October 2006 Trip to Haiti
The biggest impact for me was the people themselves. They are beautiful. They have a proud, gentle nature. They are happy we come to see them and so appreciative of anything we do for them. There doesn’t seem to be a “poor me” attitude. They are so eager to learn and to improve themselves. They take pride in what they are learning and in the improvements they have helped to make. The children are awesome - those little faces with bright eyes will warm anyone’s heart. The older siblings are always helping with the younger ones. The children loved to be held and touched. It’s a very loving and touching culture.
There are many sad things with all the disease, death and starvation but these people seem to always have hope. A little at a time, things are better than yesterday. I learned a lot about hope and gratitude - they don’t seem to despair but keep on going and trusting in a better tomorrow.
I was blessed with the opportunity to go on this trip and the group of people I went with helped to make the trip an even better experience.
I was most impressed with the strength of the women of Haiti who against what would seem unsurmountable odds get up each day and try and do what is best for their children. I can't even imagine walking 6-8 hours in the heat over mountains just to get to a prenatal or well baby appointment. Once at the clinic they present themselves with such grace and dignity. It was an unbelievable experience to witness such women.
HHF continues too improve the health in Jeremie, Haiti and the surrounding villages. I was especially impressed with the progress of the KOMBIT program which I had been introduced to on my October ’05 trip.
This program promotes education regarding healthy deliveries, postpartum hemorrhage and newborn resuscitation through skits and role playing. Prior to this program, if a baby was not immediately breathing at delivery, it was thought to be dead, put in a bag and discarded.
Up to now, many women have died of postpartum hemorrhage; now midwives are being taught to massage the uterus. In addition, an evacuation program has been put in place and when a woman begins to bleed badly, she is taken by stretcher down to a main road where an emergency vehicle, summoned by cell phone from Jeremie, will come up to meet her. This program is saving many lives!
Jennifer Nelson, D.O.
In October of 2006, I was fortunate enough to travel to Jeremie, Haiti with a wonderful group of diverse individuals. These team members and their experiences only helped to enrich my time in Jeremie. It is difficult to put my experiences into words. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about the amazing people of Haiti. They taught me many great and profound yet simple things about life. Haitians are extremely happy and proud people who are always eager to learn, work and help out wherever needed. I was overcome by the beauty of the surroundings yet the amount of poverty was absolutely devastating. This may sound crazy, but is some ways, these people who have nothing seem to have everything. I learned that simple can be good in many ways.
From a medical perspective, I saw a variety of diseases that I had never seen before except in textbooks. I quickly learned that cures are rare, but you can help to alleviate pain and suffering with a few simple meds. It is hard to treat chronic diseases due to the inconsistency of medications. I had several encounters that have forever changed me. I had the privilege of traveling to the mountain village of Dayere for a couple of days with Linda Hanson, CNP. I saw many amazing things there. However, within the first two hours of arriving and seeing patients, I had the first life changing experience of my trip. A sixteen month old baby girl died in my arms due to a severe case of pneumonia. How does one who can’t even speak the language, even begin to explain to this child’s parents that there is nothing else you can do – they must go home and bury their child. The loss that I felt at that moment in time was one of such helplessness and despair. It’s hard to believe that things like this are happening in the year of 2006, especially with the medical technology that exists today. In Haiti, you quickly learn to do the best you can with what you have.
We also diagnosed a fourteen year old female with congestive heart failure. We took her down to Jeremie in the land cruiser, but almost lost her on the way down the mountain due to her condition quickly worsening. We were able to get her help and placed her in the hospital. She continued to improve slowly, but was still hospitalized when we left. The dear Haitian people will forever hold a large part of my heart. I can’t wait to return to help my new found friends soon.
To put into words the experience of my first mission trip to Haiti seems impossible. It changed my life. It has planted a motivation to work - for the rest of my life - towards doing what I can to help the less fortunate people, lands and seas of the world. To see a child, who's eyes are empty, whose bones are frail, whose speech is silent, whose movement is minimal, whose stomach is empty...and then to learn that child is an eight year old girl...it's the sensation in the pit of my stomach, the lump in my throat and the disbelief of reality that will forever keep this passion alive and burning. It burns brighter knowing, that that same little girl, by the end of the week, smiled, spoke, and played because of the nurses and aide that this fall's group of volunteers gave- not only to her- but so many others in Jeremie. I am forever indebted to this experience and will carry it with me every single day.
