Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Border Crossings

About a week ago, I left Haiti through the Dominican Republic, to avoid Port au Prince at a time of unrest. We loaded our 5 American women and 2 Haitian staff guys- Manno my dear friend and translator, and Ronel, our driver x 5 years, into the pink Jeep La, and headed north. I felt like singiing and had the younger girls, 18, and 21, with me in the cab of the Jeep. I explained to the guys that in the US, on a long car trip, we sing to keep the kids happy. Then we started in on "Old MacDonald had a Farm, "," the Wheels on the Bus", "Row, Row, Row Your Boat", etc. The guys loved it, especially Old MacDonald. In a rural country, everyobdy gets it, the animal noises. Oink Oink and Mooo is universal, even with Haitian pigs and cows. We fell quiet as the hills and ruts got bigger, and then Ronel, said to me, in English, which he doesn't use that often..."Wendy, I am happy to be driving this Jeep, with you today." I knew what he meant; we've all waited and worked hard to get Midwives for Haiti to where it is , right now... and I just said" I am also happy, Ronel, to drive in the Jeep with you and Manno today. I thank God for this." It was so simple and sweet. One of my best moments of the trip.

Later, Mannno and I bounced up the dusty, rutted road in the pickup truck of the village priest who "knows the guys at the DR border" and was leading the Jeep, escorting us over the dry, mountainous borderland to the first town in the Dominican Republic. Aristede was on the radio, giving his first public statement at the airport in PaP. Every Haitain I asked said yes, he was glad to see Aristede back in Haiti. We Americans were relieved to be avoiding Port au Prince, where thousands filled the streets around the airport, and all bets were off about the possilbity of riots or demonstrations.

Father Blot said he was happy to help us, and also asked for MFH to consider adding his village, Saltadere, to the moblile clinic schedule for a monthly round of prenatal care. . He said that all the priests in the Central Plateau pray for Midwives for Haiti, as we are "doing such a good work". I took his phone number and thanked him. I was moved...after a week dealing with Haitian difficulties and complications, it feels so small and imperfect, what we do. Sometimes I think we're just trying to keep hope alive. Then, the last thing I saw in Haiti was a funeral procession. As the truck came over a steep rise, about 100 Haitians, many dressed in white, filled the road. A painted wooden coffin, with shiny handles, was carried on many shoulders through the rocky gully. Fr. Blot just waved out his window, and the crowd parted to let our truck and pink jeep through. I wonder if it was a mother. It's not just hope we have to keep's human beings.

We had been on unpaved roads for about 3 hours, since leaving Hinche. Just a few miles inside the DR, as we came into the first village, our jeep took one final bump onto a smooth asphalt road. Powerlines appeared. Our Haitian driver sighed...with a poignant combination, I think: relief to be out of the four-wheel-drive mode and onto smooth pavement, and grief- that Haiti has not one town as developed as this, and we're in the remote backwaters of the DR.

I've heard the Dominican Republic described by many as "beautiful resorts, but, oh, so sad to see the poor in the villages."'s different if you enter the DR after a week in Haiti...the DR looks Fabulous. We caught an air-conditioned our bus toward Santo Domingo an hour after entering the country. Within a 10-15 miles, vegetation was noticably greener, houses more put-together, animals fatter. The roads were not thronged with pedestrians, donkeys, oxcarts. There were less goats, more cows; shiny gas stations, factories, farm machinery. It was a different world, and not just the language. Billboards, tin roofs, and paved roads look like prosperity itself, after little shacks with banana-leaf roofs and the ragged, rugged, dusty struggle for survival that is Haiti.

I've been back over a week now, and I'm almost rested enough to say I feel "normal". It's my fifth trip, and I hope I'm learning that I cross back and forth , the borders between wealth and poverty, between different worlds, and it is always a tough journey, either direction. Once you've seen Haiti-- or possibly Rwanda, Burundi, Afghanistan...the Land of the Poorest never are quite the same. I lay on the massage table of my friend Kristen, and wept out some of the natural grief and stress, as she worked at the very tight knots of my neck and shoulders. I wept and saw thin women walking down dusty roads in the morning, with baskets of charcoal on their heads. I saw a funeral procession in the back country. I saw our pink jeep in a field, and pregnant women sitting on benches under the shady tarp...and loud and clear, I heard the thumping, amplified beat of a fetal heartbeat on our midwives doppler... Beating, beating, beating. Our work goes on in Haiti.

Friday, March 18, 2011

While Scrambling toSurvive, Haiti's on Hold.

