Thursday, January 5, 2012

Fall Seven Times, Stand Up Eight

"Rising Again": Trip 6 to Haiti!

An amazing woman and her family that I know had a baby, in this year...just a week after their house burned completely with all their possessions and their beloved dog. The night the baby came, it was all so fast that his daddy caught him as he was born in the bathroom of their neighbor's borrowed house! Yet this extraordinary family had the grace and faith to focus completely on their blessings, to look forward to the freedom they had, now that the anchor of all that stuff was gone....and they named their beautiful, healthy baby "Phoenix"... after the legendary bird that rises from fire and ashes. (

Haiti has had it's own fire and ashes this year, as have I. A functional regime must be in place to implement the aid money left from the earthquake of 2010. They had one election, in 2010, inconclusive/unacceptable results, riots, and a "do-over' election. On my last trip to Haiti in March 2011, the second elections were looming, Former Haitian leaders Duvalier and Aristede had both returned from exiles abroad, making the political situation iffy and volatile. The government was essentially paralyzed, waiting for a president...including the Ministry of Health, with whom Midwives for Haiti works closely to run our program. The week felt like the dream where you want to run but are stuck, immobile. Leaving Haiti, instead of flying out of Port-au-Prince, the normal route, I departed over the Dominican border out of extreme caution-- acting on a solemn Vow of Safety that I long ago negotiated with my husband when I began these Haitian journeys. I felt so sad for Haiti, so exhausted by the same problems and paralysis, and for much of this year, wondered how much good I was able to do in this world. We make our plans and act on our projects, build our houses and life rolls on-- but sometimes, the house burns down when you're away at church. The baby comes in the night before you can even get to the hospital. Trouble walks in the door in the night. I am so aware of how small and imperfect our human efforts are, especially mine. We make mistakes, take a hit, Life happens. Yet in the cycle of loss/ recovery, God grants new life, new wisdom, and new gifts. We need to get up again, and again, and again, and then. good things happen, too. Believe in the Phoenix, and accept the gift of fire, that will burn down old things, and make way for renewal. This is about Haiti, and me, and maybe you. So let's get up and go forward. I'm going back to Haiti, and invite you to come along.

The BackGround
Some folks know exactly what these trips are about-- but for new friends, here is the quick background: In 2009 and five trips ago, I began traveling to Haiti as a volunteer with the non-profit "Midwives for Haiti". I was stunned that a 2-hour flight from Miami landed me in a country where more mothers die of pregnancy-related causes than anywhere else in the Western hemisphere. I saw food cooked over charcoal fires, water carried from the pump or the river to homes, and at night, a candle was the light one used to read...if one had a book and a chance to go to school. Most importantly, Haiti is a land where 70% of the births are not attended by any trained person, and mothers die often, before, during, and after birth. Haiti has a lot of orphanages. Midwives for Haiti was founded by Americans, mainly Nurse-midwives and doctors-- to address this crucial survival-of-mothers problem. We do it by training and supporting Haitian midwives through donations of time, money, and medical supplies. We have a 10-month, full-time training program headquartered in a compound in the small city of Hinche, in the Central Plateau, where we train about 16 students a year to work in clinics, hospitals, and maternity programs all around Haiti. We also employ some of them to travel around the mountains in our bright pink Jeep, making monthly stops in 16 villages where they give prenatal care to women who can't get to any clinic. Sometimes, they deliver babies right there, with adequate supplies. To date we have trained 42 graduates. They are all employed, another benefit of the work that contributes to success of Haitian families.

When I go, I will help organize a new birth center, staffed by one of our graduate Haitian midwives, in a village called Trianon. I'll also be working on teaching the use of Depo-provera, an injectable family planning method, in a few villages that desire this service. But mostly, I'll be helping Nadene Brunk, the founder of this non-profit, who has just quit her full-time job in the US to give more time to this wonderful Haitian program that she "midwifed" into being over the past 7 years. We have a new class of 17 highly-qualified students, and will be working on helping the teachers, organizing the new birth center in Trianon, and many, many administrative tasks that move our work forward. I am so happy to go back to Haiti...I have many friends there, now, and a god-daughter, Woodmica, who is almost 2. She needs some cute dresses, I think.

Many people ask how they can help or support me in this effort: It's simple:
*Think of me, pray for me, and as we Quakers say, "Hold me in the Light"-- I believe this is of great importance. Without spiritual and emotional encouragement, this work is just too hard...with it, you are part of my team and we are strong.
*Follow this blog--if it interests you. Comment, share, forward to others, so they know about this amazing non-profit, Midwives for Haiti, and can support it, too. Posts will really begin around Feb 1; I leave Feb. 3 and try to post almost daily.
*Donate-- I need about $700 for the next trip. Details below in the "PS" below.
Or see the PS for a very strange and itemized list of specific things I can take with me-- things of high value and low weight that make a suitcase worth carrying all the way to Haiti.

A few years ago, at our Loudoun Community Midwives Holiday party, Margie and I gave ourselves and every staff member a small silver bracelet that said "Fall Seven Times, Stand Up Eight". We had taken quite a few hits over the previous years- deaths of close family members, cancer, an airplane crash, a son in the Iraq war, and other kinds of stress and loss. So, perseverance and coming back after a "fire", are nothing new to "us midwives". The Phoenix is a profound allegory, and I am happy to call this trip back to continue the work in Haiti: "Rising Again". Thank you for caring about and helping me do this work....I couldn't do it without you.

PS: Possibly Boring but Useful Details About Donations.

My practice, Loudoun Community Midwives, pays my airfare, and the rest is up to me...and my friends. Checks written to" Midwives for Haiti" with my name in the memo line, are tax-deductible. (C/o Loudoun Community Midwives, 19465 Deerfield Ave. Suite 205, Lansdowne, VA 20176)

Even small amounts help so much!
Smaller cash donations ($10, 20, etc.) written to me go to buy family-size water systems in rural villages that have no well. One system costs $10. Or I buy medicine with it, like misoprostol, which stops a hemorrhage for about $2.50, or antibiotics, or condoms.
Items that can be donated:
Iron tablets
New (or like-new)White blouses for the midwife students- XS, S, and Med.size.(plain, short-sleeve)
Hotel-size soap & shampoo
Pregnancy Tests
Receiving blankets
60-watt light bulbs
Solid Navy blue skirts or slacks for the kids at Maisson Fortune Orphange & School-all sizes - esp. teens(they have 200+ kids to clothe!)


  1. Your work in Haiti seems amazing.

    Wish you well on your trip!

  2. I'll be thinking of you, Wendy! Stay in touch. I'll read your posts.