 minutes outside Hinche.

Midwives for Haiti's famous pink jeep.

Midwives for Haiti’s famous pink jeep.

We split into our four groups to conduct a needs assessment of the community. We have worked for the past month to design a series of questions to ask community members to assess their needs. The groups were Natalie, Olivia, and Hunt; Ryan, Elizabeth, and Gabi; Helen, Claire, and Lawson; Justine and Graham. Each group was also accompanied by a translator and a member of the local community.

Hiking through Clory to conduct the needs assessment interviews.

Hiking through Clory to conduct the needs assessment interviews.

Each group went in a different direction from the school and started their interviews. All of the families we met were extremely nice and very willing to answer our questions. It was moving to see people living in extreme poverty who were nicer and happier than many people living in developed countries. Some examples of questions we asked included: What kind of fuel do you cook your food with? Do you clean your drinking water? If so, how? What do you think needs to be done to improve maternal and child health? If you could change one thing in your community, what would it be? Some of the answers to this last question were a better water system, better roads for improved transportation, better education for their children, and even a bakery.

Conducting a needs assessment in the rural community of Clory.

Conducting a needs assessment in the rural community of Clory.

At the end of the interview we gave them all a Luci Lamp. These lamps are solar-powered and can run for 8-12 hours. They are waterproof and very durable, which will be good for the villagers to use. We distributed 50 of these lanterns and plan to give out more in the coming years. The fellows are working on planning a fundraiser to raise money for purchasing more of these lanterns, and we plan to launch the fundraiser on December 2nd.

Conducting the needs assessment and distributing Luci solar-powered lanterns to each interviewee.

Conducting the needs assessment and distributing Luci solar-powered lanterns to each interviewee.

We arrived back at the MFH house ahead of schedule and we rested until we left to tour St. Therese, the government/Partners in Health-run hospital in Hinche. We saw the brand-new NICU that was donated by Ohio State and the maternity ward that Midwives for Haiti works in. We came back and purchased some cokes from a local vendor. This was a relief because we have been drinking water everyday. We have collected all of the data from the day and put these in a spreadsheet. We are working tonight to improve the needs assessment for Round Two tomorrow!

The GHFs working to improve the needs assessment survey questions at the end of day one.

The GHFs working to improve the needs assessment survey questions at the end of day one.

 

Highlights from the day:

Ryan: Seeing people’s face light up when we gave them the Luci Lights during the needs assessment

Hunt: Interviewing this one elderly lady who seemed very cheerful and had a very cute, happy grandchild

Elizabeth: Seeing a different side of Haiti for the first time

Justine: Feeling like I was actually doing something to help make a difference and playing with the girl in the yellow shirt

Graham: Giving the lanterns to the residents and seeing how they lit up as we described the light

Claire: Talking to Gauthier Evane and when the people set up the nicest chairs for us

Lawson: Seeing the women kiss and thank us for the lights

Helen: Personally getting to know Haitians who are all generous, proud, and kind

Olivia: Hiking around Clory and listening to the needs of the people. Also, seeing how thankful they were to receive the Luci light

Gabi: Having this one girl followed around and she came house to house with us.

Nathalie: Talking to Stuart’s curriculum partner, Oxanne.

Stuart and Oxanne, the facilitator of her women's empowerment curriculum.

Stuart and Oxanne, the facilitator of her women’s empowerment curriculum.

Stuart: Today was a huge learning experience for me. Working with Oxanne opened my eyes to the long process & the time and work to implement a program in a way so that it is beneficial for the community and also that it is sustainable.

 

Haiti 2014 (Day 3: Nov 22)

Today’s post was written by Claire Cunningham ’18 and Liz Heckard ’18.
This morning we woke up to go to mass at St. Damien Pediatric Hospital. This mass was especially interesting as this daily event also serves as a funeral for those who passed away the previous day at St. Damien and St. Luc’s and whose family cannot afford a funeral for them. It was a beautiful service and was the first time we experienced the Haitian culture and way of mourning, which is very different than our own. It aroused strong emotions in all of us and the singing was beautiful.
After mass was finished we got all of our things and left Hotel Francesca for Hinche in the

The '18s at HUM.

The ’18s at HUM.