This week in Haiti has gone so fast that the stories will have to be
written in America—and oh, there are stories. All in all, it
was….just So Haiti. So difficult—no day has gone anything like
planned, but a series of adaptations, Plan A to Plan B to Plan….oh,
maybe F….but things have gotten done.
Eat Here, Now. At one of our pink-jeep mobile clinics, a half-grown
rooster wandered into t he bench-waiting area. When we packed up to
go home, not only did we have 3 large gourd-like fruits the size of
soccer balls in the jeep (Ronel found them somewhere, but I don’t
know if he eats them or makes bowls out of the shells), but one of the
midwives had the rooster, feet tied, under her arm in a plastic bag.
As we came into town, the “poule” was handed to her husband for
tomorrow’s dinner.
I walked with Brother Mike down by the river, and saw the
sand-collecting industry down there. Guys get a big plastic bucket,
wade in chest-deep, and start filling their bucket underwater with
sand from the river bed. Then they haul it up to the bank, and dump
it, bucket by bucket, til they have a pile that’s the right size to
sell. There is a “standard size” pile, apparently. And it sells for
about 250 goudes, or about $6. When sold, it will be collected by an
oxcart, that will pull it into town for road building or concrete and
cement-making. Tough way to make a living.
There is nobody, from the people to the animals, not scrambling as
hard as they can, to survive and get by. Walked on the road through
the town cemetery—many crumbling concrete mausoleums—and saw goats
climbing even on the roofs to eat trash or grass from the roofs. But
the country is basicallystalled and paralyzed until the election is
over. After pretty hard to get an appointment with the “New” minister
of health, I had to change the date. I went back into the office,
prepared to eat some Haitian crow, asi”d been rather insistent on the
first one—the secretary was very pleasant, No Pwoblem, he said, and
gave us a new date. Then he just commented…well, after the election,
he may have a “new positions”, but we’ll see. AHA!!! THIS is why
nobody is staying in town, we can’t get any meetings…nobody really
knows if or what their jobs will be until after the election. What
will the new regime bring?? Haiti is on Hold.
The two political presidential candidates on the ticket for the
“repeat, do-over” election being held this Sunday, both came to town
mid-week. Lots of megaphones, bands, huge crowd in the park…no
trouble, just loud. They were traveling to rallies town-by-town, in
tandem. Now, Aristede is rumored to be returning to Haiti—probably
today, if not last night. Things are heating up, and it’s time for us
to go. Instead of taking our magenta jeep into Port us Prince the day
before the election, and possibly through sizable demonstrations, or
risking canceled flights, we’ve changed flights and are exiting
through the Domincan Republic. LOTS of phone calls led to this
decision, and of course we all want to know “what’s going to happen?”
but the reality of Haiti is what the awesome midwife Beth McHoul, long
time resident of Port au Prince, replied to those kinds of
inquiries—“you just never know!” We’re playing it safe, as I have a
solemn pact with my husband to do—and crossing the border to the DR
early today. When I told our wonderful driver,and oh-so-faithful
staff MFH member, Ronel, he would NOT have to drive a bright pink
jeep with 7 “blancs” through Port au Prince, the day before the
election, with Aristede AND Baby Doc in town…he said “I think this is
a good way.” See you soon—we’re practicing our Spanish!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Betadine and Bureaucracy