I am so grateful to again be given the opportunity to travel to Haiti with the Avera group and what a wonderful group it was, so much camaraderie, laughter and a few tears. The beauty of both the people and the landscape is difficult to describe. Life is hard in Haiti, and if we can touch one life for a few minutes it is all we need. We travel with our medical knowledge and grand ambitions and end up being content holding a baby, feeding a child, painting a teenager's nails, or teaching a boy to play hacky-sack with his friends.
I am so proud that Avera supports Haitian Health Foundation by allowing its employees to participate in this mission by providing expertise, medicines and supplies. HHF is an incredibly run organization which is making a huge difference in the lives of the Haitian people, and Avera should be proud to be associated with it. Through our mission I know we are making a difference.
My experience in Haiti was an unforgettable, awesome, eye-opening time in my life. I know that what we did, did not change their world. However, it did change my attitude. I was very impressed with how gracious and beautiful the Haitian people are. HHF has instituted some remarkable programs with the resources that they have. I will always remember a certain frail little baby from the orphanage that I saw there one day, and I pray that she has gone to heaven by now. Overall, I hope that I made some children smile, for they certainly caused me to smile in getting close to and connecting with them. I will be ready to go back at any time!
The kindness and patience of the people that lived and worked in Haiti is what draws my thoughts and prayers back there daily. I find it harder to feel anything at all for people here in the states who complain. I find it very hard to explain the experiences with the same effectiveness of how they were felt. With God's help, maybe the things I do say will inspire someone else to make the trip and experience the unexplainable.
The experience in Haiti is almost beyond words and pictures for that matter. There is a feeling of peace and great faith despite the hardships and suffering. I will never forget Comasus, who though she rarely talked – and when she did it was in Creole so I didn't understand her – she was always waiting to hang out with me when we arrived at the Center of Hope. In the beginning she only spent short periods of time observing and going with us, but by the end of the week, it was almost an entire day. She was happy to just do what ever we were doing, whether it was beading necklaces, riding for supplies back to HHF or painting cabinet doors. She is a very beautiful child.
What are some of the things I remember from this trip? I remember…
Holding young Francelin, a 7 ½ lb, 5 month old infant, recovering from Kwashiorkor malnutrition, who is HIV+, being cared for at the Center of Hope by his grandmother because his father died of AIDS a number of months ago, his mother died of the same two months ago and his twin sibling died from malnutrition the day before we arrived in Jeremie. I felt God was close as I held him for an hour or so on several occasions.
Sr. Maryann standing up during our final dinner Friday evening and thanking us for coming, for all the supplies we had brought along and for all our contributions during the week. What was memorable was not her thanking us but the little indications in her eyes and voice that she was filled with unusual emotion as she spoke. She has said more than once that our Avera groups have a spirit that is special among all the groups that go down there and that she and the other Sisters very much look forward to our people coming to work with them.
Our group was outstanding. People worked well together, took an interest in one another, and were comfortable sharing stories and insights, as well as hearing the same from everyone else.
Our motel arrangements turned out to be very frustrating and we won’t be using them again. What a facility says on its website doesn’t always turn out to be reality.
Two of our group went up to the village of Dayere on Monday – Dr. Jennifer Nelson, DO and Linda Hanson, CNP – and stayed there until Wednesday afternoon. When they got back to the HHF clinic and we all gathered over coke and beer, it was so rich hearing them describe all that they had done during their stay in the village.
Several Haitian nurses re-enacted for our group the skit they do to train village midwives in how to assist at births, using more sanitary procedures. They also showed how they teach these midwives what to do if a woman starts to seriously bleed in the hours after giving birth. Finally, they explained that they also teach the midwives what to do when a baby is born but not breathing. As they are currently going about this training they are learning that the people in the villages never knew that in such cases they can do things to help such a baby start to breath. Up to now, when a baby was born that way, they simply took it outside the hut and buried it. People ask, is HHF making a difference? This is just one example of their impact!