Monthly Archives: June 2016

Final Day: The Carrie Wortham Birthing Center in Cabestor

Post written by Graham Barbour ’17 and Kara Kaufman ’19 to recount June 16, 2016:

As our week in Hinche drew to a close, we prepared to return to Port-au-Prince with a stop at the new Midwives for Haiti birthing center in Cabestor. As we crammed into the van for the final time, we could not help but feel a sense of nostalgia, knowing that at least for the seniors and Mr. Boland, we would most likely never return to Hinche, with its potholed roads bustling with life, and Clory, with its hills dotted with palms and flame trees, and the Midwives for Haiti porch which witnessed hours of late night card games played in mostly hushed tones.

Winding our way through the switchback mountain roads was at once a warming and saddening experience— as we recognized familiar towns and regions from the previous trips but at the same time were forced to accept that we’ll probably never see them again.

The famous MFH pink jeep used at the Birthing Center now!

The famous MFH pink jeep used at the Birthing Center now!

After a couple hours of driving, we arrived at the Carrie Wortham Birthing Center, a newly opened birthing center named in memory of Carrie Wortham, an American who dedicated her life to helping the underserved women of the Central Plateau; she worked for Midwives for Haiti in-country a few years ago and was a large presence during our first two visits in 2012 and 2013. As we toured the facility, we were astonished to learn that since its opening in November of 2015, the clinic has already helped to deliver 75 children. For deliveries that required special care, mothers were sent to the PIH/ZL/Haitian government hospital in Mirebalais. Even more surprising was that even after the child is born, the clinic continues to help care for the child until six months of age. Although it was sad that Carrie couldn’t see the completion of such an impactful facility, it was powerful to see the extent of the legacy she left in Haiti.

In front of the Carrie Wortham Birthing Center in Cabestor, Haiti

In front of the Carrie Wortham Birthing Center in Cabestor, Haiti

We devoured our delicious, traditional Haitian lunch at the birthing center while watching an adorable puppy and a tiny kitten play (both of which we were not able to play with; Mr. Boland’s order.). Having prepared ourselves mentally and physically for the cramped sauna that was our means of transportation, we piled into the van for another two hours until we reached the Operation Blessing, International house in Port-au-Prince where we had stayed at the first night of our trip. Relieved to stretch our limbs, most of us went straight to our rooms and took the naps of our lives. The rest of the evening was spent all together. Dinner consisted of chicken, salad, and rice with the familiar Haitian twist that we have all gotten to know and love over the last week. We also showed each other the pictures we had taken of other people sleeping during the four-hour car ride. The tired bunch all gathered on the dusty roof of the house, looking over the city of Port-au-Prince. That night, there was a certain and almost unexpected peace I felt. The city seemed so small, the problems so manageable, and the people so unbreakable. For the ‘17s, they reflected on the last three years in the program and previous trips. This is very likely their last glimpse of Haiti as a cohort; yet, for the ‘19s this is just the beginning. I reflected on everything I had seen and felt throughout the entire experience: shock, joy, grief, passion, and now this renewed sense of empowerment. I would like to show those who haved funded the projects such as Luci lights, biosand water filters, and clean cookstoves the impact they really do have. While it substantially improves the quality of life, seeing the positive mental impacts they have in-person was the game changer for me. Suddenly, it becomes more than just money and materials and distribution; it becomes bigger than any one person. Giving people hope for the future is the biggest takeaway I have from this trip. I am so grateful for this opportunity. I learned more about global health and myself than I ever imagined possible.

Last Day in Clory: Clean Cookstove Distribution in the Community

Today’s post is written by Madeleine Munn ’19 to recount Tuesday, June 14, 2016:

To say the least, it has been an amazing four days in Hinche. To conclude our visit here, we made the drive/hike to Clory to hand out clean cookstoves. At the school, we were met with a massive group of community members hopefully awaiting a sustainable, environmentally friendly stove that would improve their respiratory health. Most of the IMG_3135people in Clory cook with wood charcoal that emits a smoke harmful for the lungs when inhaled often. Ryan, the brains behind the idea to distribute clean cook stoves, gave an informative presentation on the benefits of this new way of cooking and explained how the cookstoves work. To demonstrate the true capability of the cook stoves, Ryan, Graham, and Helen proceeded to make popcorn in one and handed it out to everyone there. People were grateful for the snack, as there were 80 stoves to give out and the recipient’s name, phone number, and serial number of every stove had to be written down on the same pad of paper. It was great to see the IMG_3145excitement and immediate ownership that people took to their stoves. Finally, after a long, brutally hot day, we took temporary respite in a photo shoot. We managed to pick up our feet and walk to the beautiful overlook of the valley near the school. We all took turns posing with different people and ended up with tons of pictures (mostly of James).