We start our days with the roosters crowing and the sun coming up, in
Haiti….how could we not? The windows are wide open and there’s no
escaping reality….the day is upon us! Today, Monday, I had high hopes
of getting certain things done…and they are coming along, kind of, in
the crazy way that happens down here.
All the furniture that I purchased in Port au Prince on Friday, to
open a tiny little birth center…well, that was interesting. After
finalizing the shipment, to be delivered in 1-2 weeks, I got to the
little tiny town, where we had been told “ It’s already built, ready
to go”…well, yes, but. “Already Built” here apparently means There is
a Structure. Our birth center in Trianon will be great! I love the
size! the location! It has a plan for power outlets! Water! Lovely
view of the mountains! But right now, it is cinder blocks, rough
concrete, and a road mostly, but not quite, done. So disconcerting,
as I had just purchased 3 beds, 3 mattresses, a locking metal cabinet,
a desk, 2 chairs, 3 fans, and a partridge in a pear tree. Oooh boy.
Time to call America. So this is why I have a Haitian cell phone, and
programmed for international calls!
Okay, so, Nadene says, we’ll make sure our other birth center
location is ready and secure, and get those furnishings out to the
other birth center site, Bassin Zim. It only took a lot of US-Haiti
cell phone calls, money wired to our trusty friend in Port au Prince,
and now the shipment is coming to Bassin Zim this week. It will be
very interesting seeing the truck bring it out…the road is rutted,
dust and rocks….but it’s Haiti, and it can’t be that big of a surprise
to the drivers. Now all we need is a couple solar panels, a deep pit
for garbage, a water tank, a security guy…and we’ll save some mothers
from the grueling trip to town over the roads that basically keep them
home, delivering with untrained ( or no ) people to help.
Today’s strangeness actually began with a little boy. I had ridden
in the Pink Jeep out to La Palis, with 2 Haitian midwives, 1 American
midwife, and an American doctor, had begun seeing patients. I was
outside on the cement porch, playing phone tag about furniture between
Port au Prince and Richmond…and a boy about 10 years old came and sat
near me, and gestured to his left leg, questioning if I would look at
it. His entire calf had a massively infected area, large and ugly and
hard to really see due to the dirt crusted over it. I looked in my
backpack, which I had just thrown together in the morning, and I “just
happened “to have a large plastic bag…(thank you, nurses of Loudoun
Hospital….) with gauze, betadine, and gloves in it. I used the water
in my water bottle to wash it, first…then the betadine…soaked and
scrubbed a bit…then it was doctor time. This is not my specialty—but
Dr. Carolyn came out, and we agreed together that it was hospital time
for this boy, before he loses some of his muscle. His dad had come ,
by then, and said he could get him to the hospital tomorrow…. I made a
dressing for him with antibiotic ointment, a clean diaper (my #1
favorite Haitian utiity tool) and tape. I pray he gets that nasty
wound treated in town. He didn’t even know how he got it… I suspect a
spider bite.
Unfortunately, I had sat in some betadine during the wound-cleaning
episode on the clinic porch. When I walked by the ladies waiting on
benches, they smiled and giggled at me—because on my scrubs, I had a
noticeable, reddish-brown stain on my rear end that appeared to be
blood or poo. I have a serious mission to get an appointment with
the new regional head of the Ministry of Health, so I still showed
up at the hospital, but with a little flannel baby blanket draped
around my backside, as if it were a sweater. (“Its’ the new fashion in
the States!”) I figured, if I’m lucky enough to see someone
important, I’ll take it off, and back out of the room after we talk!
….Alas, No such luck…the head of the department is out of town…’til
Ok, I said, but Midwives for Haiti really needs to meet with him! “No
problem!” The secretary said. When in April do you want to come? I
picked the next date that I knew Dr. Steve & director Nadene would be
there…and about April 27? “Ok, fine”, he said… and did not
glance at a calendar, nothing. What time? I asked…”eleven.” Ok….I
asked…are you going to write this down?? He opened up a computer
screen, but I ‘m not so sure anything got put anywhere. It’s
discouraging. God, please give Haiti new, better leadership models
and good government, in the March 20 elections! I trudged out with
my baby blanket over my butt, hoping for the best. Midwives for
Haiti keeps going, and we have furniture, and babies, on the way,
regardless of the bureaucracy..

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Lights are Still On

First day in :Port au Prince: some surprises, and some non-surprises.
No surprise; OOOH, still hot! humid!  Break into a sweat immediately and get used to it.   I peeled off my one pair of socks in the airport ladies room and will not wear any again until my return flight next week.
Lots of people, shouting, and shall we say, "different level of organization" (aka, near chaos, but not quite) at the airport and in city traffic.
Unchanged potholes, mud, dust, and random random urban livestock, including chickens, donkeys, and a cow that I noticed not far from the Us Embassy
But surprises!  The ramps around the airport are re-paved and roofed, the baggage handlers more civil and less aggressive!  It may have helped that our Haitian driver, Moliare, was waiting right at the door, but it was the most orderly exit of the airport I've ever made, even with 25 bags and 7 people.
The best surprise was also a great inconvenience, but still pretty cool.  We went to the nicest, biggest furniture store in Port au Prince, where we need to buy furnishings for our new little maternity center..  A big, glassy, airconditioned, 2-level  showroom, with escalators...extremely American looking (except the escalators don't work but come on, you can't have it all.)...we head upstairs for the desks and cabinets area ...but no,it's a formal meeting set up, with about 120 people, a conference table, lights and camera.  It turned out to be a "tv studio" setup, and they were conducting all-day public forums on planification of what the next steps are for Haitian civic recovery and planning.  Individuals had about 5 minutes at the mic, with several apparent Haitian leaders ( political candidates?  I'm not sure...).  Formal business attire all around, silence while the cameras rolled, and polite applause when good points were made in the discussion.,  The amazing  part is this is a furniture store!.  The lady at the desk downstairs said she'd been unable to sell anything all day, due to this meeting.  For me, it's just such an example of Haitians making it work..."we need a big place that is nice and cool and has power...gee, how about the furniture store?  Let's ask them!"  And plenty of people showed up, in nice suits, to address and  thoughtfully discuss the needs (the huge, desperate, overwhelming) needs of the Haitian people.
So Fritz, my Haitian-born, Amercian translator, and I,  silently snuck around in the furniture sections that we could get to while the cameras were off...we found things we needed. Lovely equipment for the birth center; beds, cabinet, chair, fans. But the most important work was being done at the conference, table, and on film, I hope and pray...the Haitians are still making it work, folks. ..."pa bliye Ayiti"---don't forget Haiti.  They DO NOT give up. And the lights are still on.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Land of Slow and LImited Internet

