Sunday, December 5, 2010

Clean Water for Christmas

This photo of a hole in the ground was taken in the village of Naran, Haiti, where my friends/translators have started Flower of Hope School. The hole is the well that supplies the entire village with water: over 100 kids, and their families. Each day at dawn, folks begin lining up with buckets to take home for the day. I saw this well myself; it is the truth. Now, the school has had 6 kids with cholera; none have died, thank God. But I'm very interested in helping the village families get "Klor-fasil" bucket water-treatment systems. Chlorine-based chemicals are added to the water in a simple recipe, making it drinkable and safe. The buckets cost about $10 each. I am looking forward to seeing my friends on my upcoming trip in January, and seeing what we can do about safe water in Naran.

Friday Jan 7, 2011, I'll be on that now-familiar 06:00 am flight that leaves Dulles Airport for Miami, and connects later in the day to Port au Prince. Oh, what a subdued crowd we usually are at 04:30; lined up at Dulles, sucking down Starbucks and shuffling quietly through the security lines with our shoes off and our laptops exposed. I'm always the lady who's dressed funny: a light jacket, since it's January, covers layers of summer clothes, with smartwool socks on, inside my sport sandals....I have to gradually undress all day long, as I move southward. It's a seasonal migration all in one day, ending up in the tropics.)

So here's the Trip #4 Haiti Wish List and Agenda! All ye who care enough to read this blog, ask about the trips, and reply with support-- you're an amazing bunch, and you never cease to amaze me.

1) Midwives for Haiti: I'll be traveling with dear friend/founder of M4H, Nadene Brunk,CNM and Cara Osborne, PhD, CNM. We will help organize and teach the opening session of Class 4, with 16 new midwife students! This class was selected from about 35 applicants, and will be taught by Marthone, our Haitian ISF, and Reina,our American CPM, who melded into an awesome multi-cultural teaching team during the past Class 3. American and Canadian midwives will travel down very regularly as adjunct faculty and clinical training staff.

M4H now has a home in Hinche: a house where all our supplies and staff can be in one place, safe, organized and inventoried. The leased house is just now getting furnished, so I may help with setting up housekeeping, and organizing equipment. Up to now, we've had to keep track of supplies and equipment stored in at least 3-4 closets in different parts of the town of Hinche!...on my first trip there, I started vocally complaining about the amount of time spent on "D.O.S." (Distribution of Sh...I mean.... stuff...) issues, and at last, that is getting better! Baby steps.

We hope to be starting up new mobile clinic locations with the NEW PINK JEEP. It is currently on the dock in St. Marc, waiting for customs paperwork to make it "kosher" for us to take possession. By January, we should be using it to make monthly visits to several new villages in the Central Plateau, that have never before had prenatal care. In past trips, I've helped train and work with the Haitian midwives in these rural clinics. I can't wait to do one with the will be like getting a fancy RV after backpacking for years.

2) Heartline Ministries- our friends, the McHouls, in Port au Prince, have the most amazing programs for helping women--in addition to a clinic and a birth center, one of them is a sewing class. I will visit Beth at Heartline in PaP with a prototype "labor dress", designed by my midwife partner, Margie-- and explore possibly having these dresses sewn by Haitian seamstresses, for later sale in the business idea...we're excited about it! More than donations, or free handouts, Haitians really want BUSINESS and JOBS....that is what supports families and changes lives, forever.

3) I'll be checking in with my friends Theard and Manno, and see how their village school in Naran is coming along. If I have enough cash from US donations, we will be buy and distribute "Klor-fasil" bucket-type water treatment systems, to help make safe water available in this village that has only one tiny well.

What's needed? Other than money, NOT much stuff.Limited to only 2, 70-pound bags, and a carry-on, there are not many physical things that I can carry down, besides what I already have in boxes at my house from previous trips!

A few small, lightweight, things are always needed, though....Prenatal vitamins (over the counter, any brands)
Iron supplements (" ")
Lightweight navy boys' slacks and girls' skirts-any sizes- for the Maison Fortune orphanage.
White ladies' short-sleeve blouses, small and medium size
AA, AAA, 9V batteries
any of these could be dropped off at the Midwives office.

Needed for the new class:baby stethoscopes
adult stethoscopes
long-tubing fetoscopes
B/P cuffs
thermometers (not covers)
There is a lot of prescription medicine needed, which must be ordered and purchased in-country for legal reasons.

For any who wish to : have a charitable tax write-off, purchase medicines, or medical equipment listed above: contact me at the Midwives office (703-726-1300) and I can expedite.
To help with Klor-Fasil buckets, support the school, and other "random acts of kindness" that I try to accomplish: write a check to me directly, and send to the midwives office. I always try to follow up with a report of how cash was used to help Haiti.