IMG_3153 and IMG_3154: Video of cookstove and popcorn distributions


It was a quiet ride back to the MFH house in Hinche where we were greeted with a hot lunch and cold showers. After a short break, we headed back out, this time just down the road to the Maison Fortune boys’ orphanage. Immediately divided into two groups, the intense games began. Ryan, Nathalie, Graham, and James attempted to tear it up on the soccer field. Turns out, the boys at the orphanage are extremely good and even thought they were too good for the four newbies. Our other game of basketball consisted of Kara, Ingrid, and two boys against Ray, Andrew, and two other boys. Helen and I would jump in for Kara every now and then. Despite some of our height advantage and our spirit, the boys at the orphanage easily beat us. Following all this fun, we said our ‘good games’ and ‘goodbyes’ and climbed back into the van, sweaty and even more exhausted. We ate dinner, cleaned up, and together reflected upon our last four days in Hinche and Clory. Tomorrow, we head back to Port au Prince and then make the journey back stateside Thursday morning.

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Day Four: M&E, the Azil, and the Girls’ Orphanage

Today’s post, to recount Monday, June 13, 2016, is written by Nathalie Danso ’17 and James Hood ’19:

Early in the morning, we headed off to Clory to finish our Luci Light distribution and monitoring and evaluation of the biosand water filters. The roads were washed out after

Hiking up to Clory.

Hiking up to Clory.

the torrential downpour of the night before so we hiked most of the way to the village from the main road. On our way up, the biosand group stopped to visit some of the houses with filters on the hill. We continued visiting filters for the rest of the morning in Clory and in Pandiassou, a town in between Clory and Hinche. Most of these houses had filters that worked well and seemed to benefit the households. However, there were some instances where the filters had broken or were not being used. One household had tried to move the filter had dropped it on a rock and had broken it in half. There is no way the technician could fix this so the family has been without a filter since September of 2015. It is still being used, though, by a hen that now roosts in its remains. Another house also did not use their filter because they said that they did not trust it. Our monitoring and evaluation of the filters has shown some important lapses in communication, but as we finished collecting the data, we all felt an overwhelming sense that the filters, apart from a few bumps, are part of a successful intervention.

Once we reached the school, the Biosand groups headed off to complete more of their M&E by talking to more families. The Luci Light groups stayed at the school. Ryan and Helen talked with Manno, a community leader, about the upcoming distribution and execution of the clean cookstove project. The remaining ‘19s spent time with the children who had just finished their exams. Ray, Kara, Madeleine, and I used a small book to say

Practicing Creole with the kids of Clory.

Practicing Creole with the kids of Clory.

funny phrases in Creole and the children would in turn say unusual phrases in English. Then, after the 7th graders finished their last exam, Ray, Madeleine, and Ryan gave a quick tutorial alongside a translator on how a Luci light works and how to take care the best care of it. At the same time, Helen, Kara, and I asked a few questions to the teachers of the school relating to attendance and whether they thought the Luci lights had been effective before they broke. I could tell the teachers were thinking very carefully about the answers to the questions and after the questions ended, they told us what they thought would be most helpful to their students. Their greatest visions included a library, computer lab, and effective and complete feeding system. It touched me to see that these teachers expressed no concern for their own wellbeing and devoted their whole attention towards the well-being of their students. I am not sure if I could be that selfless in their circumstances. We distributed the rest of the Luci lights we took with us and departed from the school nervous and excited for the distribution of clean cookstoves tomorrow. After a tasty lunch, the biosand groups went to the Azil Malnutrition Center and the Luci light groups went to the Maison Fortune girls’ orphanage in Hinche.

Nathalie Danso: The Azil – 

This was my third time at the Azil Malnutrition Center. When we arrived, the children had just finished eating. Bursting through the door to the little outside play area where we were waiting, one little girl in a green dress immediately ran towards Ingrid and jumped on her. The other children were a bit less outgoing, but after five minutes we all had our own little gaggle. Some kids tried to use Mr. Boland as a jungle gym while he pushed a little boy in a toy car across the room. I played with several little girls, who all enjoyed being bounced on my knee, but one little boy stayed with me the entire time. I held him on my lap while I played with the other children and carried him on my hip whenever I got up. When it was time to go he would not let me put him down, and started to whimper as I walked away. Leaving him was heartbreaking, but playing with those children and that little boy will always make a memorable part of my last trip to Haiti.