My laptop is already in my backpack, so I can head out of the house at
4 am for the 6 am flight to Miami and then Port au I'm
using a very old laptop of my huband's...his good one is in the shop.
And while I waited for this elderly machine to boot up, and felt
impatient... I had to stop and remind myself that I'm headed into the
Land of Slow and Limited Internet. All the coffee shops or hotels,
etc. around here boast "Unlimited Wifi"...well, that's not the deal in
Haiti, so here I go....time to sit and wait a while for a signal.

I have a lot to do in Haiti, and am happy to be seeing a lot of folks
I truly care for, down there. Tomorrow, I'll be shopping to equip a
new maternity center in a little village that has never had such a
thing , before...and see some friends at Heartline Ministries. It's a
hard week to get ready...trying to wrap up all the loose ends here,
and still look ahead to the work of the week down there...but when the
airplane lifts into the air above the water in Miami, and I turn off
my American cell is a little easier, as it's just a
"one-lane highway", then. I will be thinking of you all in the
States, and appreciate you thinking of me. There is SO much to get
done this week, and using the time well is a pressure in my mind all
the time. But for now, it's just time to go, and hope and pray for
good things to come. Thanks for caring about this work in Haiti. Off
we go-- holy cow-- Trip 5!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Haitian Cell Phone

Dear Friends and Supporters:
It Only Seems Like I'm constantly asking help for Haiti! My 2 trips are close together this year, January and March, so, indeed, I was just there, and here I'm writing this sort of note... the one I write a few weeks before a trip, asking for support, again. But: If I should stop doing this, people need to stop encouraging me.
This Sunday, after I saw my patients at the hospital, I was wondering how to start this blog entry. I mean, it's trip 5, and I am in deeper than ever. I bought a Haitian cell phone, for heaven's sake...I plan to do Haiti work regularly if my dear husband, my practice, my health, and my donors and supporters can stand it...and somehow it's still working. I think it's God at work.

As I reflected on how do you ask for support repeatedly-( prayer and kind words are abundant and free, money seems a bit less so for normal humans..) ..I stopped in my office for a brief stint at my desk. A serenely quiet building, on Sunday morning, lovely to get things done...and on my desk is an envelope with a check from a person I do not know, in another state, for $100, and just a note; "for Haiti!". My God. And I hadn't even sent out this blog entry yet. I am so humbled that somehow, there is a net, a tribe, some strange collection of friends out there that wish this work to continue. I am humbled, but encouraged. I guess I just ask.

My Trip Expenses: I donate my vacation time. Loudoun Community Midwives pays my airfare. The remaining trip cost, $600/trip, for food, lodging, translators, and travel in-country, comes from donors. Checks to Midwives for Haiti memo'd "Wendy Dotson trip" can be sent to my office ( I will mail them in) or directly to MFH at 7130 Glen Forest Ave. Suite 101, Richmond, VA 23226-3754. (Midwives for Haiti is a tax-deductible registered 501-c-3). I need to know what's sent in, to track if/when needs are met.Over & above the $600: even $10 donations are great; I can buy Klorfasil clean-water units for Naran. 1 bucket prevents cholera for a family for a year. Since it's an informal project of my own, that money must go to me directly, and can be sent to my office: Wendy Dotson, 19465 Deerfield Ave, #205, Lansdowne, VA 20176.

Another way to give is to visit Finnegan's Irish Pub in Ashburn Village, for lunch, dinner, a drink or a snack, and make a donation-they are doing a MFH fundraiser for Trip 5! Fill out a donation form so I know you came! (It's even possible I would be there after work having a beer...!)

