Four of the 2018 Fellows were able to travel with Midwives for Haiti on their mobile clinic to the local village, La Jeune, to provide a routine check-up for women by checking vital signs, conducting pelvic examinations, and listening to the heartbeat of unborn babies. We learned about the educational component of the process, in which one of the midwives explains to the patients the importance of nutrition, worrying symptoms, and what to expect before, during, and after birth. The mobile clinic helps women all over Haiti, and it is a wonderful asset to the central plateau of Haiti. While Claire, Olivia, Hunt and Elizabeth were at the mobile clinic, the rest of the group was off to an early start, leaving the MFH house at 7:30 to finish mapping the biosand water filters in Clory, Pandiassou, and Hinche. The group mapped the last 12 filters, making several stops along the way to Clory as most of the houses that were receiving filters were located just off of the road. While the group did not have to do much hiking today, it was clear when they returned that there was no lack of mud to dredge through to reach the houses. After a fun game of soccer right outside of the school in Clory, they headed back to the MFH house. Brian got to meet with one of the head farmers in Clory to discuss future plans for the Chicken Farm project.
Elizabeth also had the opportunity to meet the young girl for whom the French Club will be providing a scholarship. She is 13 years old, has two brothers and six sisters, lives in Rivage and loves French. I (Stuart) spent the morning preparing to teach the first lesson of my Women’s Empowerment Curriculum in Rivage. I first became interested in Women’s Health and Education three summers ago when the 16’s took our first trip to Haiti. After learning more about the work of Midwives for Haiti, I returned to the States eager to research women’s health and the impact education has on a woman’s life. I watched two documentaries, Girl Rising and Half the Sky, which details the effect of education on a woman’s life. I was inspired to join this campaign of people around the world fighting to empower women through education. The question became, then, how would I affect such change? Quite honestly, I do not know the finite answer to this question, but my curriculum is at least a first step. I began working on the curriculum three years ago, proposing my ideas at the first annual Fellows Symposium. My second summer I went to Haiti I had two lessons designed, one on goal setting and one on decision making and consequences. I spent the week interviewing women in various communities to determine if they had any knowledge gaps pertaining to women’s health. That week, I piloted the first lesson in the school in Clory where the 16’s and 18’s have been working this past week. From that point forward, students training to become Midwives at MFH taught the curriculum every other Friday to girls in Clory ranging in age from 10 to 35. I would create lessons at home and email them to MFH where they would translate them and then teach them. The lessons ran from June to November. When the curriculum finished, I had the girls complete a questionnaire to determine whether they had retained the knowledge or not. To my disappointment, the results were worse than I expected. There are a wide variety of factors that could have affected the results, but after receiving such poor results I knew that I needed to reassess the curriculum and develop a new plan going forward. Brittany, then the In-Country coordinator for MFH, suggested that I return to Haiti and train one woman to teach the curriculum every week to the same group of girls aged 12-16. I took her advice and headed back down to Haiti this past November. In only three days I intended to train a Haitian woman, Oxanne, to teach the curriculum, translate the curriculum into Creole, and
make sure it was culturally appropriate. I quickly learned that there was no way I was going to accomplish so much in merely three days. Instead, I spent my time making sure the curriculum was appropriate for Haitian culture. Based on Oxanne’s feedback, I returned to the States and made a lot of changes to the curriculum. I also had Mrs. Hall and Mr. Wetmore read the curriculum and give me feedback that greatly strengthened the quality of the curriculum. All that work could not be for nothing, so I had to determine what my next steps were. Throughout this process, sustainability and effectiveness have always been in the back of my head. I do not want the curriculum to run once and never again. I envision it continuing for several years, and evolving as I receive more feedback. After spending a week in Haiti in November, it was obvious that I needed to spend an extended amount of time in Haiti teaching the curriculum. So, here I am, spending 5 weeks in Hinche co-teaching the curriculum with Oxanne.
Today I met with the girls’ parents in Rivage, got their approval to teach all of the various topics in the lessons, explained more about the curriculum, met some of the girls whom I will be working with the next four weeks, and played a lot of fun games (in Creole!) with them. After several months of build up, it was amazing to finally meet the girls and really start my work for the next four weeks. I expected the girls’ mothers to be more skeptical of the curriculum, but they were very receptive to all of the lessons and excited that their daughters were going to be participating in the curriculum. One mother mentioned how thankful she was that I was going to teach her daughter such important information. She said that the lessons I am teaching should be taught in school but are not, yet the information is so crucial especially for girls just hitting puberty. In the U.S. we all have sex-ed classes, but that information we learn in 6th grade is something we take for granted as some kids around the world never learn about puberty or pregnancy or STIs. Hearing the mother’s remarks reassured me that what I am teaching is knowledge that is both needed and wanted. Her comments motivated me further to work very hard these next four weeks.
Furthermore, as Mrs. Hall has said several times, Oxanne is one of the most sincere women I’ve ever met. Watching her interact with the girls when we were singing and playing fun games was one of the happiest moments I’ve experienced. She was in her element and did not care that she was by far the oldest woman playing childish games. She is dedicated to helping these girls and is a true inspiration for me to be more selfless on a day-to-day basis. When the girls first arrived, they were all very shy. The second we started to play games, however, their personalities came out. I loved watching them open up and become more comfortable with one another. I can’t wait to get to know them and hopefully impact each one of their lives and I know they will impact mine. On Thursday, once the girls finish exams, we will be teaching the first two lessons. Going forward, I will teach three lessons per week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I will also be teaching the curriculum at the girl’s branch of the Maison Fortune orphanage here in Hinche.
My hope is that through the curriculum we will create a safe environment where girls can learn about their health, learn how to make healthy decisions, and support one another through any obstacles they face. I will be making more changes to the curriculum based on feedback and observations from this summer. So, what happens after these 5 weeks? The plan is that Oxanne, having seen how the curriculum should be taught, will continue teaching the curriculum to different groups of girls in Rivage and Hinche. When she is too old, she will train a younger girl to take her place, and the cycle will continue. Ultimately, if all goes as planned (which I have found is rarely the case in Haiti), I will not need to be a part of the curriculum, and it will be managed and taught solely by Haitian women. I am very excited for the next four weeks and know that I will learn a lot and greatly strengthen the quality of my curriculum.
– Written by Stuart Luter (GHF ’16) with additions by Liz Heckard and Claire Cunningham (GHFs ’18)
Highlights from the day:
Olivia: mobile clinic
Hunt: playing soccer with boys at orphanage
Wyatt: playing soccer with the boys
Aneesh: being able to sit by himself and reflect on trips to Haiti and whole program
Brian: giving soccer ball to kids in Clory and playing with them one last time (their faces)
Lawson: playing soccer in Clory and orphanage
Stuart: finally meeting girls and parents after so much work and starting the curriculum (one of the mothers thanked her)
Gabi: playing soccer at orphanage and seeing Manno’s nice house
Elizabeth L.: whole experience in Rivage, meeting scholarship recipient and talking to her in French, being able to see Stuart do what she loves, and seeing Oxanne
Bridget: going to Rivage and seeing Stuart conduct her curriculum and seeing the girls
Claire: watching the mobile clinic
Liz H.: mobile clinic and experiencing a new part of Haiti
I am so proud of all of you and every night I am so excited to read your posts. You are a very special group making a tremendous impact on the lives of your friends there. Thank you for your thoughtful leadership.
We are all so incredibly proud of your work and commitment. Looking forward to seeing you all tonight!