James Hood: Girls’ Orphanage –

When we arrived, we gave out nail polish, coloring books, and bouncy balls. The smaller girls played patty cake with Kara and Madeleine and also attempted to braid their hair. The older ones brought out a soccer ball and played soccer on the pavement using stones as goal posts with Ray, Ryan, and me. We all had fun and ended up drenched in sweat. When talking to a little girl named Julie, she pointed to my arm braces curiously. Since I had absolutely no way of telling her I broke both of them playing soccer in Creole, I used hand gestures. I said “futbol,” pretended to fall back on my wrists, pointed to them, and made a snapping gesture and sound. She thought that was hilarious and must have imitated my gestures at least a hundred times. She would come up to me, point at her wrists, and make the breaking gesture and sound. Eventually we had to leave the orphanage and come back to the Midwives for Haiti house. We ate dinner, recorded M&E responses and ate cake that Madeleine so generously baked to finish our day.

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Day Three: Clean Cookstoves, Water Filters, and some Basketball

Written by Helen Shaves ’17 and Ray Fitzgerald ’19 to recount Sunday, June 12, 2016:

Today we had the chance to sleep in late, and I even had time to make myself an egg sandwich and a mango! The majority of the villagers in Clory attend church on Sunday mornings. Due to this, we were not able to continue our Luci light and Biosand water filter interviews today. Without much of an early morning agenda, the ‘17s were able to relax and play a game of hearts with Mr. Boland which brought back fond memories from the last two trips. Meanwhile, the ‘19s were given a lesson in Haitian Creole taught by Kelby,  IMG_3106one of the translators who has been assisting us with the Luci light distribution and M&E in Clory. It was so much fun to begin to learn a new language and it helped to make communicating with everyone around us a little easier. Soon after the end of the lesson, the ‘19s joined in on the game of hearts with the ‘17s. It was an amazing experience for everyone to get to know each other better, and it gave us a great relief from the overwhelming heat in Clory yesterday.

Mr. Boland, Ryan, and I headed back out to Clory when Mr. Bruce from D&E Green Enterprises (International Lifeline Fund) arrived at the Midwives for Haiti house with the order of clean cook stoves. We drove to Clory and once we parked beside the school, we helped Mr. Bruce and his team unload the eighty cook stoves and stored them there in the

Unloading the cookstoves at the Flower of Hope School.

Unloading the cookstoves at the Flower of Hope School.

Flower of Hope School until distribution happens on Tuesday. Meanwhile students and other locals gathered at the school to see about what all of the commotion was. Mr. Bruce then set up one of the cook stoves and gave us a very thorough tutorial explaining how they work, what fuel to use, and he highlighted the financial, health, and environmental benefits of clean cook stoves. He also told us about his fascinating business model and the work they have done with other communities in Haiti. It was so gratifying to see all of our hard work for this project finally come together for the community of Clory. Mr. Bruce and his team made popcorn for the observers who gathered and the stove produced almost no smoke and heated very quickly. Mr. Bruce also used green charcoal made from sugar cane to cook the popcorn. These clean cook stoves will burn the fuel slower which has the potential to save over $100 USD for the user over a year, which is a significant amount for rural Haitian families. Also, their limited smoke production will decrease risk of upper respiratory diseases and itchy eyes for the mothers and children who cook the meals. The villagers’ intrigued and delighted faces lighting up at the sight of the stove and popcorn promised hope for their transition into the community and all of the extensive benefits they will bring to the villagers. We are now more excited than ever to introduce the stoves to the community, teach the villagers how to use them, and how the stoves will improve their lives.

IMG_3110: Video of Unloading the Cookstoves in Clory

Around 2pm, the ‘19s, along with Mrs. Hopkins, took a tour of the local government hospital in Hinche. This hospital is the main referral hospital for this region of Haiti, which means any local clinic would refer patients to this hospital if there was need. This hospital was actually funded by the U.S. military in 1925 while the U.S. was occupying Haiti. Since then there have been many partnerships to help expand and keep the hospital up and running, including with Partners in Health and even Ohio State University. Extreme differences between the American hospitals and this hospital in Hinche are easily noticeable, such as patient privacy and family support. For example, many of the wards of the hospital have no doors, and when a woman is delivering, family members are not allowed to come in and visit the mother. As we toured we were able to see the true state of the condition of health in Haiti which really opened our eyes and exposed us to conditions in limited-resource settings. This experience showed us why we are truly here and made us even more eager for the upcoming trips.