I so appreciate all my the support from this wonderful community. Most importantly, I ask and appreciate your prayers, encouragement, and following the blog so I know I'm not alone. It's great to go to Haiti. And it's really hard to go to Haiti. I am glad you "go with me."
Have a lovely holiday.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Cholera in Haiti, MRSA in the US: It's Always Something

Thanks for asking about the next trip to Haiti, folks! In light of a tropical storm spinning by there right now, it's a topic near to my heart.

I had planned my next 2010 trip to be in November- just as soon as hurricane season was "kind of" over. I was to participate in the graduation of Class III, midwife students that I had met and taught both in December 09 and in March 2010. But some “other stuff” has come up; my youngest sister was diagnosed with breast cancer in August. It’s always something, to quote the immortal Rosanne RosannaDanna. I made one trip out to see her in Pennsylvania right after her surgery, in September. Since then, however, things haven't gone as planned--- infection set in post-op, with MRSA ( the methcillin resistant strain of Staph), requiring more surgery, hospitalization, and delaying her start of chemotherapy. I don’t want to be out of the country again until she's doing a little better, but mostly, I had only the one week of vacation left for the year, already scheduled, so I'm spending it with family in the US. Sometimes the need is right in your own backyard.

The work of Midwives for Haiti is moving ahead really well, against all odds, it seems. Eleven student midwives started training last fall, and kept going right through one of the most terrible years Haiti has ever seen. First the earthquake filled their town with refugees and straining the endurance and resources of many. Then in October, cholera was identified as a cause of many deaths and hospitalizations, especially in the coastal west. Now a tropical storm is spinning toward the same island and many are praying for a merciful miracle to avoid the worst kind of damage.

M4H is gaining incredible support, however- the students kept going right through the times of crisis, attending class and clinic time at the hospital, gaining skills and knowledge week by week. This class has had 2 excellent full-time teachers, one Haitian nurse-midwife, and one American Certified Professional Midwife, both well-trained and experienced. Additionally, many, many American midwives and nurses traveled to Haiti each week and month to assist in special teaching projects, deliver babies with the students, work in our mobile clinics, and support our program any way they could. It is succeeding! They have done well by all reports, and will have a wonderful celebration on November 13th, with dinner and music! These students are SO Proud to be skilled birth attendants, and able to save the lives of women. They get it. And they get jobs, too...doing what we trained them to do.

The great news:
Cholera has not hit Hinche in any big way,from what we've heard. So far the storm Tomas has not hit as hard as many had feared. Let's keep praying.

And more good news:
In Summer,2010, Midwives for Haiti received funding to purchase a custom-made moblie clinic Jeep that can stand up to Haiti's back-country "roads". It is beautiful, and made a few trips around parts of Virginia for our friends and supporters to see it! Last December, and March, I helped work with and train our midwives in the mobile prenatal care clinics- I was sweating under tarps and in tiny shacks, stacking supplies on broken furniture!. We got a ride out there in whatever truck was available, with our equipment in dusty duffel bags and boxes. Now, we'll be able to do so much more- we can schedule as many clinics as we can afford staff, medicines and gas for: then we'll drive out in our lovely (bright pink!) Jeep, open our clinic under the built-in, pull-out sunshade, open our trunks, our well-stocked supplies and collapsible cots, and get down to work. Already a number of individual American parishes and small groups are volunteering to fund one village's monthly prenatal clinic, for a year at a time...they support the cost of the gas, medicines, vitamins, and the cost of the driver & Haitian midwives, to visit that village once a month. American nurse-midwives (like me) also go along on many clinics and work, sustaining this as a joint Haitian-American project. Take a look! AND- M4H is getting a HOME- a house that is leased for us, big enough to keep all our supplies and our Jeep and our visiting American volunteer staff safe, organized, secure, and operational. We have been housed so many times at Maison Fortune orphanage's guesthouse that most M4H'er's could barely imagine not being on the campus; so we leased the house right next door. We can have our "own place" and still hang out with the kids and the Brothers. I can't wait to go back and see my friends there.

