Tuesday June 12, 2018
All students arrived safely. The group is getting to know each other and all are super excited for the next 10 days in Haiti!
Wednesday June 13, 2018
Our first day in Haiti was eye opening to say the least. We got to see typical Haitian life driving through the city on our way to the citadel. Seeing Haitians on the sides of the roads and observing some of their living conditions was alarming. It’s difficult to deal with empathy we feel for them because there isn’t much you can do, and simply providing money is not a good (nor sustainable) solution.
On the way to the citadel, some of the local Haitian community members joined us for the hike. Many of them asked if they could be our tour guides; however we already received an official guide (named Sebastian) through the tourist office. Despite telling them this, maybe of them walked along side us and acted as impromptu tour guides, and after reaching the end of the hike, they all asked for money or a tip. They’re struggled and we want to help, but you cannot just hand out money. Though it’s difficult to say no, it will lead to more effective development.
Besides that, the citadel was beautiful and the views were out of this world. Sarah, Mark, and Sebastian all did an amazing job decaying us about its history and how it impacted/impacts Haiti and it’s culture.
Thursday June 14, 2018
Here is a photo from yesterday!
Friday June 15, 2018
*Blog post is about yesterday’s activities (Thursday June 14)
Today was the first day we traveled to Blue Hills. We worked at insulating the walls of a prospective vocational school with plastic bottles and received help from dozens of members of the community. Throughout the day we interacted with the youth of all ages; we even organized a soccer game with them after lunch. Children who were barely old enough to know their ABCs helped us sort plastic bottles and construct walls. After the bottle school, we had a lesson in Creole with a local teacher to help us learn the language and interact with the Haitian community. Today was super fun and we can’t wait to go back to Blue Hills to finish our section of the Bottle School!
By Lilly and Destiny
Friday June 15, 2018
We began our Friday morning with a tour of the PlumpyNut factory. PlumpyNut is a simple paste that tastes similar to peanut butter and is used to treat malnourished adults and children who don’t have access to an abundant nor nutritious supply of food. On the tour we learned about the history of the PlumpyNut products, saw the process of the peanuts being de-shelled by machines, and we even got to taste some of the PlumpyNut final product!
After our tour, we headed over to a local public primary hospital called Hospital Fort Saint Michel Health Center. Here, we were introduced to Dr. Dayton, and he showed us around the entire facility. We were shown all over the place, from the archives room with thousands of paper and files to the blood testing lab. Throughout our tour of the hospital, it was evident that the building was not very clean. We found it interesting to think that we were actually in one of the cleanest building in Cap Haitian, yet it was no where close to what a standard American would view as sanitary. Despite the lack of resources/material that this hospital had in comparison to those in the U.S., the stigma around HIV/AIDS was one in the same. Even with three rooms dedicated to HIV/AIDS, a high percentage of people continued not seeking medical help and continued to not report back to obtain more medication because they find it embarrassing or degrading to their reputation to come fourth and accept that they have this more than common disease.
A last of many observations we had was the “welcoming” community. Even with being beyond respectful, we were grateful to have had the experience to tour this hospital, and in touring the place, that also meant witnessing current patients being helped right in front of our eyes. It was interesting to think that these doctors were welcoming a group of strangers from another country into their hospital and allowing them to view their building and patients. We had a nice bus ride back to home-base to reflect on what we had just witnessed.
After our delicious lunch, we saw Dr. Dayton again for our medical brigade training. We learned how to check vitals and prepare (fake) pharmaceutical bags, and once we were finished with that, we had to prepare ourselves for the biggest soccer game of our lives, well sorta. What we though was going to be a pick-up game of street soccer with a local girls team turned into more like a world cup game! With the whole neighborhood watching, our stomachs became queasier and our heart rates sped up as game time approached us. As for the score, we fought hard, lets just say that. Even though we lost 3-1, we won in our hearts! It was such an amazing experience to play against the so-talented locals, and even being able to watch our new friends while making conversation with the children on the sidelines brought laughter amongst us all. As soon as the game-ending whistle was blown, it was time to hit the showers and clean up all of our cuts and bruises (** International director edit: only minor cuts and all of which were sanitized (: ).
After we cleaned up a bit, we headed over to a nearby gas station for some snacks to go with our movie night. The movie we saw was called An Island Divided and we found it fascinating once again that even with so many differences, Haiti and the U.S. share so many similarities such as racial issues, which was a focus in the documentary. We had a valuable discussion about the video and then it was time for bed so we can be well rested for our busy brigade day tomorrow.
Saturday June 16, 2018
Today, our group travelled to Blue Hills, a community outside Cap Haitien, to conduct a medical brigade in a local school. Through our experiences in Blue Hills, we realized how close and connected the community is compared to our neighborhoods back home. The community had to come together to elect fifty of its members to receive care. This surprised us because, in the US, getting the help you need is as easy as getting a car and driving to a doctor’s office. That these communities have to wait weeks for a doctor to be available to them, and that often the doctor has to prioritize severe cases over less threatening ones, represents the difficulty of proper health care in the developing world. The majority of the patients we saw were older, and many of them had been suffering for a long period of time. Talking with community members, it was interesting to hear that many patient’s medical issues, while considered in the US to be extreme, were seen by locals as every day problems. The protocol we follow for each patient included talking to them about their medical history, taking their vitals, providing consultation and treatment plans by a local doctor, and finally prescribing medication. Though supported by local translators and medical care professionals, each section was mainly led by us! We noticed while completing prescriptions that the directions for certain medications were often written in English, making it next to impossible for the majority of the community to follow their medication’s regimen without translation. Our experience in Blue Hills really opened our eyes to the differences in health care between the US and Haiti.
In the evening, Sarah gave an interesting presentation about social justice world wide. Her presentation included some discussion of social justice movements, the power of identity in determining one’s opportunities, and she even shared some personal experiences in the D.R. with racial discrimination. She told a heartfelt account of how racism can devastatingly impact the way people are treated in moments of crisis. Her work involved both success and heartbreak, and it was through the intersection of loss and hope that she became an even stronger advocate for underserved people. She left her presentation with a quote:
“There are two ways for your heart to break. The first is for it to break into shards of glass – dangerous to yourself and others. The second is for it to break open wider to hold a greater compassion for the world around you.”
By Jane and Chloe
Sunday June 17, 2018
Today we want back to the Blue Hills community to continue working on our bottle school. Our mission of the day was to finish the insulation of one classroom and begin working on neighboring rooms. It was really amazing to see all of our collaboration and hard work at the end of the day and, even with so much work to do, we had time to play with local kids as well. After the bottle school we had an art class with a local painter and purchased some of his works to support his business. Finally, we divided into groups after dinner to discuss and brainstorm our capstone projects. It was a fun and engaging day, and we can’t wait to return to the bottle school!
More photos to come!
Ariel + Abby
Tuesday June 19, 2018
We started the day off with a medical brigade in a village called Limonade. We saw 30 patients with a wide variety of ages and medical issues. We even had a patient with a dog bite. After the brigade, we attended a voodoo ceremony. This ceremony included someone putting a torch on their head and multiple people being possessed by spirits. Once we got home, we had time to chill before dinner and our lecture on health issues in Haiti. We had an activity based on the lecture where we were split into groups and each researched a disease and how to combat it. We all ended up winning ice cream. We then ended the night with a fun game of charades. We are all looking forward to the beach day tomorrow!