Once we came back from the hospital, we had a couple minutes before we loaded up again. We were split up into two groups: Madeleine, James, Kara and I went to the boys’ orphanage at Maison Fortune, where we distributed some supplies and were able to hang out and play with the boys. James and I played some basketball with a few of the boys (we got ‘balled up’ by all of them), while Madeleine sat and talked with a few others. Kara was able to fly a homemade kite around the courtyard and got to know a few of the kids. It was amazing to find that we were actually able to communicate pretty well with most of the kids, using a mix of Creole and English.

FullSizeRender.jpg IMG_3131

Meanwhile, the biosand water filter group consisting of Ingrid, Andrew, Nathalie, and Graham finished up with the Monitoring & Evaluating process for the filter-owning households in Hinche. They interviewed two households and the surrounding neighbors. The first person whom we met informed us that he didn’t have many problems with the filter itself, and he said that it had definitely helped him with cleaning his water supply. However, when we interviewed the neighbors, they didn’t really use the biosand filter because they didn’t want to traverse to the owner’s house or because they wanted their own and didn’t really want to stoop down and borrow their neighbor’s filter. In the next house that we visited, we didn’t get nearly as high quality results. In fact, we didn’t really get results at all. The person who had received a filter during the previous distribution had moved out, leaving his filter in the process. The five families living in the little surrounding community, advised by the technician, had decided not to use the filter because they thought it would be disrespectful and dishonest to use the filter without the owner’s permission. Things have not worked out between the two parties and in short, the families are still unable to use the filter. This was disappointing for several reasons. First, we hoped that our biosand water filters would make a huge difference in the community and be put to good use. Second, it is disheartening to see several low-income families unable to use a water filter that would greatly improve their living condition because of something as simple as a move. Hopefully, the data we have been collecting this week will inform our next steps and a second group of filter recipients will be able to effectively use and share the filters.

Haiti 2016: Day Two

Today’s post to recount Saturday, June 11, 2016 was written by 

Ryan Fulmer ’17 and Kara Kaufman ’19:

Today we were up early, though not quite as early as yesterday, and were packed and ready to depart by 8am to begin our monitoring and evaluation in the rural community of Clory, about 30 minutes outside Hinche. Somehow we were able to cram over eighteen people into our van; calling it a tight squeeze would be putting it lightly. After crossing two rivers and ascending a large hill, we reached the Flower of Hope School in Clory. Together with the translators we made a plan that maximized the number of houses we could visit today. In total all four groups interviewed more than 50 families and learned valuable information regarding our Luci Light and Biosand water filter projects; we also distributed more Luci Lights after each interview, which brought smiles to many friendly Haitian faces. The monitoring and evaluation interviews we conducted today were especially enjoyable for me because they were nostalgically reminiscent of the needs assessment interviews I assisted in conducting about 19 months ago. Pleasure, my group’s translator, happened to be the same translator who helped my group during our needs assessment back in November of 2014. Pleasure grew up in Clory and has been a great help to us over the years; one day he hopes to be a physician. Walking from home to home with Pleasure, Madeleine, and Kara, I not only recognized familiar faces but also recognized a phenomenon I had discovered almost two years ago. Despite the widespread poverty we saw from place to place, we also saw some of the happiest and most grateful people we had ever met. Having grown accustomed to a country in which we are provided so many great opportunities, it has only been until I have returned to Haiti that I remember the consistent lesson the Haitian people have taught me. In Clory happiness lies not in material goods but in the intangibles of family and friendship. People all do what they can to get by, but more important than anything is that the community does so together, united in a common interest in improving the lives of each generation of Haitian children. I still find it hard to imagine that people who have so little can be so happy, and I am glad we have all had the opportunity to form such a close bond with such a friendly community. After conducting interviews for about three hours, we returned to the school, loaded back in the van, and headed back to Hinche. When we got back, we all enjoyed some Cokes with lunch, which are made with real cane sugar in Haiti, and prepared for our afternoon adventures.


New latrines at the Flower of Hope School in Clory!


Taking a break during the hours of walking house-to-house in Clory to conduct M&E interviews.