I'll send out a loud shout when the next trip is really gearing up. As always, donors who wish to join my work can send a check, to the Loudoun Community Midwives office, or contact me there for details and special projects they wish to support.
And-- thanks for checking whether I was at risk for cholera or a hurricane. Not just yet, anyway. But you can pray for my sister!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

(Very) Godmother

So, I'm a godmother. Theard and Woodline, in Pandiassou, Haiti, asked me to be godmother to their new baby girl, Woodmica. I had several prenatal visits with Woodline during this past pregnancy during my December and March trips, and Theard says it was her choice to ask if I could be the GM. She was attended in her birth by Reina, our American midwife who is teaching for Midwives for Haiti in Hinche, and all went very well, they say. I am so happy for their family, and happy to have the long-term connection, honor, responsibility. A friend asked me, "So does this mean you'll have to keep making trips back to Haiti?"...and I said,well, I think I was already at that point. This just kind of encourages me. I guess I'm in pretty deep, and it feels ok. If someone wants a big project, where there's a lot of need, and room to do good....Haiti is perfect for finding out just how much one can give or commit to serve. There is no bottom to that well, it seems.

I have many nephews and 2 sons and only one I have a big urge to go buy some cute girl baby clothes. A very big urge. Very "Godmother".

But a baby, a family...this is now not just about a nation. It's very personal. And that is why this connection and commitment to Haiti has grown for me: it's not about politics, or about the masses. It's about individuals. Our actions, our giving, our commitments, can have far-reaching effects for towns, regions, populations, nations, societies, and generations. But the doing of it all, of doing good and right (or wrong) takes place one person, one day, one moment, one action at a time. This is one family I can commit to always try my best to help. One baby. My new god-child: Woodmica Elficasse.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Empty Bags, Full Heart

Departure day from Haiti is always emotional…how could it not be, when a week has been so full? We had a 6 am ride back to Port au Prince, so were up sipping coffee by predawn candlelight as the orphanage stirred quietly to life. Leaning over the second story porch railing, I watched the night watchman in a hooded sweatshirt, cross the porch below me, carrying his small mattress across the dusty courtyard to store it for the day. He sleeps on the ground by the gate, for security. Sunrise glowed gently in the east, over the banana trees and the school, another dry and clear day in Hinche. My group of nurses, midwives, and daughters, and the Richmond Haiti’s Kidz Healthcare team had drunk beer and hugged and traded emails last night, but hugged each other and said goodbye all over again. After sharing the work of the week, we’ve forged friendships through the unforgettable experience, and the spiritual journey of trying to serve and help the poorest of the poor. Luggage that once was 3 or 4-50-lb bags each, now collapsed into empty bags within bags. Only clothing, personal items, and the artwork we purchased from the street vendors occupied the space. We did our best to give away all our money to good causes or individuals that we can trust to help and share with the Haitian community. Incoming M4H –Doctor Steve got up to wave us off….he tried to the bitter end to get me to stay and work with him and Nadene for the next week, but I imagine I may not remain married if I don’t show up at Dulles tonight, and rightfully so. I’ve barely seen my husband for 2 weeks. My midwife partners wouldn’t be too happy, either! But it’s nice to be wanted.

Haitian music on the radio as we left Hinche and began weaving the dusty path through the usual parade of dogs, chickens, and donkeys, going “fastly,” per Moliare, to make good time for our flight out of PaP. Everyone’s nausea calmed down after a couple hours when we got to the paved road in Mirebalais. Our driver, Moliare, has been helping the Midwives for Haiti program for years now. He works for the Episcopal church and lives in Port au Prince, but came out to Hinche to drive us in. Time permitting, he wanted to drive us through downtown PaP; he feels strongly that the world needs to be aware and stay aware of the depth of this disaster. He cares for his people, and has demonstrated his heart and integrity to us many times. Some volunteers have stayed at this house, met his kids, and seen the family and community members he supports. On the previous ride out, he had given me a good lecture on his opinions of what will help Haiti (education, infrastructure, education.)

So we got to PaP on time, and headed into the downtown and some of the worst earthquake damage. The roads are cleared enough to drive, but often only 1 lane due to the rubble. So many concrete homes, businesses, cinder block walls, crumbled, collapsed, gray wreckage with rebar and dust. Lives were lost inside them, not just bodies injured or killed, but the life contained in places of work, commerce, and education. He brought us past a school where 5 stories fell on 300 students; no bodies have yet been recovered; it’s just too deep a pile. The oldest cathedral of Port au Prince looked like it was hit by mortars. Then the “tent cities”; oh, this is too tidy a term. Yes, there are some areas with many tight rows of nylon tents and tarps set up by USAID and numerous international aid groups; but many, many city blocks between buildings are now fields of makeshift shelters with sheets, sticks, plastic, and cardboard, filled with ragged Haitians and the smell of poor sanitation. And in the city, in the street, around and under the tarps, life goes on: cooking on fires, frying of plantains, carrying buckets of water, repairing of tires, selling of vegetables. I try never to leave Haiti with more than a few dollars in my pocket, so planned to give all my leftover cash to Moliare to provide aid to the tent city in his neighborhood. I began to mention this to my team, to ask if anyone else wished to add their cash, but it caught in my throat and I started to sob. Money is help; probably the most liquid and useful help, but my heart was too hurt for my Haitian friends to feel like it was adequate. I was so sad to see this country and this people suffer this way. I wish I could do more, and the giving of cash humbled me. My sister nurses hugged me as I wept, and cried too, and added their money… and Moliare, the Haitian, said “Oh, don’t cry. It will get better”. Trust the Haitian to be the strong one in the car, and to comfort me. Dear Lord. So we assembled our money, and when he left us at the airport, about $200 was also sent to help the tent city north of Petionville.

