Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Genette in San Francisco!

Well, all I can say is that we have been on the go! I keep asking Genette if she is tired and she keeps saying no, so we just keep rolling right along! On her first day, we went to our local Peer Review meeting and spent the morning listening to cases. Genette found it really interesting and said it was a good experience for her.

In the afternoon, we did a little introduction of San Francisco. We went to Dina's television station (could that not be more different than life in Hinche?), we found a local food festival where Genette tried everything from gourmet chocolates to cheeses to fish tacos to kamboucha!
We visited my daughter's school, met up with Jenni from MANA who nominated Genette for the award, and explained to Genette that she would receive the Sapling award at the conference. I'm not sure if she understands how important it is, but she'll know at the conference.

On Saturday, we had a welcome brunch for Genette and invited some of the donors, local midwives and clients of mine that are so excited she is here. Genette had crepes for the first time and really liked the sweet crepe with pumpkin butter! In the afternoon, we watched my daughter's volleyball game, went to the Pacific ocean

 and finally, a birthday party for a friend of mine that included a "variety show!" She saw tap dancing, a woman playing saxophone, an opera singer, and lots of others. We got up and sang both Dina's "Kijan ou ye" song and one of the Matron songs. I explained what they meant to my friends (about 50 people were there) and they all felt that it was meaningful and powerful to hear what the songs meant and that Genette was here with us.

So, it hasn't just been playing! On Sunday, we went to Elizabeth Davis' midwifery class. I teach phlebotomy and speak on a panel of midwives about our lives as midwives. Genette helped out with the observations of the students trying the phlebotomy and during lunch we spoke about the Midwives for Haiti program. She was on the panel with us and the students really enjoyed hearing her bio and asking her questions.

Monday morning was an observation day at my local hospital with an OB friend of mine. We are all faring well in Creole, and we are pushing Genette to practice more of her English. She understands a lot.
All in all, we are having a ball! We leave for the conference tomorrow. We have been so busy that I have had little time to post. I will update you with more later.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Genette to come to the US for MANA conference!

I am so excited to say that Genette got her visa on Tuesday! I really think the efforts at the embassy and some critical emails to the embassy really made a difference. She is the first midwife from the Midwives for Haiti program that has successfully acquired a visa to come to the US. One of the criteria that the US embassy looks at to consider granting a visa is a person's salary. Now, of course, the Haitian midwife salaries are nothing like US salaries. Genette makes $6000 per year. This is not to her advantage in trying to come to the US. The embassy looks at this as a sign that she might see how much more she can make in the US and attempt to stay. I am sure that this is why Esther's visa application was rejected. In my emails to the embassy, I emphasized Genette's commitment and dedication to midwifery in Haiti. She is so deserving of this continuing education opportunity.

I think that this will be a significant step in developing Genette's leadership potential. She is already hired as the Clinical Director of the Midwives for Haiti program and is one of the main leaders of the Matron program. Along with Magdala, Dina calls them the power couple. They developed the Matron program which is a 20 week education program for traditional birth attendants in the small village of Haiti where still the majority of babies are being born. You can see what a difference Magdala and Genette are making in terms of education, empowerment and continuity in the Midwives for Haiti program. By bringing Genette to the US, I am hoping that she will be able to expand her vision of midwifery-learning skills and concepts through the conference and in San Francisco.

If you would like to help fund Genette's trip, please send checks to my address: Maria Iorillo, 206 27th St. San Francisco, CA 94131. Write your check out to Midwives for Haiti and put Genette Thelusmond in the memo line. Thanks!!

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Party with the Student Midwives

Midwifery Student Suzette and I, we worked together the first week

Me and my good friend, Esther

Guerlie and I

One of the things that was most different for me on this trip was my own deeper connection with the midwives. Many of the senior midwives are truly becoming friends as we get to know each other year after year. Genette, Magdala, Filomen, Guerlie, Marie Denise, Esther. The first year that I came to Haiti, I was excited to get to know them all, but had little facilitation of that process. The in-country coordinator of the Midwives for Haiti program went on vacation hours after our arrival and just said what amounted to, “You can handle it, right?” Ami and I did a great job of just jumping in, even without any Kreyol. Half way through our 2-week stay, I thought, the program should have some sort of get-together for the future volunteers to meet the Haitian students and midwives. I should recommend this in my feedback to the program. Not long after thinking that I thought, well, why don’t WE have a party?
So, that’s how our partying with the Haitian midwives began. This year, we had the party at the new Midwives for Haiti compound. It is a large, beautiful house with room for their classroom, guest rooms, kitchen, dining room, nice bathroom and shower. Upstairs, a whole second apartment is where Marthonie, the Haitian nurse-midwife and Director of the program stays. The cook at the house prepared the food for the party that amounted to larger amounts of what we always eat: rice, sauce, fried chicken legs, fritay (fried plantains and acra) and pikliz. I made a chocolate cake from a cake mix that I bought at the Ebenezer grocery story. The Ebenezer is an air-conditioned grocery that caters largely to foreigners and wealthier Haitians. Although it is the biggest grocery store in Hinche (or maybe the only), it still only had 3 aisles. Most Haitians buy their provisions at the outdoor market: produce; spaghetti; beans; Magi bouillon cubes which are put in EVERYTHING; canned tomato paste; large, round disks of manioc cracker bread; beef, goat, chicken both live and parts; 50 pound bags of American rice. Carrie made brownies from a coveted box of brownie mix brought from the states. The cook made two more strawberry cakes with actual frosting and decorations.
The party got to a slow start since in the beginning the food was not ready. I showed a slide show of photos of the current class that everyone enjoyed. Then, Ami, Dina and I sang them an updated version of our Kreyol song. We created the song the first year from all of the Kreyol that we knew which was very little. The song says: How are you? How are you? I don’t know, Not know. Then it goes into many of the Haitian greetings for each other: Pa pi mal, Nou la, Na boule, etc. It is a very funny little song that every one really loves because Dina plays ukelele and everyone joins in. This year we added a couple of verses:
Nou konnen plis  (We know more)
Kreyol pou nou  (Creole for you)
Pou chante nou (To sing to you)
Pi bon chante   (A better song)
Le nou travay  (When we work)
Pou bebe yo  (with the babies)
Se la vi  (It’s their lives)
N’ap sove  (We are saving!)
Kijan ou ye?  (How are you?)
N’ap kenbe.  (We’re holding on.)
Pral retorne  (We will return)
Ane procien  (Next year)
Pral sonje nou  (We will remember you)
E espere  (and we hope)
Ki nou ka sonje nou!  (That you can remember us!)

It was a big hit and we have it all on video. I’ll see if we can get it up on YouTube.
Needless to say, we all had a ball at the party, the food was demolished and everyone went home content. The midwives sang us their song of thanks at the end which was the perfect ending to our stay with them. As we were leaving, we noticed the huge pile of dishes in the sink and the two cooks preparing to do the clean up. We felt bad to leave all the mess, but then we noticed that they were happy and singing our song. It was a good day for all.