Trip 5: Non-monetary needs:
Prenatal Vitamins and Iron tablets-always, always needed.
Cytotec (misoprostol)- folks with Rx ability, take note. Only costs about $48/100; goes a long way)
Receiving blankets
If you wish to donate a specific type of item or for a specific amount, contact me ( 703-726-1300) and we can decide together what to get. We need a bunch of equipment and supplies for the birth centers.
Most folks who read this blog already know what I do, but I'll post soon about actual Haiti activities. That stuff is far more fun to read than this shameless-begging-for-money-to-do-it...but the short agenda for trip 5 is:

Equip, orient Haitian midwife, and prepare to open small birth center in village of Trianon. ( Buy beds, mattresses, meet w/ village priest, get "medical waste" garbage pit dug, storage shelves built, check on power, water, etc.)
Help teach/train Class 4 students as needed
Help with mobile clinics-- hoping to try out new pink "Jeep La".
Teach & expedite family planning services/ methods.
Help with whatever Nadene and the MFH board need-- it evolves a lot!.

My Haitian Cell Phone Number is 509-3-118-6595. Call me sometime, March 11-19,and I'll tell you what's new and hopeful in Haiti. I am at the point of not just hoping, but depending on my American friends to help with this work. In a very difficult and damaged place, hope is still alive! My Haitian friends certainly don't stop hoping for help. In a recent facebook chat, my Haitian friend Theard, working at the UN office, in Hinche, said "It is so great that you were able to get the 40 buckets for Naran. They have 550 people, and now more of them keep asking me if you will bring more so they can get one." Well, okay. We'll see what we can do.
Hey- I bought the cell phone! You all have proved, over & over, that you care about this work and support it! And I thank you from the heart.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Jeep La LA! : Our Big Pink Baby Came Out!

Well, midwife-Dr. Cara Osborne midwifed the delivery of this special, big, pink, baby, but I think a cast of hundreds stood behind her...financing, designing, praying, asking and granting favors, translating Kreyol/English, running and emailing documents around Haiti. It was a long,hard, labor... but tonight, the baby came out at last.
We waited all day, for word from the group navigating the final negotiations at St Marc where "Jeep La" (the Jeep) has been on the customs dock since November 19. First, the elections and riots afterward slowed it down...then cholera epidemic hit. We've got over that, then were lost in the Land of Red Tape. Then Nadene and Cara and Ronel -- the driver who has been waiting for YEARS to drive this baby....made a major trip to the paperwork Wizards in St Marc, Thursday, and pleaded our case. In the end, they were told, well, it might come out tomorrow. Cara and Ronel stayed overnight in St Marc, hoping and praying it that customs gate would lift on Friday.
All this afternoon, we were watching for it, like kids listening for reindeer on Christmas Eve. Then, finally....In the midst of a heavy tropical downpour, the iron gates of Lakay Nou rumbled open, and folks started hollering "Jeep La La"!!! Jeep La means the Jeep...the extra "La" adds the concept of "here"... so tonight, we are drinking champagne and "Jeep La La"..."the Jeep is HERE!" It parked in the carport...people jubilantly unloaded....whooping in Kreyol and English, hands slapped, and exhausted people came across the threshold like the end of a marathon....Happy,but too tired to show it.
There is rain falling and loads of boxes being unloaded...a microscope, a colposcope, and mundane things like sheets, towels and printers. Many items that will help women and move this mission forward. But the Jeep itself is the star of the show. Haitians all aonlg the road cheered and waved at the bright magenta colored vehicle drove north to us. It's going to be popular.
This big , custom-made pink vehicle doesn't only have air-conditioning and plug-in elertricity, it also has a special elevated exhaust pipe that can't can ford the many shallow rivers that have no bridge, we can ride over the rough, dusty roads of Haiti,stocked and equipped to care for the many pregnant women on the back roads of the Central Plateau. We have such great Haitian staff that do such good work; it is a relief to give them great equipment to support their to work.
Everybody's happy tonight. The baby is here... and the women of Haiti will be better off, for this. I promise. Thanks, Friends. Jeep La LA!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Moment of Silence

Though many things were the same today, in Haiti, it had a different
feeling...the one-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake of
Port au Prince. A national day of mourning, most schools and private
businesses were closed.

The breeze was still mild and warm, the roads still busy and dusty,
and food still for sale over charcoal burners on the street. As we
had no class, a group of M4H volunteers rented a truck for a short
outing to local attraction Bassin Zim, about 35 minutes away. We
bounced over rutted, unpaved roads, buying small yellow roadside
bananas along the way. We came to a beautiful waterfall, cascading
through 3 basins, down the hill out of a huge cave! Little Haitian
boys grabbed our hands and pulled us up the path to show us the full
glory of this place...including ancient figures carved in the stone
walls of the cave. Never have I seen such a sight in Haiti! It was
awesome. We rewarded the boys with bananas, cookies, and a little
money. Haiti is still full of surprises.

Back home in Hinche, Manno, Angela Ferrari and I braved the outdoor
market to buy Kreyol books, plastic shelves, scrub brushes, and
curtains for the house. Then we piled all the boxes, bags, and
ourselves on 2 motorcycles and chugged back to the house.