The needs are so great, and the problems of Haiti so profound, that the possibility of despair and grief is always a shadow in the background. The Haitians hang on to hope, though, and I believe God commands us to do what we can. Moment-by-moment acts of grace and love will never be in vain, and we must hang on to them. One of the loveliest moments of my week, was at the mobile prenatal clinic in Bonabite. Jammed in the sweaty shack, I met the 20th woman of the day: Pregnant for the 8th time, she had one living child. Besides other early losses, she had given birth to a stillborn at 8 months of pregnancy, and another child who did not live to see 9 months of infancy. She was about 4-5 months along in this pregnancy, and said she still hadn’t felt this baby move. I checked her weight, blood pressure, and her belly size…all normal. Then I put my Doppler on her belly and we heard a nice strong heartbeat. She broke into the most beautiful smile. I smiled back, and through the interpreter, she told me she was so happy—she had been worried she would lose this one, too. I reassured her that she’d feel more kicking soon, and reviewed how to take her vitamins and iron, and return to the clinic in a month, if she could. She now has some hope and some life to hang on to. It gives me life, too, and fills my heart. It is why I do this work.

Each trip to Haiti is an exercise in flexibility, perseverance, and a spiritual adventure. I am reminded powerfully how my own small efforts and understanding are only a little part of the picture. Things happen that are clearly not all “human engineering”. My heart breaks and is filled, over and over. I cannot imagine how one can see the tragedy and beauty of places like Haiti and yet deny the presence and the essential need for God. The Haitians are all believers: they have to be. Connecting to this need and this faith must be why I keep coming back. So much is unknown: I didn’t know I would ever in my life see a hospital without any running water, or help deliver a baby on the sidewalk. I didn’t know, this time, that we’d discover a building that could be our new school and maternity center. I didn’t know that I would mourn so deeply for the people of Port au Prince, or how that woman’s smile would melt my heart. I didn’t know the girls dancing and drumming would lift me up so much. I don’t know, so many things. I know that I came with a lot of stuff, and left with empty bags and a full heart. It is worth doing. Thank you to everyone who helps me do it.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Busy Day in Hinche; Almost Done

Our day started with rounds at the hospital today; I saw a baby who is 14 months old, and the size of 4-month old. He can't sit up or talk, and has obvious neurological delays. Maude, the translator who was with me last year for my first birth in Haiti, showed up, recently arrived in Hinche from Port au Prince. I started with the question I ask all my Haitian friends: are you ok? Is your family ok since the earthquake? Most of the answers have been pretty good, thank God. Maude, however, said she had been living in PaP and lost 2 of her 5 sons in the earthquake. Her oldest, and another. I have a cute photo of those little boys lined up in a row, in our truck, last March. I started crying, and Maude did not. She just said, well, we go on. I quit with the tears; if Maude doesn't cry, what business do I have to shed some? The stoicism of the Haitian people was never more clear. If they start crying, I believe they will never stop. So I gave Maude $20, a day's pay here for a translator, and told her God Bless You. She may have some work next week in Labor and Delivery.

Then a happier time: While my fabulous team of volunteers from Minnesota and New York organized our chaotic supply closet (THANK YOU!-Kelly, Sue, Jamie, Nancy, Katharyn!), I met Steve and Nadene's flight from PaP. Then I had the joy of showing them the building where we hope to house the Midwives for Haiti program in the near future. We're already teaching class there, and now hope to move over our storage, and soon, start a prenatal clinic and birth center. In the musty cinder blocks and dust, we see pink paint and a safe place for women in labor. Then, a load of donated military MRE's (70 cases) arrived by airplane that we signed for and directed to the orphanage. They will feed the families of the poorest kids who attend the school. The Marines get big props from everyone we hear talk about the earthquake after PaP-- they held it together. Proud to be from America.

Time to pack and go home. My luggage is empty; bags inside bags will be light and easy to check through. Tomorrow we'll view Port au Prince, God Help us/them. Then we'll fly home to where life is safer, the weather is colder, and the stars not quite as bright. The kids are loud tonight. This orphanage had 140 kids last December,now they are over 200, and kids are sharing their beds.