Central Plateau. On the way to Hinche we stopped in Mirebalais to visit HUM (Hospital Universitaire de Mirebalais), the hospital founded by Partners in Health after the earthquake in partnership with the Haitian government . We received a tour from Maggie Smith, the External Affairs Coordinator for PIH in Haiti. The hospital is incredible and the services provided are extensive.

After we finished our tour we went to the Nourimanba factory which produces enriched peanut butter that is very caloric and is used to treat children under 5 years old with malnutrition. This peanut butter is prescribed for 8-11 weeks at a time to a child. We were astounded to learn that 85 percent of children under 5 years old are undernourished in the central plateau.  While the factory produces a great deal of Nourimanba, they still don’t produce enough to reach all the malnourished children under 5.
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After the factory visit, we went to Cange to have lunch at “The View.” As you can tell from

Group in front of the view from Cange.

Group in front of the view from Cange.

the name, it had a spectacular view of the mountains and the Haitian border that is shared with the Dominican Republic. Maggie Smith joined us for lunch and it was delicious as it included, pasta salad, fried chicken, rice, avocados, plantains, and very sugary coke. After we ate, we visited the Cange hospital, the original PIH/Zanmi Lasante site, and again

The hospital at Cange is an oasis of trees!

The hospital at Cange is an oasis of trees!

Maggie Smith gave us a great tour alongside Dr. Val, the Assistant Medical Director of the hospital. Dr. Val pointed out a poster that shared a declaration of human rights created by the first fifty patients at Cange. It explains that all people are people and should get equal care and treatment. He said that this fully explains their mission as a hospital that is dedicated to serving all members of the community, especially offering a preferential option for the poor. After reading Mountains Beyond Mountains, about PIH’s founder Paul Farmer, and actually visiting the hospital, we fully understood the reason people are so dedicated to creating a healthier community.

That concluded our day, because after the tour we headed to Hinche, our final destination for the day, and got settled in at the Midwives for Haiti house. We spent the evening preparing to conduct our needs assessment surveys in the community of Clory tomorrow.
Prepping for tomorrow's needs assessment exercise.

Prepping for tomorrow’s needs assessment exercise.

Highlights of the day:
GHF ’16:
Stuart- How powerful mass was this morning
GHFs ’17:
Graham- visiting Mirebalais and the hospital and seeing how it changed
Nathalie- Going to the beautiful mass at St. Damien’s
Ryan- Touring the Nourimanba peanut butter factory
Justine- seeing the Nourimamba factory
Helen- Returning to Zamni Lasante ‘the view’ and MFH and seeing familiar faces
GHFs ’18:
Claire- Visiting the Nourimamba factory and talking to Maggie Smith in the car
Gabi- seeing how advanced the hospital in Mirebalais
Elizabeth- Visiting the kids for 10 minutes at the Cange hospital
Olivia- Playing with the kids at the hospital in Cange
Lawson- Visiting the children in Cange
Hunt- Giving the little kids at Cange high-fives

Haiti 2014 (Day 2: Nov 21)

Today’s blog was written by Helen Shaves ’17 and Gabi Diskin ’16.
We had another early start waking up at 6 for a delicious breakfast of fresh fruit, rolls, and peanut butter. Then we coated ourselves in bug spray and sunscreen and were astonished to see a tap-tap, Haiti’s main form of public transportation, named for the way its riders signal to the driver to make a stop.
In front of our tap tap.

In front of our tap tap.

We rode the tap-tap to our first activity of the day in Medan Belize, a rural village located outside of Port-au-Prince, on Lake Azeui, the largest lake in Haiti. We went to the village’s school, co-founded by Operation Blessing, International and the Clinton Foundation, which the GHF ’17s painted last year, and had had the opportunity to see what progress they have made. We brought educational coloring books (written by Virginia Beach local Jean Mackay Vinson) with a focus on hygiene and sanitation, and we worked with a translator to read the creole book to the children. There were 5 classrooms and the ages ranged from 7-16. We colored the books with them, played hand games, and helped the kids pick up trash around the school as part of their Friday routine.
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We then headed back to the Villa Francesca for a local lunch of potatoes, beef, and vegetables. Once we finished we headed to the tilapia fish farm housed on the grounds of Zamni Beni, a home for disabled children started after the earthquake, and learned about the complicated selling and breeding processes. We drove back to Villa Francesca for a quick card game and were on the road once again to visit St. Luc’s, the adult hospital associated with St. Damien, where we saw various wards ranging from cholera to ICU and radiology.