The day was a more reflective, less frantic one, as befits a solemn
occasion. In later afternoon, we knew the actual time of the
earthquake was near (4:45pm), so we gathered in front of Lakay Nou.
Diuny, our cook, stopped frying meat for a minute. Judnel, our
security guy, came from his seat, and joined our circle. With Nadene
Brunk, our founder, Cara Osborn, Anglea Ferrari, Terrie Glass, Reina
Galjour and her Haitian partner Blada, and I, all held our hands, and
grew quiet. As Manno translated, we just paused:

"On this anniversary, we stop to honor and remember all the people that died in the
earthquake of last year. We ask for healing for the country, and for
the ones who were injured, and the families who lost their loved ones.
And we ask that our mission can be strengthened, so that we can help
Haiti." Americans, and Haitians, we held silence in our hearts...we
wept, and we stood together in that space, under the soft blue Haitian

We hugged and touched each other, and then, we returned to our work.

Drops in the Bucket

Years ago, a Catholic Xavieran Brother named Brother Harry, began teaching English classes in a tiny Haitian village called Pandiasou, in a small convent that is to this day, without any power or worldly accoutrements. Whatever kids wanted to learn English would show up specific evenings and practice English with him. A couple star pupils were Theard Elficasse and Bastyan Emmanuel (“Manno”). I wonder, did Brother Harry ever feel discouraged, despite his faith, and wonder if his efforts made any difference? Read on, my friends…. Eventually, Theard and Manno connected with Nadene Brunk, CNM, and translated for her midwifery class in Pandiassou. The story is long, but the Midwives for Haiti program grew out of it, and Theard and Manno worked more and more often. They both married, became fathers, and their babies are all god-children of different M4H volunteers. They earned significant money, built houses, supported their families. Then, they started supporting their family’s village. First, they invited visiting doctors and health care staff to come out and do rural clinics, out of boxes, bags, helping the sick folks in the village. The biggest obstacle was the road…God, the road…it was a ditch that the truck just straddled as long as it could while climbing huge hills and boulders…then park, and boxes of meds would be walked in about a half-mile. "The guys” started an elementary school in 2009, under a mango tree, with a blackboard and some benches. Midwives for Haiti volunteers would be invited for a very, very, rough truck ride up to the village of Naran, and see the “school” they were building. First…just a roof of banana leaves and some benches. Donations helped walls get built. An outhouse with cement lining, roof and doors, was made, to keep things sanitary, then more donations, and more rooms. Doors with locks to keep the desks from being stolen. We sent money to help pay the teachers, (who worked for free, to start...) and sent notebooks, pencils, and soccer balls. They kept plugging away and emailed us photos of “graduation” each semester. The whole village would show up for these occasions. In December 09, I went out there with my new friend, and M4H volunteer , Sharon Ryan, CNM. Soon, her Mennonite church in Ohio became a major supporter. “Flower of Hope School” is now a registered Ohio non-profit, with teacher salaries paid regularly and notebooks and other supplies in abundance. About 150 kids are in class there, now. Six had Cholera in December, but no one died. So, we took a trip to Naran this week. Some of my American friends gave money for 40chlorine-based clean-water bucket systems to be purchased for 40 of the neediest families in the village. We picked up the Klorfasil buckets, and headed out there in a very beat-up, typical Haitian, hired truck. The oil pump went out about 5 miles into our journey. Oh, you know things are dire when our friend Ronel, in a 1984 Toyota Hilux that’s on it’s truly last, last legs…is the rescue vehicle. We re-loaded into Ronel's truck, and he took us out to Naran, but as we turned the curve to go up the mountain..I was stunned. The road was a real road. Yes, dirt, but drivable and graded. Theard told me that Mercy Corps had done a project in Naran, and they paid village members to improve the road. We drove, all the way to the school. I believe that the school is a huge factor that convinced Mercy Corp that Naran deserved a road, to get the kids and supplies to school. 40 families showed up to get the Klorfasil systems. Brother Harry started something truly significant, just moving ahead with what he thought would help people. His English lessons started a long story that has not really ended here… many people have acted on their belief that something good can happen if they try to do what is right. So far, it has taken us as far as a school, and a road, and some cleaner water. Let nobody scoff, today, about the concept of a “drop in the bucket.” If we all do what our hearts tell us, it can be a flood.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Lakay Nou!

Lakay Nou, Hinche

We've named it: Lakay Nou, in Kreyol... "Our Home" in English. This leamed house is now the home of Midwives for Haiti.
After years of running a program out of borrowed closets, classrooms under trees, volunteer sleeping in guesthouses and motels, we've landed.We have a home, and are starting our fourth class. Midwives for Haiti has landed like that baby giraffe, and is on the ground, running!