I will miss them, but be glad to see my husband and my home. I've dropped off a lot of money and aid, from a lot of friends: hired drivers, translators, bought handicrafts and artwork, and given donations to the feeding center where the poorest children are taken, and to this orphanage where the happiest kids in town are partying and playing soccer because they have a bed, a shower, education, 2 meals a day, and even a basketball court and a soccer field. And a big chunk of money to Flower of Hope school-- but that's a story for another day. I catch a ride to PaP at 6 am and better get to bed. Bon Nuit from Haiti---

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Life in Haiti Goes On

Mid-morning today, I had my hands on a Haitian woman's belly, inside a steamy-hot wooden shack under a mango tree where we had our mobile maternity clinic for the day. A gecko was skittering through the pile of medicines and I had almost tripped over some little kids underfoot. As I worried over the baby's position (not head-down) and whether I should advise her to deliver at the hospital, my doppler picked up a nice loud baby's heart beat, and my Haitian cell hone burst into a musical chime of a call coming in. Definitely a a "What now!?" moment...could we get any more hot and chaotic right now? Maybe a stampede of oxen or a hailstorm? But it was just a call from the nurses & midwives we had dropped off at the hospital, checking on our plans for the afternoon's class on Neonatal Resuscitation that Chuck Marting, the NNP volunteer, is teaching for our students and all the hospital staff.

Today at BonaBite, we had 4 midwives: 2 Haitian(trained by M4H), and 2 American, 2 bags of meds and equipment,and a 10'x10' shack with banana-leaf roof, but we managed to initiate prenatal care and examine 26 pregnant women. The sickest one with high blood pressure (pre-eclampsia), we loaded in the back of the truck with us and took to the hospital on our way home. Our "clinic" so hot and sweaty that eventually, you don't even notice it or the body odor of the 6-8 people crammed in there. A thin boy wearing a worn out, dirty scrub top as his only garment reminded me that this represents the poorest of the poor. Folks don't get much poorer than this and stay alive for long...we know the line between life and death here involves a few meals, good water or bad water, help or no help. We try to be some of the help.

Back at the hospital,in the afternoon, Chuck taught his Neonatal class, very well-attended by the hospital staff and our student midwives. Meanwhile, the only maternity nurse left on duty sent a laboring woman "out to walk" the outdoor area near the delivery room, and she gave birth on the concrete walkway outside; helped by our midwives who just came around the corner as she hollered and started to push.
My cold shower at the end of the day was probably the most welcome and desperately needed one I think I've ever had... between the dust and the sweat and the scooping up a wet baby off the sidewalk, I just don't know if I ever was in greater need.

There is a building here, on the grounds of the hospital, that could be a perfect headquarters for our work-- big enough for Midwives for Haiti to teach our students, run our own prenatal clinic, and deliver babies in a clean and safe environment, without running out of soap, Clorox, or hand sanitizer. We could even have paper towels...the ultimate symbol for me, now, of luxury and cleanliness, and something I never see here. I set up a meeting with the Ministry of Health to discuss it next Tuesday.

Back at the orphanage, about 40 girls were singing really loud and dancing and drumming. Fried Plantains, hot dogs, and cabbage salad for dinner-- I threw in some rum and cokes! Quite a party. Life goes on here, in big way. Earthquake or not--People suffer, they struggle, get sick, get help, give birth, dance, and celebrate. Haiti goes on, and gives me life, too.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Miracles Still Happen,( Even after Earthquakes.)

Internet seems harder to get in Haiti than anything, so now that I’ve got some, 4 days into the trip, there’s this overwhelming pile of images and ideas I’ve been saving up to communicate!.... and how to spill it all out, before the generator stops cranking out the diesel-fueled electricity?
I forsake complete sentences….descriptions will have to do:

Port au Prince airport/Post-Quake: Most of the old building is not safe, cracked concrete, not being used. Imagine the baggage claim of Dulles or LaGuardia, smashed into a cargo area, minus the carousels… the luggage carts just stop at the garage bays and throw in cart after cart of bags thru the doors onto the concrete floor, to be sorted through by airport staff, who can’t really organize it because the crowd’s already climbing through it. Miracle #1: My group of 8 found all their bags, nothing stolen or lost, and then got it out through customs, even with bunches of meds, no problem. Outside the airport: Utter, Complete, Chaos. Trucks at the curb, surrounded by men trying to get work loading bags, beggars, injured people, pickpockets, puddles of mud, and driving through the street, a few reassuring US Army humvees rumbling through. As bags were thrown into our truck and the chaos milled around, the comforting thought that, in a pinch, we could raise our arms and wave desperately at the soldiers and they would stop. No need for that. Miracle #2...We got out and eventually onto a truck ride into the Central Plateau heading for Hinche. PaP had tent cities and rubble, but I don’t think we saw the worst areas as we headed west and north right away, out of town.