Post lunch we piled back into the “homey” van and drove first to Maison Fortuné, which is a local orphanage with two locations – one for girls and one for boys. Half of us unloaded at the girls’ orphanage and the remaining half drove farther to the Azil, a center for treating malnourished children. From the moment we stepped out of the car, we could hear the children. There were mission groups there, too, all playing with the kids. The little girls ran around in pink polka-dotted dresses, the boys in a white-collared shirt tucked into black shorts. There were a few that were different though. Three noticeably younger gals wore flowery dresses. Two noticeably skinnier and sicker boys wore lime green t-shirts and navy shorts. Within 30 seconds of walking into the building, all six of us had a kid in our arms, and James even had one of the young girls on his shoulders (who did not have any diaper on; he found this out later). While the girls loved sitting on our laps and holding our hands, the boys were interested in taking pictures on our phones and wearing our sunglasses. After handing off one girl to James, Ryan pointed to a boy across the room. I walked slowly over the concrete floor and sat down next to him. He was dressed in the lime green t-shirt and navy shorts. His head was heavy compared to his small frame. His arms were a little thicker than the width of my thumb, and his collarbone was defined under the thin t-shirt. He was plagued by fatigue and as I sat down, his eyes slowly lifted to meet mine. His tiny hands grabbed to meet my thumbs, and soon his fragile body was on my lap, lengthy arms wrapped around me and tired head resting on my chest. It was a sudden transition: from joking around with cute, hyper kids to holding a child that could be in an ad on TV. It was almost like we were in our own little world, and I found it strange that while I knew nothing of him, and he of me, we were so connected in the one moment. The boy began to cry when he saw I was leaving, but I was able to soothe him long enough to get (unwillingly) back on the bus. This is what this trip was about. While we packed Luci Lights and created answer sheets and laminated interview guides, the interactions and experiences are what are going to motivate and feed the passion for aiding and working together with people globally now and in our futures.

’17s and ’19s head to Haiti: Day One!

Post for Friday, June 10, written by Graham Barbour ’17 and Ingrid Benkovitz ’19:

Departure day at Norfolk International Airport. Next stop: Haiti!

Departure day at Norfolk International Airport. Next stop: Haiti!

As we disembarked the plane in Port Au Prince Thursday evening, we were bombarded by the scents of diesel fumes, unwashed bodies, and wood smoke. And we loved it. Stepping out of the airport, we boarded a van and made our way through the bustling night life of the capital.  After a short ride we arrived at Operation Blessing, International, an international humanitarian NGO working on improving the lives of those affected by the 2010 earthquake that rattled the nation. Tired and hungry after a full day of travel, Ryan and Andrew devoured a dish (or two) of lasagna, and then we settled in to play upwards of three hours of cards.

After a long day of travel, unwinding at the OBI Relax Guest House.

After a long day of travel, unwinding at the OBI Relax Guest House.

Today (Friday), we rose to pancakes and fresh fruit at the popular hour of 6 am. Then we proceeded to wait for the ride to Hinche, the town which we would be staying in, for two hours. Piling into two cars, we made our way up Route 3 into the Central Plateau. After an hour’s ride, Ray unfolded himself to get out of the back seat and we proceeded to tour the Partners in Health/Zanmi Lasante/Haitian Government Teaching Hospital in Mirebalais, the largest and best health center in the Caribbean. It was the ’19’s first time seeing the facilities, and as Kara Kaufman so eloquently stated, “It was cool.” She later remarked that she was “surprised by the beauty and openness of the hospital.”

The incredible HUM Facility in Mirebalais, which is entirely run by solar energy.

The incredible HUM Facility in Mirebalais, which is entirely run by solar energy.

Ray folded himself up again and we took a brief ride up the mountain to tour the Nourimamba facility, where fortified peanut butter is produced. As we toured the factory, the ’19’s were intrigued by the detailed process, while enjoying the respite from the heat. We learned that, unlike normal peanut butter, this peanut butter is filled with additional vitamins and is actually given as a prescription to malnourished patients.

The original PIH/ZL hospital in Cange.

The original PIH/ZL hospital in Cange.


James at Tito at the PIH/ZL Hospital in Cange

From there, we drove to the PIH/ZL hospital in Cange, a picturesque institution sprawling over a forested hill. Trees enveloped the winding trail and a light breeze revived an expired Mrs. Hopkins. Unfortunately, most of the hospital was closed due to the weekend, but Helen and Ryan still managed to capitalize on the situation as they befriended Tito, a young boy who enjoyed selfies and big hugs, even from James with his two broken wrists.

For the final time, we loaded the van and everyone promptly passed out, exhausted from the day’s experiences. 45 minutes later we pulled into the Midwives for Haiti house in Hinche and started to prepare for the next day. Tomorrow we plan to head to the nearby rural community of Clory to monitor and evaluate the efficacy of the biosand water filters and Luci Lights that were distributed by GHFs last summer.

Reuniting with Ina May, the Midwives for Haiti feline, in Hinche.

Reuniting with Ina May, the Midwives for Haiti feline, in Hinche.