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Favorite moments of the day:
GHF ’16:
Stuart- Playing with all of the kids at the school; getting to know Sylnida, the 12-year-old girl who always had a smile on her face
GHF ’17s:
Graham- Playing with the children at Medan Belize and marveling at how welcoming they were
Helen- Finally getting to experience a tap-tap
Justine- Magline, a girl from the school, saying “we are like sisters”
Nathalie- Playing with the kids at the school
Ryan- Playing with the children at the school in Medan Belize
GHF ’18s:
Claire- Riding the tap-tap
Elizabeth- Playing with the kids outside and coloring
Gabi- Watching the kids run to follow our bus on the way out
Hunt- Helping the kids pick up the trash at the school
Lawson- Visiting the school in Medan Belize
Olivia- Coloring and teaching the kids at the school about hygiene

Haiti 2014 (Day 1: Nov 20, 2014)

Today’s blog was written by Justine Kaskel ’17.
It was a rough start; alarm going off at 3:30 in the morning and meeting my fellow bleary-eyed passengers at the airport 30 minutes later. However, this fact was trivial compared to the reality of finally going back to Haiti. After a two hour flight, when we were slightly less bleary-eyed due to the Starbucks we raided at the Norfolk Airport, we landed in Miami and bonded over TGIF green bean fries. It was the last taste we would have of steak before goat meat, rice and beans for a week. In the afternoon “we managed to break two chairs on the plane, but hearing the music and being apart of the culture again and feeling the air on our skin just…” This was [Graham’s] highlight of the day. And I agree, it was a wonderful feeling “smelling the air that just smells of Haiti” and knowing that we were finally back in this beautiful country (Mr. Boland).
Later, we settled into the St. Luc’s guest houses, Villa Francesca, in Port-au-Prince before heading out to the St. Damien Pediatric Hospital with Dr. Brittany Potts. This hospital, especially for Haiti, is absolutely beautiful. There are colorful paintings, statues of animals, and it just felt like a place for kids. What is really special about the hospital, however, is the chapel. Everyday except for Sunday, there is a funeral in the morning for all the children who die in the hospital, though it sounds sad, it truly is a beautiful concept. All children are so special, and the fact that these almost strangers care enough about these lives to hold a funeral for them; the only word to describe it is beautiful.
Touring St. Damien Pediatric Hospital.

Touring St. Damien Pediatric Hospital.

We were all exhausted at the end of the day, so we gladly came back to our guest house to “delicious” spaghetti (kudos to cook team one and Mr. Boland), and relaxed with a game of cards (well, If you consider hogging out on starbursts and dancing to Beyoncé relaxing…). After an hour of that we headed to the boys’ room for a meeting with everyone. Stuart, our leader of the day, lead us through an assessment of the day and everyone shared a “rose” of the day (highlight) and a “thorn” of the day (low point).
In front of the wall at St. Damien honoring all who passed in the earthquake.

In front of the wall at St. Damien honoring all who passed in the earthquake.

Meeting Father Rick Frechette, National Director of NPH Haiti at St. Damien.

Meeting Father Rick Frechette, National Director of NPH Haiti at St. Damien.

The group’s roses from today:
– Walking through the St. Damien’s hospital and noticing how advanced the facilities are (compared to my expectations).
– Seeing the neonatal ICU
– Riding in the clown car
– Visiting st. Damien’s pediatric hospital and being inspired by their incredible work and variety of services offered at the hospital
– Seeing the progression of St. Damien
– Seeing the bubbly colorful environment created by the animal statues at the hospital
– Meeting and talking to Father Rick at St. Damien
– Emerging from the airport and being filled with the sense of culture with the cars and animals.  And the heat gave a sense of “this is Haiti”
– Going out of the country for the first time and arriving in Port-au-Prince
– Seeing everyone together
– Bonding over spoons
– The smell of Haiti that revokes memories