Maison Fortune Orphanage, Hinche: My “Haitian home” with the Xavieran brothers at the guesthouse welcomed me back with beans and rice for dinner, even though we were late and dusty and tired from the long drive. The mango tree is beginning to bear fruit, and due to the earthquake, 50 more kids have joined the “family”; an entire new building has been rented for boys from Port au Prince, and more girls, too. Jean Louis happy to receive rubber clogs, boys navy slacks, and light bulbs—the highest-value, lightest-weight stuff I could bring in my luggage.

Walked to Hinche Cathedral of St Mary, Sunday Mass; the beautiful bright colored clothes, the singing, the zillion kids who sit nicely for 2 hours, stained glass, white plaster, the breeze blowing through the open doors; definitely a welcome back to Haiti.

The hospital, Monday: Overwhelmed with people, low on supplies. Puddles of blood and amniotic fluid on the floor under the tables, students/staff waiting for someone to bring Clorox from a remote hidden stash, and eventually clean it up. The bravest thing I have done all week was to wring out the nastiest mop even seen, with my gloved hand (bucket has no wringer-device)and mop up the bloody floor, so we could walk on it without making tracks. Then we set about working with our students to teach compassion, respect, and assessment skills. Glimmers of progress coming Oh, so slowly.

Sleeping better this time than ever; maybe third time is the charm. Barking/fighting dogs, roosters crowing, generators humming, seem not to faze me too much with a little Grand Marnier on board and some earplugs. Comfy and secure inside my little bedtent where the giant (6 cm!) spiders or mosquitoes can’t get at me. Up with the sun, a cold shower and some strong coffee in the morning and I’m good to go. (My sisters say this getting-up-early thing would be Miracle #3.)

Next Miracle: I think we found a birth center building right on the property of the hospital! only obstacles would be permission and money, and that’s not anything that can’t be overcome....toes and fingers crossed and prayers sent up. The Midwives for Haiti program desperately needs its own space so we can control/protect our own equipment, protocols, and the quality of our care. We need to stay connected to the hospital...this could make that happen.

I know that this journey is held up and protected and blessed by the kindness and prayer and good wishes of many good people. Sorry it took so long to get internet! You are in my heart as I crawl into my bednet and breathe a deep sigh, tonight.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Trip 3: Post-Quake: Courage, Clarity, Kindness

3/5/10, 2 am
I leave for Haiti this afternoon but have a woman in labor at the moment. I was lucky during the day and had no one in labor til now, so had time to do a re-pack and wrap up office details. Now my bags weigh in properly to avoid extra fees, and I feel as ready as I'll ever be. I am taking a very different load this time, "post-quake", and I guess I pack differently since I've been there before. My clothing is just about nothing but scrubs and a house dress and a dress for church. I go this time with more "equipment"-- 2 dopplers were donated, one of them brand new. Thermometers for all the students to have in their bags. Plastic baskets to organize the supply areas of the hospital that we are using in Labor and Delivery. Some precious, carefully wrapped and stashed anitbiotics, and a lot of dressings, gauze, tylenol for the hospital. Bookbags and notebooks for the kids at Flower of Hope School. Diapers, chux, onesies for moms and babies in Port au Prince.

So many generous friends and family have funded this trip to Haiti and given donations toward disaster relief and rebuilding....and what a weird mix!! ..My sisters, Loudoun Community Midwives' patients, my colleagues at the hospital,...good grief! my financial planner! The Moms Club of Ashburn-Broadlands! Finnegan's Irish Pub! Quakers, and other friends, and some people who just found my blog somehow, and cared. I am humbled that you feel this project is worthy of support, and promise that I'll try hard to make wise donations that will do some good. My thoughts of how to support the people in Haiti are very on-the-ground and direct:
Midwives for Haiti program: equipment, meds, learning/teaching/organizing supplies.
Heartline Ministries: in the middle of Port au Prince, feeding the hungry, nourising pregnant women, treating the sick, teaching women to support themselves, running a birth center.
Flower of Hope community school that my friends Theard and Manno have started in their village outside Hinche: notebooks, book bags, and money to build some walls to keep it secure.
Maison Fortune Orphanage: They believe that feeding, housing, and educating Haiti's children is how to build Haiti's future leaders. Funds will go to buy them food, clothes, books, and build another building so they can take in more kids since the quake.
It's difficult to prepare emotionally to return to Haiti after the earthquake. There is happy anticipation to see my friends there, but mixed with a deep dread. Similar to the fears one has when about to see a loved one after they've had a car love them and want to see them. But you also dread seeing them in their weakend, injured state. And Haiti is weakened and injured...I love her and want to help, if I can. It feels very big. Some friends worry about my safety in Haiti, and I do try to be very wise and careful. I don't have great concerns over my physical safety, however, I do believe this trip may be very hard on the head and the heart.

