Haiti Blog Aug 14 - 21, 2012


Ayiti Anko


Dina and I are careening toward our Haiti departure date this Friday. We spend our time weighing baggage to make sure we don't go over the 50 pound limits, buying last minute items like lollipops, beef jerky and Imodium D, calling airlines who won't waive our baggage fees even though they've done it before. Genette emailed me and knows that we are coming soon. We leave for Miami on Thursday night so that we can be in Florida for a 7am departure to Haiti on Friday morning. I'm getting excited.

This year will be a continuation of our work with Midwives for Haiti. We will follow up with Magdala who is the lead midwife for the mobile clinics. She also runs a school for 600 children, has taken in 12 orphans, hosts a cholera encampment on her land and works her shifts as a midwife at St. Terese hospital. We were hoping to find her a major donor to help with her dreams of building an orphanage on her land but so far we haven't found the right funder.

Genette is one of the clinical instructors for Midwives for Haiti that I am trying to bring to California for the MANA conference. The visa interview was delayed until August 24th. That is problematic since by the time we even know if they approve the visa, it may be hard to get airline tickets for a mid-September visit to the US. I am hoping that my presence in Haiti when she goes to the interview will lend legitimacy to her proposal and that we won't have any snags. Haiti logisitics are always tentative and unpredictable.

As usual, we will try to blog live from Haiti using a personal hotspot from my iPhone. As long as it is all working, you'll be able to follow along with our trip. In the meantime, be sure to check out Dina's videos on my YouTube channel. Here are the links:

2011 Midwives for Haiti Update

2010 Midwives for Haiti Update

2010 Port-au-Prince Tent City


Matthew 25 and Maison Fortune

We arrived quite smoothly into Port Au Prince yesterday morning. The 1 hour and 45 minute flight was quicker than it took for us to get from Port Jefferson, Long Island to LaGuardia airport. Upon arriving in PAP, we needed to gather our bags and make it through the aggressively eager porters to find our ride. This time, it was surprisingly calm and uneventful. We were met at the doors and whisked through the travelers to an awaiting Matthew 25 vehicle and Ricardo, a familiar face. Within 20 minutes, we were at the traveler’s lodge.
Matthew 25 is the place that I wrote about 3 years ago. A tent city was erected in the soccer field next to them that at one point, immediately after the earthquake, hosted 2000 people. Today it is being used for a different purpose – the local soccer championships! So wonderful to see life back to normal.

Nancy, our friend at Matthew 25, says that the big success story here is a young girl named Reginette. She lost part of her leg in the earthquake and was part of a video that Dina made our first year here. You can see the video here. Today Reginette works at Matthew 25 as part of the housekeeping staff. She is a straight A student and says she wants to become a journalist. Most importantly, when she started working here, she was very shy and reserved. She was 13 when the earthquake struck. Today, Nancy says that she plays Uno and Sorry with the staff and is coming out of her shell. She was all smiles for us as we showed her the video of herself.  She uses the money that she earns at Matthew 25 to pay for her school books and to support her mother at home. 

Having arrived a day ahead of our departure for Hinche, we did some much desired exploring of Port Au Prince. We went to the outskirts of the city where they make the metal art that is signature Haitian. We ate at a local restaurant – fritay, which means fried. They sell fried meats, plantains, potatoes covered in pikliz, which is their spicy coleslaw. We also stopped at the Italian hospital, St. Damien’s, looking for my friend Esther. We found Anise instead and chatted in our very rusty Creole.
Today we arrived in Hinche at Maison Fortune. The girls remember us and remember my name!! Dina, Ami, and I went over to the girls compound and were immediately swarmed by children. We were surrounded by about 12 girls each. Ami ended up being covered in glitter and admired for her tattoos. Dina started writing down the girls’ names and pretending to be their teacher. I practiced my Creole, while the girls told me their names in English. I showed them photos on my iPhone which prompted them to gather even closer. If I have your photo on my iPhone, you were a star in Haiti today. I called Dina to rescue me when my swarm was nearly on top of me.
We are so happy to be here. The children are a year older, they have learned more English, we have learned more Creole. We can already see the power of continuity on their smiling faces.
Donating 10 pairs of shoes to the orphanage


There's Blood on the Floor

Yesterday was our first day working at St. Therese, the regional hospital in Hinche where Midwives for Haiti is headquartered. Things have seemed so familiar this time around; WE are the ones who are less wide-eyed than before. So, of course, it was death that met us at the door. The first and only birth that we witnessed Monday morning was a 24 week stillbirth. The baby had a genetic defect that undoubtedly contributed to his demise. Ami helped with this birth while I worked with the other midwives. We had many women in labor that morning. Each shower-curtained stall had a woman in it. Some women were accompanied by family, most were being cared for by one or two Midwives for Haiti students in their signature pink scrubs.
I was assigned to work with Marie Rose for the morning. She is an older woman, perhaps in her 50s, which is unusual. Most of the students are young women in their late 20s or early 30s, eager and willing to work hard and upgrade their knowledge and skills. Marie Rose is more old school. She is set in her ways that are sometimes incorrect. I soon learned that if I just showed her the correct way, she was totally competent. She thrives on the small tricks of the trade. If I can follow her for the two weeks that I am here, I hope I can bring her up to speed with the rest of the class.
The majority of students are competent and sweet. They have learned how to place IVs, treat pre-eclampsia, deliver babies, rub a woman’s back in labor. Yet, it still seems that there are cultural and professional differences in the Haitian way and the American way.  Most of the work space is untidy, simple wrappers from hypodermic needles and gloves strewn about. Medicines are in disarray. The blood is still on the floor as the next woman comes into the stall to deliver her baby. We observe, we teach, we wonder how much will be retained.
When the steady flow of laboring women eased, I cleaned and organized the supplies. I remember this from last year. Modelling, I am hoping, is the best way of teaching. 

It is always the orphanage that allows us moments of pure joy here in Haiti. Last night as we went over to the girls' compound, Dina and I were immediately swarmed by 20 or 30 girls, no exaggeration! They were so excited to see us that they began chanting our names, "MA-REE-A, MA-REE-A, DEE-NA, DEE-NA!" We had to squeeze up the stairs to the third floor with two girls on each arm, many in front and back. En masse, we slowly made our way up and up until we reached the small room where we showed them photos of themselves from 2010 and 2011. We handed out piwilis (lollipops) and the atmosphere was animated and energized as the girls saw photos of themselves and their friends. One little girl, Joska, glued herself to me, at times rocking back and forth as we stood watching the show. I sense a loss of adult nurturing; most of the girls have to be independent and take care of themselves from such a young age. Of course, the girls (60 in all) take care of each other. But if there is a substitute mother around, many of them take advantage of a cuddle or hug to soothe a wordless ache. I feel lucky to experience a moment of tenderness with any of them. They fuel my  resolve for a better experience for the Haitian mothers and babies.

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