Therefore we're all over the map, crazy busy.
In one day:
-Vitamins/medicine/prenatal supplies loaded into suitcases and into the truck.
-Folding chairs for our classroom, nametags & blouses for the students, 5 American midwives to hospital.
-2 Haitian Midwives left for a rural mobile clinic. Still managing out of Ronel's ancient, rusty Hilux truck which hemorrhages oil and gas. We are praying for our lovely, pink, "Jeep La"! to will not be a moment too soon.
-Class #4 with 15 beautiful,high qualified students started, prayer and singing ringing off of the concrete walls.
-Shopping til we Drop - I bought a Haitian cell phone....I guess this is a sign the relationship is getting more serious...! It's just so much easier to have one, here. My trusty guide and ride, Manno's motorycle, needed took a half-hour to find a gas station on the edge of town that had some. Filled his tank so he can run me around. Made purchase of 40 Klorfasil bucket systems to be delivered in the village of Naran tomorrow. We arranged to buy a 500 gallon water tank for the roof of our house.
Paint, brushes & rollers. Plastic baskets for recycling and storage. 6 giant bottles of water. Can't find a "stand" for the water tanks to save our life. Landlord Jean-Louis says they come from the "Old Country", the USA!

Meetings Galore-- and these are not Quaker ones!
-Landlord meeting with Jean-Louis LaFort: Many issues with house resolved... guard/security, barbed wire,doors, electrical, water tank issues. Oh, shucks....the tank we bought is not needed! Arranged to return it tomorrow and buy light fixtures for outside the house. Carpenter, electricians, consulted, haggled with, etc. Not exactly complaining, but this stuff is not like Home Depot, folks. It's a little more complicated.

Cara Osborn, inspired by advice & helpful contacts from Jean-Louis and our desperation, will try a trip to St.Marc/PortauPrince tomorrow...and try to get the Jeep out of hock in customs. Who know what sort of persuasion she may try?? She's a powerful woman who gets a lot done....and we're frantic for that darn Jeep.

Pregnant Ladies and Babies....of course!
I saw my first Haitian patient of the week: Manno's wife, Nathalie, complaining of persistent nausea...a urine pregnancy test done in the living room clarified the reason....she's expecting baby #2! We'll start prenatal care later in the week.
Second patient of the week: our cook, Diuny's one-year old baby, was vomiting, her friend told her he had an ear infection. But!--it all started this week, when she began working for us, and leaving him bottles of powdered milk to drink when she's away working during the day. A quck examination, and we quickly decided that we can't even call ourselves "Midwives for Haiti" if it involves our cook weaning her breastfed baby so she can work for us, and he gets sick from not getting breastmilk. We arranged for her to have her baby nearby in the house so he can nurse and be cared for by her little 10-year old babysitter. So M4H will have a baby in the house!! How appropriate! He's cute, fat, and healthy as can be as long as he doesn't get that nasty powdered stuff.

A "Quiet" Evening at Lakay Nou--NOT!
No, not a quiet evening....Nadene had visits from 2 different M4H-trained midwives whom she hired to staff a clinic and a family-planning education program. The 5 bags that had been delayed in New York finally arrived via Moliares' SUV, along with furniture ordered in PaP...So the evening activty became the Allen Wrench Olympics, seeing who could assemble what with a flashlight, allen wrenches, one screwdriver, and 8 cans of Prestige beer. We had a good time and now have some boxy, ugly, durable, lightweight practical furniture.

I delivered a small Xmas bottle of Scotch to next-door neighbor Xavieran Bro. Mike McCarthy at Maison Fortune orphanage. Asked him to pray for the Jeep. I am serious....non-Catholic, but consulting a priest. We need "Jeep La" really bad, folks....please do exercise whatever spiritual powers you all hoave, ye who care for us. Otherwise, and still, it's a lovely night in HInche!

God Bless.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Landing like Giraffes; Port au-Prince to HInche

Saturday, Jan 8, 2011
Port au Prince

Giraffe mothers give birth while they are standing up. Their newborn baby giraffe lands hard, in the dust, with a thump. While it's a bit of a shock to watch on video, I think it's not so's nature's way of saying "Ok, welcome to the planet! There's a lot going on here, including lions...get moving!"

So,our plane from Miami landed in cross-wind with a big, hard THUMP....a classic "Welcome to Haiti", and I thought of the giraffes. There's a lot going on here, and it's not for the faint of heart. Let's get moving! We spent a lovely overnight in Port au Prince, and then did businesss in Pap for half of Saturday, then headed for
the hills....our home in the Central Plateau, in Hinche.