It takes me back to one of my most frequent spiritual meditations:
Courage, Clarity, Kindness.
is certainly needed. Haitians are so brave and persistent, they lift me up, too. We all have to believe that our efforts will make a difference, the way can get better, that wounds can heal; that there is hope for a better day.
Clarity is really needed for this trip. The primary reason I began trips to Hinche was to help train Haitian women to be skilled birth attendants. With the great influx of refugees in the town, and a surge of new personalities and faces and even styles of practice among all the new volunteers, there is confusion and tendency toward chaos even greater than the usual level in Haiti. I pray to have a clear head to function effectively to help the students and the program succeed.
Kindness. I hope to remember to tap into kindness, despite stress, frustration, fears, angst, or disorganization. Kindness to others, and to myself.
If anything is ever to heal, it does so when we connect with kindness in, and from, the heart of God.
Next post: (hopefully) Monday, when I can get internet at the Ministry ofHealth.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Re-Opening of the Haiti Room; That was Then, This is Now

When I've gone to Haiti in the past, the month prior to departure transforms our dining room into what Greg affectionately calls The Haiti Room, with the big table covered with donated supplies, clothing, and all my "Haiti gear"- strewn about in piles, bags, and an ordered chaos that only I understand. But I didn't plan to open the Haiti room for this March trip.

On departure day of my December 2009 trip, last minute, I had the unpleasant surprise of the airline restricting passengers to 2 50-lb bags. So I packed up boxes and bags of the excess stuff, intending to take the second round of things this March. I happily gloated to myself that I wouldn't need to collect and sort all the stuff, as I already had loads of scrubs to take, and quite few bundles of medical supplies I could pack& go with. I ALSO gloated-- maybe this is a do-not-gloat lesson-- that I had only myself transport, no need to finance Stephen's part, and that Loudoun Community Midwives would donate my airfare as usual-- I wouldn't need to harass my friends and family with "begging money for Haiti" pleas. Oh, how orderly and "ready in advance for the next trip" I felt. Yeah, well. That was Then, This is Now....

As we all are painfully aware, the earth then shook Port au Prince and southern Haiti on Jan 12, 2010, like a terrier shakes a rat. The largest, capital city of one of the most fragile, least developed and poorly organized infrastructures on the planet, essentially crumpled like a pile of crackers, and now all the plans are changed. In fact, there are very few plans. Now we have hopes, and ideas, of how to help Haiti, but the grief and the unknowns are very difficult to navigate, and plans are very hard to make. Taking a lesson from the Haitian people, however, who DO NOT give up, EVER, I see people from all around the world and especially America, rallying to help. Midwives for Haiti has every intention of continuing and expanding our work to try to help Haitian women by training and supporting midwives in Haiti, and expanding skilled maternity care where it is needed most. American Airlines resumes service to Port au Prince on Jan 29 and some of "our people" will be on a flight this coming week-- and so on into the spring.

So, the Haiti Room is re-opened, and I'm getting ready for a trip March 5-13.
For my incredible supporters who have been asking already, here are the needs as understood right now:

Mostly, Money. I have my airfare covered, so funds will be spent in Haiti informal economy on food, fuel, travel, or otherwise donated to churches, schools, orphanages, or to buy medical supplies or other urgent needs of the trip. Just send me a check (home address or Loudoun Community Midwives,19465 Deerfield Ave. Suite 205 Lansdowne VA 20176). I will take as much as I get, and use it well. I never leave Haiti with more than $10 in my pocket. (Then I land in Miami and find an ATM!) If you'd like a receipt from a charity for tax purposes, then donate by sending checks or online donations to Those will pay for salaries of Haitian midwives, medications, and staffing a new maternity center in Cite Soleil, the biggest slum in Port au Prince, with our graduates.

Hotel "Points" or Miles
In the past, I've been offered credit card "miles" or "points" to help with travel. This time, our trip group needs 2 rooms at the Miami airport for Friday night, March 5. Any Miami airport hotel. There is nowhere safe to stay overnight in Port au Prince, as we have done in the past, so we need to rendezvous in Miami then fly in together on Saturday. I will be leading my group of 2-3 RN's from Minnesota who have volunteered to help teach midwives nursing skills, help in maternity, or other med-surg/ER duties as needed at the hospital.

Supplies and Donations-
We can only take 2 bags each, as we may travel more in trucks this time-- but I know it will help to take
BedSheets (Theard says people are lying on the concrete floor of the hospital)
Ace Bandages, gauze, wound-care dressings
Pitocin, Antibiotics, Magnesium Sulfate, Prenatal Vitamins and Iron (discuss with me if you'd like to help purchase, I can get thru a wholesale pharmacy)

Help me Organize the Stuff, Later in February
In later February, before the trip, I will need some help getting the donations into orderly piles, ziploc bags, and bundles that will make sense when I am pulling them out of my suitcase at the hospital and a baby is crowning or a lady is bleeding or seizing. People who come to my house will be given beer or cookies. (Greg is conveniently going to a ReMAX convention in Florida the week before I, he is learning how to survive this process quite well. I think our marriage will survive Haiti after all.)
I can't do this all myself, I am learning, and I know I have friends ( a lot of good, kind friends) who will help.

Thanks & God Bless.
Welcome Back to the Haiti Room! Grab a seat! There is a chair underneath those plastic bags, beside the gloves and the Lidocaine...

PS: Update: My wonderful financial planner, Ed Skelly of Sterling Financial Partners, has generously offered to match the first $500 cash/check donations to this trip 1:1, to help fund the purchase of drugs and medical supplies. My friends, you blow me away. : )

Thursday, January 14, 2010

News & Ways to Help

Midwives for Haiti has great news in that Shelly, our most recent American CNM volunteer, is unhurt, in Port au Prince. When and how she will get home to the US is another thing entirely, but thank God, she's safe. Here is an update from Nadene Brunk, the founder of Midwives for Haiti, in response to many concerned inquiries regarding the M4H project and the general situation in Haiti. God Bless you All for caring!

(see also:


Dear friends of Midwives for Haiti,
Many of you contacted me today to see if you could help us in any way. The devastation in Haiti is unbelievable for those of us who knew how bad it was before and frightening to think how many people who we loved are no longer alive.
Our teachers, students, and friends are safe in Hinche and the program will go on.
However, we know the worst need is in PAP. There is a rumor that AA is offering free airfare to doctors and nurses. Call 212-697-9767 to check it out.
Many want to go to PAP to help with relief there. But getting there is one thing and where you will stay, how you will get there from the airport and what you will eat or drink while there is difficult to predict. The missionaries we know in PAP are alive but have limited resources to house and feed others. I hesitate to give their names and numbers because they are not certain how long their own resources will last. We have not heard from our faithful drivers and translators in PAP.
We will continue our program in Hinche because it is more needed than ever. I think we will be able to have transport from PAP to Hinche lined up in the next week.
But if you want to go to PAP to help, know that you need to be a part of an organization that is really big and really organized or you may be in the same shape as the other survivors- wondering where you will sleep and what you will eat.
If we can partner with another organization that particularly wants to put midwives to work in PAP, we will get the information to you as soon as we can. Suggested organizations- Mennonite Central Committee, The American Red Cross, the UNFPA, Doctors Without Borders ( who could not find staff and doctors today to work in 3 toppled hospitals), Christian Services International, Circle of Health International (

Nadene Brunk

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


January 12, evening time, a huge earthquake hit near Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital.
Many friends who follow this blog or who just care about Haiti and our midwife training program, are emailing and texting to see if we have any special needs or information on the situation.

Of course, good news- bad news.
Good news; Hinche, where our midwife training program is headquartered, is about 70 miles northeast of Port au Prince, in the mountains. Nadene heard today by email from Danise, our Haitian midwife- teacher "I'm ok, no problem in Hinche". Nadene also reported everyone at Heartline Ministries, (Beth & John McHoul, etc.) our Port-au-Prince hosts when we travel through,are shaken but safe. So there are some big sighs of relief.
Of concern is Shelly,B. our American CNM volunteer who was working in Hinche last week. She was planning to be in PaP around now, and we do not yet know how/where she is, last I knew. My son Stephen has a Quaker friend, Julian, who was in PaP with his sister; they escaped a crumbling building but both have some injuries from rubble. My heart goes out to the Haitians, and friends there trying to help. It makes me weep to know that before this event, they were barely scraping by in terms of health care, infrastructure, and what?
I think of the ravine below Petionville, housing 70,ooo souls in tiny huts and shacks, and I am afraid to imagine what has occurred there. Clearly our country, and the international community is going to their aid, and I thank everyone for praying, very hard, for all the people in Haiti.