I have sluggish, limited internet here, so must write a very brief blog to minimize the upload time. Here are a few images:

How can it be that after a several nights of poor sleep in the US, a too-busy brain, an all-night birth, and pre-flight packing....I spent a night in a Port-au-Prince guest-house room with 5 others, in bunks, under a mosquito net...and slept like the dead for 8 hours?? I am refreshed in this setting, maybe because so much is going on, I'm forced to be in the moment and be single-minded.

Saturday, in one morning, we drove past acres of tent cities, and ended up shopping for furniture in an air-conditioned showroom. That's Port au Prince. It's so hard. We are growing a non-profit here, and now have a house for our teachers and volunteers to stay in.. we need beds, tables and chairs to sit at, eat, teach students. But while I shop, I wish everyone in the city had housing and decent water.

Smells--- STRONG coffeee, garlic, gasoline exhaust, sewage, woodsmoke, body odor, and that unique whiff of bad teeth.

Sounds: oh, the roosters. They start at 3:30am. Cars and truck engines. Sirens. Singing.

While waiting for some team members at the airport, the busiest outdoor vendor at the airport parking lot was...the guy selling beer and little half-pint bottles of whiskey. He was doing a big business out of a little cooler under a tree. Stress relief with alcohol is universal.

A trip from PaP to Hinche was a car-sickness extravaganza with all the curves in the road and the mountains we go up, then down. They get greener as we go , and the donkeys and goats appear more with each mile out of the city. The lakes are's great, if you don't need to hurl. Fortunately this time, that was me! No nausea.
We landed in Hinche by dusk.

We are posting a video if we can, and we midwife/giraffes, who hit the dirt on Saturday, are doing ok in Hinche....updates soon!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Stop and Think! but mostly...Hope!

I’m halfway to Port au Prince on my 4th trip to Haiti, and they did not serve any food on the plane from Dulles. Now, this is no surprise, but I did get into Miami airport SOOO hungry, as I got up at 0330 and on the plane at 6am, and at 9am my stomach was rumbling “Now! Feed me NOW!” So I barely paused in front of the first restaurant “serving breakfast” sign, and got a seat. Then, part way into the most awful breakfast—cold scrambled eggs! Mushy toast! Nasty old coffee!— I realized…this is what I get for eating American breakfast at a Sushi restaurant. I did not STOP and THINK!
So, teetering on the brink of my 4th Haitian adventure as a volunteer with Midwives for Haiti, I’m reminded pause and reflect. I ask myself what the heck I am doing, and why. What do I hope for? What do I fear? The “pat” answer is that I love my work as a volunteer with Midwives for Haiti- we train Haitian women to be midwives, expand health care I Haiti-we save and improve lives of many Haitian women-create jobs-etc. But, really… “why” is worth exploring…after all, this is a “vacation” week! While I do enjoy incredible mountain scenery and mild, sunshiny weather, it does come with a lot of dust, goat stew and sweat. As I contemplate, I know that I do this very much for myself, for as the work does good, it also feeds me in so many ways. Mostly with hope.
I have fears too--- at one year after the earthquake, there is barely a government in place in Haiti, riots are always a possibility, and cholera’s a reality too. There’s the heartbreak of witnessing 2 centuries of grinding poverty. My real fears, however, are of futility, frustrated efforts, wasted energy. It takes so much to get to Haiti that the moments are precious and the goals are high for each trip. Yet, today, I feel happy and hopeful. I hope to hold & hug my 9-month old god-daughter, born last March, just after I left. I hope to deliver 40 bucket-and-chlorine water systems to the village in Naran. A lot of good people donated funds to make that happen, so I’ve got a mission and the wheels are in motion. I hope to help Nadene Brunk start the fourth class of Midwives for Haiti. 16 women are starting a year of training that will make a difference in their lives and their communities! This is the biggest and probably (-hopefully!)- best organized class yet. I hope to buy some more Haitian artwork with special requests from several friends for specific items. Creating commerce in Haiti, of any kind, helps families survive. I really hope to see the Pink Jeep get released from customs and make it’s way to our headquarters in Hinche, to begin serving our mobile prenatal clinic service. I hope to enjoy time with folks who have become dear friends- Nadene, Reina, and other American volunteers, and the Xavieran brothers at Masion Fortune orphanage, the McHouls in Port au Prince…and our great M4H staff Theard, Manno, Berry, and their families. I feel a little like Santa, as I do have a couple large bags, and they do have presents. I hope to spread joy and share hope in a place where, sometimes, those are scarce. But really, they give me back more than I’ve ever put in. Despite a disappointing breakfast….it’s a spiritual feast. Let’s go!